Written by Ashley Sigmon
I arrive and hurry to buy my ticket to get out of the summer rain. Here, at the Max Liebermann Villa and Garden in Berlin are roses of every color, and the weather is perfect. It is easy to forget my – and the world’s – troubles. On the ground floor I can see some of Max Liebermann’s drawings and family photos. I see an old photograph of him at old age, looking lost and distressed, while Hitler Youth boys, most the age of his grandchild, leer at him and mock him for being Jewish. Several adults look on approvingly. This scene is not new, yet I can’t help but wonder: What if everyone, everywhere, chose to do something to empower one another rather than ignore and act in compliance with the bullies of this world?
And now, in the light of current events of the BLM movement, I am more and more grateful to have come to know Philia and what it means to be part of a supporting community which empowers the individual to be authentic and become a trustworthy leader and example. It is my choice to become a better person and be able to offer my support to the world. Philia has taught me how.
While it is important to reflect on our history and our actions, the past is the past and we can’t change it. The important question to ask now is: What if we looked at what was going on in the world now, and took action?
Here is what we white Americans have to this point both passively and actively allowed: On May 25th, Derek Chauvin, a police officer in Minneapolis, Minnesota, murdered a black man named George Floyd for allegedly trying to use a counterfeit $20 bill – less than the cost of two tickets to the garden I am now enjoying. There is no summer breeze that can whisk away that brutality, no subtle scent that can sweeten its harshness. Moreover it’s happened before, over and over. In October, Atiana Jefferson, a young black E.M.T., was shot in her own home while playing video games with her young nephew (she died in front of him); that Tamir Rice, a twelve year old African-American child, was killed in 2014 while holding a toy gun; that these killings and names go on and on back to the 1950s to Emmett Till, a fourteen-year-old who supposedly whistled in the presence of a white woman and was lynched; this storyline is a hundred, two hundred, three hundred years old. It is hard to not feel the need to distance ourselves when faced with such horrors.
But those of us in the Philia Family know that we are not alone. We are strong and we have the power to change storylines that no longer serve our higher purposes. What we do, or do not do, matters. We are not afraid to take action and being part of Philia leads to a clear understanding that action is a step by step process.
But how do I, as an individual, take action against global racism?
It is so easy to see these injustices as too big to face alone. The legacies of centuries of exploitation, colonialism, and slavery are impossible to erase entirely and are our collective responsibility. The wounds of generations of trauma are too deep to be healed by individual action alone. But to throw your hands up and say “There’s nothing I can do, let other people fix it” heals nothing at all – in fact it just contributes to the infection of passive collaboration which has festered for centuries.
What can you do? In the context of Philia, look at it as any change you want to make in your life and your community. These are just a few questions you can reflect on and discuss with your Philia Peer:
- If you are white, how have you benefited from white privilege? How have you used it in the past, intentionally or unintentionally, at the expense of people of color? How can you leverage it now to protect and promote people of color?
- If you are not white, what do you need from your Philia Partner and your community in order to feel lifted up? How can you practice self-care and give yourself the love and the space you need to process your emotions? Or just continue to tell your story uninterrupted. As always, with Philia but especially now, you have the right to share what you see fit to share, and not be interrupted or corrected.
- What are the small, measurable steps you could take to enlighten other people to their privilege and their complicity in white supremacy?
- Philia encourages you to listen and make space for others and their stories, patiently and without judgement. How can you take the listening techniques you have honed through participation in the Philia Programme and apply them when interacting to marginalized people and People of Color?
- Discussion is always important – but are there ways to take this beyond just talk? What protests are happening local in your area – and what are those protests meant to achieve? Can you help to achieve those goals beyond just showing up or posting on social media?
- If you have children and they are in school, can you be more active as a parent in making your school more equitable? What are some ways you can talk to your children about race and injustice that empower them to stand up for others – not just passively sit by?
- COVID-19 has hit the economy hard and exacerbated existing inequities and wage gaps. Do you have influence – any influence at all – with hiring managers at your company? How can you encourage them to hire people of color, women, LGBTQ+ people, and other marginalized groups?
If you feel resistance to any of these steps, take time to sit with that resistance. What is prompting this resistance? How will you overcome it and push forward?
It’s summer – a time to go out into the world and take action. During the winter, we had time to reflect and set out new goals for how we can contribute to a positive evolution of life on the planet. Let’s start by opening up, by trusting another, by growing as a community of empowered leaders who see small steps as big steps and take the time to commit to true change.
Ashley is a Writer/Editor from the USA. At Philia she is a Content Editor.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect Philia. Philia is a conglomeration of multiple views and we are open to offer our platform for relevant personal reflections.