February welcomes a few important traditions:
February 1 marked the mid point between the Winter Solstice and Spring Equinox, known as the pre-Christian holiday of Imbolc. We start to see the gradual shift in seasons, winter and sunlight. I thank one of my favorite writers, Katherine May, for introducing me to this Celtic tradition. Imbolc means “in the belly” referring to all the pregnancies possible this year–animals, humans, creative and healing acts. (Katherine’s latest book, Enchantment, is available for pre-order. Her gems just keep coming!)
Ireland also celebrates St. Brigid on February 1, the deity who governs the light half of the year. Brigid emerged on February 1 and our full moon emerges tonight. I hope you’ll clarify one or more possibilities you hope to embrace this year, as we welcome more light beyond and within.
Here are two favorite full moon photos…from nordic skiing near us and an unexpected full moon dip in a cool Atlantic ocean this summer with an old cell phone and my spouse to capture it!
Be open to the mystery. Find your light and let it shine…
This is a harder section for me to share. I’ve gone back and forth about even including it, because the topic is so important and my incomplete offering honestly feels so slight. It deserves more time and care than I can offer here.
But silence does not heal. Silence does not help us grow or improve inequality. Silence protects and must be befriended so that it will soften and let something stronger, more honest and courageous lead.
So here we go as I’ve begun to clarify ways in which I unknowingly uphold white silence. One has to start somewhere.
Since 1976, February has been federally designated as Black History Month. Canada and the UK also devote a month honoring black history. Did you know February was originally chosen as the month for national Negro History week beginning in 1926 because it coincided with the birthdays of Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln?
I wanted to include this powerful print I encountered while descending a hotel staircase in Chicago a year ago. The image stopped me, a white woman descending red carpeted stairs, in my tracks. The narrative of this print stunned, saddened and humbled me and prompted an unexpected outburst of tears. We see the unfairness and the wrongness of life in this image. And we recognize that some aspects of racial inequality are better. Some are worse. And some haven’t changed one bit God help us.
Living away from my hometown in southeastern Arizona the past 35 years has revealed that I unknowingly grew up in the most racially integrated community I will likely ever live in. Sierra Vista lies thirty miles from the Mexican border and includes the neighboring army base of Ft. Huachuca, comprised of soldiers and their dependents from a wide range countries, cultural traditions and skin colors.
I assumed every public school enjoyed as much diversity as my friends and I did until I moved away at age 17 to attend an undergraduate, Baptist college in suburban Chicago. I was surprised and sorely disappointed by the whiteness of the student body. I missed my friends of color, their vitality, their honesty, their uniqueness and all they would’ve brought the conservative, boring, homogenous vanilla world I found myself in.
Fast forward to the lockdown of 2020. The ramifications of Covid provided the alarming opportunity to examine areas of privilege and bias in new ways. I realized that the marginalized burden I carried as a female living in a patriarchal culture had subtly masked other implicit biases and blind privileges present most of my life.
It didn’t take long to recognize the global unfairness that some of us were enjoying while others with different skin colors or locations couldn’t touch:
- being able to work from home, where we weren’t at risk for catching Covid
- having reliable technology for internet to stay connected and keep our jobs
- living in a safe, quiet neighborhood
- affordable medical care
The heartbreaking list goes on and on and on. You know the list.
As a mentor for therapists and mental health professionals, I am committed to helping my students become as culturally sensitive and inclusive as possible. In our first group session introductions, I’ve developed a set of questions to help us identify and speak for the lenses we see the world, the space and identity we occupy (visible and invisible) and the privileges we’ve been afforded, or not. These are questions we need to include with clients and others.
I’m grateful to colleagues, friends, trainings, books, and a white affinity group I met with for a year for important conversations to help me continue to learn and grow as I recognize and take responsibility for my lens of privilege and bias.
I hope you can use this month as a nudge to examine your own implicit racial biases and areas of privilege. Step out of your comfort zone towards someone who is different than you, someone who can teach you something, someone you need to step closer to.
We need one another. We have so much to learn from one another. We’re all just walking each other home. Remember that.