Expressing our fragility and becoming vulnerable together – the joint work of transformation around racial inequality

How do we begin to heal as a nation? How do we begin to truly ‘see’ each other? Sharing the pain, sharing the hurts, getting angry? We are all wounded in different ways – we carry the pain in different ways and we express it in different ways!
In the movie ‘Colour of Fear’ (a documentary about a race based process) by Stirfry Productions they quote Rumi who says: The cure for the pain is in the pain.

Much of my work this year as a transformation facilitator has been about this – sitting in circles with people, allowing them to share their feelings and emotions, become angry, share rawness, cry and be sad, vent and be mad, express love and joy, laugh and be silly. This catharsis has been powerful for those involved. My realization as a facilitator has been about the power of just holding a space for each other (which forms a huge part of the process), not having to answer, argue or present any viewpoint and debate – but just to merely share our personal experiences and stories and listen.

This is the first step for us to heal and transform. It is not easy for many who often feel the need to defend to bring their point across more strongly and powerfully, or to rephrase what others are saying to make it sound more palatable or intelligent – as a facilitator I often need to remind the group to listen and allow – a round is often used to give each one a chance to speak before going into a more natural dialogue. All of these conversations involved talking about race, about black pain, black marginalization, white superiority, white privilege, white dominance, coloured denial, Indian denial, coloured privilege, Indian privilege.

What helped and brought us to a point where particularly black people were heard was to allow the taboo, difficult, suppressed issues to be named and spoken about openly – we always used videos and sometimes creative methods to allow people to express openly and have a reference point. The #feesmustfall provided a huge opening as the issues of decolonization came to the fore and was now much easier engaged with. These conversations were deep and contentious – the more honestly we engaged, the more fragile we were, the more powerful the potential for transformation became for both facilitator and participants.

We have to allow ourselves to become vulnerable and more authentic with each other – we have to hold each other when the going gets tough and stay with it and always resist the tendency to disengage or cover up or smooth over. It is in expressing and acknowledging the honest feelings we have that we can begin to find a new path together – one that sees us engaging differently beyond stereotypes and previous racial categories. We have to feel free to call each other out when we notice dominance or subtle racism creeping in, to give honest feedback on each others’ behaviours. It is in this continuous seeing and naming that we can continuously transform each other. Besides the daily interactions, we need to purposefully create processes and spaces where we sit in a circle and do this consciously having honest conversations and find the cure for the pain in the pain.

I have seen transformation before my very eyes in these interactions and processes between people – it does not have to take a lifetime. We all have the capacity within us to be more human and equal with each other.

2 thoughts on “Expressing our fragility and becoming vulnerable together – the joint work of transformation around racial inequality

  1. What an accomplishment! Creating a safe space is one of the most difficult tasks to achieve as a facilitator. It requires one to own who you are first, to stand confident and be unapologetic about the warts in your own life. Baring yourself, your soul, standing naked in front of your own truths. That’s a difficult place to get to, but if you do, the yield is so rewarding. Few people reach this place and to bring others along with them, is an achievement extraordinaire!

    1. Thanks Reinette – that is so true – in fact I had been on my own journey with this for quite a while being in various processes as a participant and attending many training sessions before I was comfortable to step into the facilitation role in this difficult area!

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