Whiteness, Cultural Appropriation, and Spiritual Power

Powerful point. Did you know Nelson Mandela has said he never felt powerlessness in all his years behind bars. Where is this deep rooted resilience and power? Why don’t white people have it?

(I think the rest of this requires you to know that race is a social construct and thus “white” isn’t a thing. It is a lie we’ve been blanketed in.)

I do think white people are drowning in meaninglessness which is the strongest definition of powerlessness. We all inherit a legacy of intense evil. Millennia of rape of the land, peoples, and personhood of millions. Then we are raised with the lie both that we are good for the world (manifest destiny) and that our social structures are good for all. The lie that our culture allows anyone to rise to the top, that we have a mobile culture where initiative and hard work are all it takes to rise up. It is cognitive dissonance from the moment we are born.

We feel a phantom pain because these lies are impossible for a soul to pretend is true. So, in order to keep this social stricture in place we’ve also had our souls suppressed. We have an empty, third-person religion dominating us. A religious tradition (Christian, Jewish, and Islamic – basically this is a “feature” of monotheistic religions) that tells us we are sinners in need of a savior, that this world is just a test and thus not inherently important (manifest destiny again), and that “others” are our enemy. We are discouraged from knowing ourselves, our souls, we are punished for finding personal empowerment.

I think every single white person in the US (perhaps all western cultures) knows a deep rooted but un identifiable malaise that comes from the disconnection we are forced to believe in order to maintain the status quo. We manifest this in mental illness, violence, and a cult of busy-ness that keeps us from hearing the truth that our souls are crying out to us to discover. That we are one with every other being on the planet and with the planet itself.

To understand cultural appropriation we have to unveil the lies. To recognize that we are *continuing* to rape people’s cultures (instead of the lie that these things happened “before”) requires awareness that we are empty and powerless and disconnected. This is painful and many people can’t tolerate the soul pain caused by seeing without blinders on what it means to be white.

I encounter these white people in my work everyday. They can’t even swallow the fact that they have privilege. It is too painful and they’ve been taught that self reflection or listening to the voices of their soul is a sin (religiously) or condemned (socially). They are powerless and trapped in their whiteness. Cut off from their own source of power.

How could such a person understand cultural appropriation? They will always use the scripts of white culture they’ve been taught: we share culture, these people are better off with our culture because we bring them medicine and salvation. What we do is benevolent. They have to believe this or face the fact that they are part of a system of demonstrable evil.

I think when white people are able to break through their conditioning – and it is a break: painful rending of our white facades to expose our souls who’ve been neglected and forgotten – they then feel lost. When everything you know and everything you’ve done and had done to you was damaging your soul and (since we are all one) every single other person and living thing on the planet it can be easier to hide. Get busy again so you don’t have to think or feel.

Some social justice minds call this the colonized mind. We (white people) colonize indigenous peoples taking their culture and language but we never take their souls because they know their power. They know they are one. But, in order to make us docile accomplices to white colonization we also had our minds colonized. We operate and are victims of racism too. Racism takes our power by disconnecting us from our souls.

The spiritual traditions of indigenous people all have the same root. The way the “major” “religions” of the western world have the same base – literally the same “god” – indigenous belief systems, from Tibet to the Yucatan, share the common thread of flowing from personal power instead of personal submission.

When we first hear a spiritual tradition that wakes up our dormant souls we don’t know how to make it our own. How could we? We’ve been told to look outside ourselves for spirit since birth. So, we drape ourselves in the outward appearance of the tradition. We wear saris and bindis or start smudging everything with sage. I’m not saying those things are necessarily bad but they are the empty shell of the spiritual tradition and veer toward cultural appropriation.

This is why social justice work is so important to spiritual development. They can’t happen in a vacuum. Without understanding how to decolonize our minds we will continue to “adopt” native cultural traditions in a way that continues to demean and harm said culture. But, with the hard work of dismantling our colonized attitudes and beliefs we can reclaim our power. Our power that we are all one and that any harm to the least of us harms us all.

This is the way we find our own spirituality. I don’t think it can be done without the examples of native cultures. We need a lighthouse to help us navigate in the dark until we can shed the layers of lies that are “white culture”, find our own power and then turn it back on the white culture that sought to harm us in the first place.

The Lottery of Birth [Documentary]

Do you shape the world or does it shape you? Drawing on leading thinkers from around the world, and with a torrent of mind-expanding ideas and information, THE LOTTERY OF BIRTH will make you think again about what it means to be free.

