Nicole Havelka Consulting
in Antiracism - Change Leadership - Community - Healing - Self Care - Social Justice

Anti-Racist Learnings: Quelling the Voices of Inadequacy

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Inadequacy covered me like a smothering blanket.

Typing up the description to our first-ever foray into teaching a Mindfully Embracing Anti-Racism series, I heard the whispers of nagging voices in my head saying, “Who are you to do this?” and “You don’t know what you’re doing.”

These voices of inadequacy – called imposter syndrome in popular culture – were persistent, almost debilitating. Why was I attempting to do anti-racism work I was probably not “qualified” to do? What effect could I possibly have on centuries of white supremacy and racism?

I felt all this stuff bubbling up as if from a clogged sewer drain. Then, I paused and felt into all the garbage that I’d inherited from centuries of white supremacist conditioning. Perfectionism, I had learned in recent months, was a tool of white supremacy. Those menacing voices kept me from trying to do anything until a product is “perfect.” Nevermind that none of us know exactly how to tackle the deeply ingrained habits of white supremacy. All we can do is make an attempt, learn from what happens, move forward and try again. Keep repeating and iterating.

Instead of those menacing voices, I choose to listen instead to those anti-racist leaders and teachers who’d been in my reading and listening for the past several months. All of them, especially the people of color, encouraged white people to go into their communities and do their own work. People like the wise Resmaa Menakem, therapist, trauma specialist and author, who names how white people arrived to North America a traumatized people, but never dealt with that trauma. Instead, they have been offloading it onto people of color for centuries. I listened to them and decided their voices were the ones to whom I should be listening, not the voices of white supremacy.

Now that I’ve had a few weeks off from the 5-week series that my friend and fellow yoga teacher, Kathryn Toussaint Williams, and I led with a fabulous group of anti-racist sojourners, I can begin to articulate the things I’ve learned and begin to envision what the next version of the work will look like.

Here’s a list of a few of my learnings:

  • There is no ONE RIGHT WAY to do anything, especially anti-racism work.
  • Meditation and yoga can help support and provoke the self-inquiry needed for white people to do anti-racism work. 
  • Humor and joy can actually be part of the work.
  • Racism exists on deep physical, emotional and spiritual levels.
  • Anti-racism work isn’t only external social action; it’s deep, internal work, too.
  • Anti-racism work is something we do better in supportive, yet challenging, community.

This list is really only a few of the things I’ve learned so far in this anti-racist journey. I am passionate about creating and fostering the supportive, yet challenging, community white people will especially need if we are committed to being anti-racist accomplices to our black and brown siblings.

What inadequacies do you confront when you even think about attempting anti-racism work? What questions do the voices in your head ask to prevent you from acting? What do the other, more encouraging voices say? What would you do if you were brave?

Go Deeper: Join others on the anti-racist journey for a lunchtime conversation with Nicole and Kathryn Toussaint Williams on Tuesday, April 28, at 1 PM ET. They will discuss their learnings from the first Mindfully Embracing Anti-Racism series they taught. Bring YOUR questions and learnings from your own process, along with lunch and a beverage for this open and engaging conversation. The Brown Bag Lunch event is free, but please register for the link.

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