It’s a subject that’s centre stage and in the background at the same time. We seem to have forgotten how to discuss these difficult issues, openly and with compassion. We no longer have a name for this way of focusing on the world. Nor a clear sense of how to articulate the pain of Black and White relationships like in the past, with the leaders of the US civil rights or Apartheid movement in South Africa.
Too often we hear that racism no longer exists, or that we (those of African diaspora heritage) should ‘just get past it’. But there is a difference between what we might want to believe and the lived experience of many people. When we see the repeating generational cycles of poverty. When we explore the incarceration of young Black males in prison, both here and the other side of the Atlantic. When we research the poor mental health in many diaspora communities, it becomes hard not to believe that something else is at work.
What is Healing and Reconciliation?
I have been reading about racial healing and reconciliation, something that seems to have more of a story behind it in the US than here in the UK. It feels like the next step is creating more awareness about the unconscious and conscious beliefs in the racial hierarchy. Look at websites the explore these issues like S.H.A.R.E and the W.K.Kellogs Foundation America Healing and it strikes you that there is still work to be done and that this is not just an American ‘dis-ease’.
Where’s the link you may ask, between transgenerational disparities in living conditions in diaspora communities and racial healing and reconciliation? When we look underneath the terms and jargon it’s really an existential conversation about our lived experiences as human beings. In the US, in the UK, in South Africa, in all communities of the world where Black and White have met there is a joint and shared history.
Often that shared history has been one of give and take in relationships, that have for the most part been built on one side giving and the other taking, it makes for an unequal relationship! As much as we talk about unconscious biases’ in relation to race, or ‘reparations’ for Black communities, the fact remains that no matter how we try to make the relationship more equal, we can’t succeed unless we can find a way to heal together.
Giving and Taking
That’s one of the challenges of systemic constellations work and being an African heritage facilitator. It’s a deeply therapeutic and healing method that requires me to give as well as take. And I don’t want to always give! I don’t mean to ‘you‘ as an individual, I mean the ‘system‘ of the world as an entity. Sometimes I feel that I have given enough, ideas and knowledge, empathy and compassion, finances and a free pass to workshops. Often I struggle with giving, without wanting something back in return. I want validation in my own right, for myself.
But the truth is that the healing lies with me and there is a ‘tussle’ taking place inside of me. For true healing to take place, you have to open yourself up to the possibility of human goodness. It requires a belief in the humanity of the other, even when all around you feels like destruction, am I really ready for that? Can I trust myself to just let the love in, in order to allow the healing? Can I be truly inclusive, when most of the time I feel like an outsider? Can I turn the other cheek and still move forward feeling positive about myself and not feeling like a ‘sell-out?’
Gifts and Purpose Require an Open Heart
These questions require my attention, in order to step into the work that I increasingly feel called to do. Work that is my gifts and purpose and service to the world. In many ways, systemic constellations are a call to faith. It is a ‘ritual in sacred space’. It is a blend of the Western scientific ‘rational’ mind and the Indigenous sacred ‘knowing’ spiritual heart that can’t be seen and can’t always be named.
I have been thinking for some time about creating workshops focused on healing between peoples, colours and cultures. Yes, between Black and White and all the shades in-between but also between cultures andways of knowing. What would those workshops look like and how are they going to be conceived and brought into reality? Who will work with me in partnership and how will we know that we are ready?
Questions that I am putting out into the world to see what and who comes back. In a year or so when I re-read this blog, I will have an answer. It’s the non-rational indigenous part of me that just knows that I will be doing this work.
Until next time!
Sonya’s first published articles appeared in the Training and Development Methods and Coaching at Work journals in 2006. She returned to writing in 2019 with articles for the Systemic Constellations Journal, The Knowing Field and Counselling and Therapy Journal, Therapy Today. Sonya is currently writing a commissioned book, that explores Transgenerational Therapy and Ancestral Remembering in the African Diaspora.