This is an excellent starting point for awakening to the reality of the human condition. I watch this a few times a year and learn something new each time. The best part is that between viewing you start to see your other passion topics through this lens.

Speakers include some of my favorites:

Tony Benn

<a href="http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00GKP70W0/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=390957&creativeASIN=B00GKP70W0&linkCode=as2&tag=thebabdusdia-20&linkId=JVWE3LH3SU2CTKZQ">Creating Freedom Episode One: The Lottery Of Birth</a><img src="http://ir-na.amazon-adsystem.com/e/ir?t=thebabdusdia-20&l=as2&o=1&a=B00GKP70W0" width="1" height="1" border="0" alt="" style="border:none !important; margin:0px !important;" />The premise of this documentary is how the completely random chance of being born into a specific society shapes our very reality. How would your life differ if you had been born a San Bushman or a heiress in Europe? The documentary also talks about how this social conditioning guides us into a role in our social order. This is important to me because the current social order literally kills millions of people every year not to mention the damage done to our planet. And yet most of us play a role in the social order that keeps it stable and in place. If we want to see peace and freedom and social justice prevail we have to tear down the walls of the social order keeping these things from happening. To do this we have to understand our culpability in our role and how social conditioning, based on our birthplace only, trains us to ignore this culpability in our busyness.

I also love Vindana Shiva (in all things) when she talks about our tendency to see parts and not the whole. This is what I mean when I say that we have skewed too far to a male energy dominated paradigm. Linear, logical, parts-based. We desperately need a female energy balance. Curves, creativity, holistic. Male and Female energy has nothing to do with the sexes. Men and women both have male and female energy. In eastern traditions this energy duality is called yin/yang. I’ll be talking more about this in other posts. Anyway, Vindana points out that she nearly completed her doctorate in nuclear physics without ever learning about the health risks of radiation. This is a poignant example of how narrowly focused our society encourages us to be. Each person picks a very narrow slice of the pie of knowledge and then wears blinders for life. The result is the economic, justice, and ecological disasters our world is facing. Fixing these problems will require a holistic view.

I really can’t recommend this documentary enough. It is an “oldie but goodie” in my house – which means watch it often. Give it a try!

This documentary is now part I of the Creating Freedom series.

This post includes an affiliate link. If you happen to purchase this item based on my recommendation, Amazon provides a percentage of its profit to me for the referral. I appreciate your support.

I Wrote A Book

Our culture has strict rules for acceptable behavior for men and women. But what about kids who fall outside the boundaries of prescribed roles? This book is a guide for parents in the practical application of Gender Neutral Parenting – a parenting style based on respect for a child’s self-identity and providing latitude in exploring their own version of gender and gender expressions.

In Gender Neutral Parenting you’ll learn the Five Skills Essential for GNP:

5 Essential Skills For the Gender Neutral Parent

Skill #1: Become Aware of Genderization
Skill #2: Become Aware of Your Gender Bias
Skill #3: Create a Gender Diverse Environment
Skill #4: Start a Dialog About Gender
Skill #5: Dealing With Family and Friends and Dispelling Myths

With practical examples and real world scenarios, this book will give you the strong foundation needed to implement GNP in your home and with your children. You’ll learn about gender stereotypes for boys and girls and how to counteract them as a parent. Stereotypes covered include;

Girl Genderization Stereotypes:

    • Stereotype: Girls Are More Social and Less Physical
    • Stereotype: Girls Are Princesses
    • Stereotype: Girls Are Boy Crazy, Sexual Temptresses
    • Stereotype: Girls Are Pure and Virginal

Boy Genderization Stereotypes:

    • Stereotype: Boys Are Physically Active But Behind Socially and Verbally
    • Stereotype: Boys Are Emotionally Stunted
    • Stereotype: Boys Are Slaves To Their Sex Drive
    • Stereotype: Boys Will Be Boys

You’ll also learn how to deal with family and friends (and strangers) that don’t understand your parenting approach. I’ll answer questions like;

“Won’t that make him gay?”

“Why are you so anti-feminine/anti-masculine?”

“Do you think she’s trans*?”

“You’re raising a person not a social experiment.”

“She’s going to hate you and need therapy.” Or, “He’ll be bullied.”

“I can’t believe you let her play with Barbies! Don’t you even care about her future?”

