I’m about to share a quote from a tv show that aired a quarter of a century ago, but I hope you’ll bear with me. I’ve been hearing it in my head for some time now, so I know there must be a reason. I mean… I can’t remember what I watched or heard yesterday, and yet… these words remain etched in memory.
“I am Grey. I stand between the candle and the star. We are Grey. We stand between the darkness and the light.” ~ J Michael Straczynski (1994)
This line has been rising into my mind with growing frequency. It is from the SciFi series from the mid-1990s, called “Babylon 5”. Joe Straczynski has said that the entire five-year story arch manifested in his mind one day, while taking a shower.
There is so much goodness to be gathered from this series, but what feels especially poignant at this moment in history is when darkness threatened to swallow the Universe, an alliance was forged to nurture a path of peace that would lead them all back into the light.
The character of Ambassador Delenn was always my favorite. She is seen in the video above, breaking the Grey Council, which was made up of representatives from each caste from her planet. She will later, after enormous sacrifice, rebuild the council with greater fairness. But long before this scene, at the end of the first season, without understanding what was to come, Delenn goes into a Chrysalis and in Season 2 emerges transformed. Ultimately, she becomes a bridge between the human race and her own. She changes in appearance, and she also endeavors to gain an understanding of who humans are and to teach humans more about her own race.
It may be difficult to figure out where I’m going with this… but there is a bridge. I have been learning how to become an antiracist. When I reached out to my friend, when the protests began to insist on justice for the murder of George Floyd, she asked me not to be silent. She and I had been together a couple of years earlier, when I was confronted with my own white privilege, as a woman threatened to call the police because my friend would not give her her designer purse. I wrote about it in my blog post called The Light That Pierces Shadow. I had been so nervous about getting it wrong. I knew that I had a lot to learn about being an ally, and the last thing I wanted was to cause more harm. But she trusted me to get it right.
I’ve only just begun to read Ibram X. Kendi’s book How To Be An Antiracist, and already I can feel the importance and the truth of it. He opens by sharing a speech he gave in his youth, and then unpacks it from his current vantage point. He acknowledges that his words at that time were colored by “internalized racism”.
I recently learned the term ‘internalized patriarchy’ during Heather Plett’s Holding Space course, as we explored holding space for ourselves. And it felt like being struck by lightning to understand that my own self-limiting beliefs and self-loathing (which I’ve spent most of my life trying to overcome) were symptoms of societal indoctrination. We have been taught, unknowingly (or not) the patriarchal view of what girls and women, boys and men should be, and how they should behave, and how they should serve… none of which have anything to do with nurturing and celebrating their unique strengths and authenticity. Realizing that women have a numbers advantage on men in the world, and yet there are so few women in American government leadership roles became a punch in the gut, because of course that means that women are not voting for women. This must mean that there are a lot of women out there who believe themselves and other women to be inferior to men.
So, when Dr. Kendi, confesses to feeling pain and shame around his own beliefs expressed in his high school speech, having been tarnished by systemic racism, it eases my own guilt and shame when I ask myself why it has taken me so long to do this important work. When I realize that by internalizing patriarchal dogma, I have oppressed myself, it allows me to relate to those whose lives are directly impacted by white supremacy (even though I can never know how it feels to be black or brown). What I can know and understand is that it is never too late for any of us to rise into the light of truth, and change our programming.
When my friend asked me not to be silent, she also asked me, “Why do they hate us?” The answer that arrived was basic psychology. What bothers us about others is often a reflection of ourselves.
How heartbreaking it is to witness such hatred and to realize that those capable of such belief and behavior must truly loathe themselves in order to view any being in such a dehumanized way. The malignant system that has been in place since my friend’s ancestors were stolen from their homeland, has programmed people to fear what they imagine to be different. I have no doubt that the true fear is based in the belief that if white people become the minority (which will happen), they might be treated the way they have treated others.
In my eyes, the best way to avoid that outcome would be to start treating others with equity, fairness, and loving kindness. We don’t have to believe and behave the way our ancestors did. They were lied to, as well. If we feel defensive when we are confronted with these difficult questions about how we are affected by racism and how our words and behaviors affect others, that is likely the rise of shame within. Shame is the most destructive emotion there is, so the best way to face it when it appears, is not to shake a finger at it, but to hold it close and to love it back into a place of forgiveness and compassion. Then, keep going.
Maybe these immortal words of a beloved Science Fiction writer have surfaced to invite me to stand with the discomfort of this evolutionary and revolutionary moment – in the in-between of our unbecoming and our becoming. If the black crayon and the white crayon make the color grey when combined, perhaps the message and metaphor is that we are all ‘grey’ on the inside. As Jane Elliott says, “There is only one race – the human race.”
I am Grey. I stand before the racist structure to which I have been ignorant and complicit, and aim my intentions toward supporting the creation of a foundation for justice and equity. We are Grey. We stand before false beliefs about ourselves and others and reveal the truth of our oneness. I am Grey. I shed the shame and insecurity that once kept me in silence. We are Grey. We don the robes of forgiveness, understanding, and new beginnings.
Now is the time to break the scepter of white supremacy, take the time to unpack everything within us that was planted with poison and toss it onto the burn pile, and then reconvene to form a more perfect Union.
I saw this statement on a sign at one of the Black Lives Matter protests, and it moved me deeply. “I’m sorry I’m late. I had a lot to learn.” I am still learning, and really, I suppose I am actually UNLEARNING. I am unpacking everything this society has taught me, and I am deciding what needs to go.
If I got anything wrong in this post, I hope you will forgive me. I promise not to be silent. I promise not to give up on myself, for I know I can do better… and change must begin with each of us going into our own chrysalis of reflection, so that we may be transformed.
When we emerge into the light of love, our new perspective will deliver us into a new world. Thank you for walking this path with me. I love you more.