Hi everyone. This newsletter is for Swedenborgians (and friends) who want to learn how to support anti-racism. But we are not going to pretend that we are experts here; we are learning alongside you. There are lots of activists and educators who have been working in the anti-racism field for a long time. Our plan (in the words of Meera Mohan-Graham) is to Absorb and Amplify those voices, and follow their lead.
As we all strive to learn, change, and act together, we invite you join the Manifold Angels Facebook group for connection throughout the journey. The work is just beginning. If you would like to be added to the email list, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org
This is an (approximately) bi-weekly newsletter, though the schedule may change occasionally. One issue per month will be a deep dive into a particular issue (you can find links to these at the end of the newsletter). The alternating issues (like this one) will be more personal/devotional, aiming to help build stamina and commitment for the ongoing work for racial justice. Thanks for joining us!
"Why does [race-targeted advertising] work?...One possibility is that holding and confirming stereotypes make people feel good. Holding them provides an illusion of certainty in uncertain situations; finding evidence that they are right is also affirming. Like listening to music, or fitting a jigsaw puzzle piece into place, having one's stereotypes confirmed may even be physiologically pleasing.
What these activities have in common is that they involve a sort of prediction. When we listen to music, our minds predict each note that comes next, and we derive pleasure from hearing the pattern we've been expecting...Stereotyping, too, is an act of predicting an uncertain outcome...Even predicting something negative can feel good, like the smug satisfaction we feel when a habitually tardy friend shows up an hour late. "Aha!" we think. "Just as I predicted." It's irritating, but strangely gratifying: we knew what would happen, and we were right. It's as if our brain is constantly running a movie of what we expect will happen milliseconds before it actually happens, and then comparing the movie to reality. Our brains light up when our predicted reality and actual reality match. Our brains love to be right.
We also don't like to be wrong, and we feel irked and threatened when our stereotyped predictions don't come true...Being disliked for violating a stereotype is a particularly common experience for women. When women behave in ways that differ from female stereotypes, for instance by not being warm and helpful, they are seen as unpleasant and unlikable. In this way, stereotypes that are descriptive can easily become prescriptive. Even a so-called positive stereotype can have negative consequences because failing to adhere to it becomes grounds for condemnation. The phenomenon known as backlash, it turns out, may have a neuroscientific explanation: it's an angry protest from the brain's reward system."
For three years, I was part of a small group of meditators...who started meeting to deepen our understanding of what life was like for those from different group identities. We were Black, Brown, White, transgender, cisgender, gay, and straight. Our shared intention was to bring mindfulness and compassion to our journey together...
As I listened to them share their vulnerability and watched the intimacy among them grow, I found myself increasingly aware that I had lived most of life in a relatively safe and privileged White bubble...I saw how defensive, and then guilty, I felt about being White...I stayed in the room where we had met and tried to untangle my emotions. I allowed the feelings to arise, and in a short time touched into an acute sense of being a bad person...As I stayed with these feelings, the awareness of centuries of trauma perpetrated by White people against Black people felt like a crushing weight. Not only was I part of the problem, the deepest pain was feeling I wasn't doing enough to repair the damage.
I leaned into that, opening to the felt sense in my body of personal badness. It was a queasy, heavy, sore aching in my heart and belly, and then a deepening of powerlessness and despair. As I moved into the center of that suffering, what emerged was the raw pain of separation and the primal longing to belong.
As the longing grew more poignant and intense, something crumbled and broke open within me. Grief poured out for all the suffering that comes from making fellow humans "the Other"...I grieved the violence and horrors of racism...
As my mind quieted, I saw clearly that there was no "bad self" but rather a conditioned identification with a dominant group that had been fortified by centuries of racism...But I didn't have to be identified or contracted by these beliefs and feelings. Resting in an openhearted awareness, it was possible to acknowledge and experience the pain of this conditioning without the judgment and self-aversion that comes from taking it personally...
My experience that evening transformed my relationship with others in the group. I began to see and regard my patterns of White fragility--my guilt and defensiveness--with more clarity and kindness...This shift from guilt to sorrow and caring opened the way for loving connection with others and a deepening dedication to helping undo racism is all its forms.
First session coming up on January 31st!
Contact email@example.com for the link!
FROM: THE NEW JERUSALEM AND ITS HEAVENLY TEACHINGS #162
If all we do is make a blanket acknowledgment that we are sinners and declare ourselves guilty of all evils but without examining ourselves - that is, seeing our own particular evils - we are making some kind of confession, but not a confession that leads to repentance. Since we do not know what our evils are, we live the same way afterward as before.
FROM THE SPIRIT
O God, who am I now?
Once, I was secure in familiar territory
in my sense of belonging,
the norms of my culture
the assumptions built into my language
the values shared by my society.
But now you have called me out and away from home,
and I do not know where you are leading.
I am empty, unsure, uncomfortable.
I have only a beckoning star to follow.
pitch your tent with mine
so that I may not become deterred
by hardship, strangeness, doubt.
Show me the movement I must make
toward a wealth not dependent on possessions
toward a wisdom not based on books
toward a strength not bolstered by might
toward a God not confined to heaven
but scandalously earthed, poor, unrecognized...
Help me to find myself
as I walk in others' shoes. Amen.
Just a note: the various viewpoints included in these newsletters (either by authors of content or the organizations they represent) do not necessarily represent the viewpoint or position of the Swedenborgian Church of North America (SCNA). The editors present them in the spirit of learning and reflection.