 This book is for any parent, grandparent, or childcare teacher that wants a guide to raising kids without the strict limitations of gender roles and who wants to engage kids in conversations that will make them savvy media consumers and critical problem solvers around issues or gender and equality.

Available for Kindle or in print wherever books are sold and at;

A Lesson On Sex & Gender for People Over 40 (Like Me)

I recently answered some questions on the Gender Neutral Parenting Facebook page that were asking about non-binary genders. I found with this person’s questions, like many others, I have to first correct misconceptions about sex and gender before we can even begin talking about the intricacies of gender.

If you find this stuff confusing don’t feel bad! I was born in the seventies and went to school in the eighties. I can say for sure if you are my age or older (and many people younger) there is no conceivable reason you would understand sex and gender (unless you work in the fields of human sexuality). Why? We were taught it incorrectly!

People sometimes get so defensive in being corrected about these topics and it really isn’t anything to be upset about and I’ll tell you why.

You know how in 1975, when I was born, no one had a home computer? I think it was 1988 before we got a computer and I, being middle class, got it before lots of people. In school we played Oregon Trail on a DOS computer, right? My point is – look at us now! I’m writing this on my iPad as I lie in bed. This tiny device isn’t hooked to anything. It is magically pulling information out of the air for me and holds more power than NASA used to put a man on the moon.

If computer technology went so far, so fast in the last forty years then why wouldn’t the study of psychology? Child development? Sexuality?

Would you insist on using FORTRAN when you can use a newer (and less eye stabby) computer language? No way! Times have changed and you’ve happily left your middle school science class in the dust because YOU KNOW BETTER NOW.

For some reason we feel that psychology, the study of the human mind, was complete when Freud laid it down in 1885. What? The human mind is so much more complex than this ipad and yet we accept that what we learned in seventh grade must be true 25 years later?

It is just silly! So, let me give it to you straight: THERE IS NO REASON IN THE WORLD YOU SHOULD KNOW WHAT I’M ABOUT TO TELL YOU ABOUT SEX AND GENDER. Please don’t feel bad. Your seventh grade teacher told you what they knew to be true at the time. Times change and you’ve been busy living your life which probably didn’t involve chromosomes or dipliod cells. It’s ok not to know this stuff. 

For those of us of a certain age EVERYTHING we know about sex and gender is WRONG. Not your fault. Not an idictment of you as a person or meant to call you stupid. You aren’t stupid and you aren’t a bad person. You just haven’t learned what we now know about sex and gender.

So, please, it is without any shame or judgement that I share this information with you. Because I didn’t know it either and I’m glad someone told me.

Here is my answer to the person asking about gender but saying “male and female” because I think it will help lots of us!

First: male and female are names of SEXES not of genders. Sex is comprised of both chromosomal arrangement (called genotypic sex) and physical presentation (called phenotypic sex). Neither of these are binary. There are dozens of chromosomal arrangements in humans. For example xy, xx, xo, xxx, xxy, and so on. There are millions of arrangements of physical sex characteristics from one you’d never know about like an xy individual having androgen insensitivity and developing characteristically female body parts despite being genotypically male to a wide array of genital presentations that are neither male nor female. 

I imagine you aren’t asking us about sex but about gender. Gender is asocial construct. That means it isn’t a concrete or scientifically observable phenomonon (unless you’re an anthropologist!) it is merely an idea social groups of humans use to make sense of their world. Social constructs can be bad. E.g. Race. There is not a “biological” concept of race, rather it is something humans make up to divide us. Social constructs can be good. E.g north, east, south, and west. These things don’t exist in any quantifiable way. They are simply ideas we’ve all collectively decided to use to help us navigate our space. 

Gender, as a social construct in most western countries has developed thus: we see (erroneously) two sexes and we are going to set rules for how each sex should behave and then call this gender. Because of this incorrect definition of gender we have the social concept of two genders: man and woman or boy and girl. In non-western cultures these man-made rules are completely different and many societies haven’t incorrectly assumed that there are only two sexes and thus their idea of gender is also not binary

Simply because gender is a social construct doesn’t make it any less real.Money is a social construct too and people kill and die for it all the time. Should I say “money doesn’t exist” because it is a man-made idea? No. Same with gender. Gender may be man-made and culture-specific but within those cultures it is very important. 

Here’s the good thing about social constructs though: than can change when we learn more. As a society we can no longer ignore the millions (yes, millions) of people born everyday that do not fit into the male/female sex binary nor that millions are born that do not fit into the man/woman gender binary. Our social concept needs to catch up with reality.