Humility is a good feeling
12th June 2020
We white folks have had centuries to become more knowledgeable about the oppressive cancer that is racism, more empathic about its effects on minds and lives, and more collegiate with those afflicted, in forcing change. Together. And now?
Now in the midst of so much grief, fear and pain amongst people of colour...we want help? We want it all explained to us. And we don’t want to feel bad about anything. White privilege - me?
We want help not to offend. And we want help to say we are sorry we looked away. And we particularly want help in case there is anything out there that might just infringe on our fragile sense of self.
Now in the midst of so much grief, fear and pain amongst people of colour...we want help?
Most of us recoil at the thought that we are institutionally racist. (The fashion industry's cultural appropriation being one example of our race-ignorance). At the same time many of us are reviewing our past behaviour through a new lens. We can’t bear to acknowledge that we uphold a system that has discriminated on a global scale against people of colour, or that we have been personally thoughtless or unkind. We have been privileged to experience our positioning in this world and it has made us closed off of the reality of others.
The collective wail of "Don't tell me I'm part of the problem it's too painful" is pathetic. And if that feels like a harsh thing to say - I'm saying it to myself as well as you. This indication of the privilege our pampered egos have come to expect, means we need tools. See my last post for valuable resources from Layla F Saad: Author, Me and White Supremacy and Amélie Lamont
Most of us recoil at the thought that we are institutionally racist
As someone who is learning how to use my privilege to create conversation about, and challenge to, the way in which we have centralised ourselves and marginalised others in our power structures, I continue to talk to my students and leaders about bias and the role it plays in fashion industry protocol.
From the objectification of women, people of colour and white cis-male gaze both straight and gay, to lack of leadership diversity, I’m gathering knowledge everyday. And because I get it wrong, I'm learning all the time. Because I'm gifted so much insight from those on the receiving end of marginalisation, muting, exclusion and aggression, I am grateful. These regular experiences have helped me develop as a human being, in ways I could never have anticipated when I began to self reflect in this way.
What I’m saying is that I benefit from tackling my own bias’s, my own assumptions, my own institutional racism
There is plenty to be excited about: consider the power that we as white people have collectively, when we are willing to fundamentally apply ourselves to actioning in a new paradigm where all identities are visible and valued; free from assault and protected equally by law.
The bigger picture is that we all move forward when we can embrace humble curiosity about life, other humans and what it's like to live in their world. Embracing the state of humility, characterised by psychologists, as occupying low levels of self-focus and a willingness to accept the self and life without comforting illusions, humility is a liberating experience.
Humility, characterised by psychologists, as occupying low levels of self-focus and a willingness to accept the self and life without comforting illusions, humility is a liberating experience
So let's start with our ego. We are flawed, we will get it wrong, we will educate ourselves, we will keep trying. For once, this is not about you or me. Let's quit whining and surrender to the soft strength of humility and curiosity. Why? Because humility is a much more grounded space to act from, than the lofty and unstable space of indignation, awkward frustration or any other noisy, hi-energy emotion. Climb down from the pillar you occupy (and can be toppled from). Take comfort in the stability of humility. Humility is low-energy, humility is authentic, humility is yielding and resilient. This is our time to be silent and listen. This is our time when we do speak, to speak up on behalf of others.
This is our time to be silent and listen. This is our time when we do speak, to speak up on behalf of others
What's that you say? Don't want to say the wrong thing? Don't want to feel uncomfortable. This is part of the journey. To quote Instagram Activists: No White Saviours: "If you are not feeling uncomfortable you aren't listening." Try this valuable sentence any time you make a mistake: I'm sorry, I'm learning. Thank you for correcting me. Yup it's really that simple and there are studies to show that humility is a good feeling, as Vicki Zakrzewski's excellent feature explains.
Time to reel in those bloated egos and roll up our sleeves so that everyone can experience some good feeling. And PROGRESS.
If you are not feeling uncomfortable you aren't listening
With thanks to some of the humans how have educated me on the Gram. Follow why doncha?