Undoing My Defenses

The workshops begin with an opportunity for reflection and I notice that I am struggling. What is my reaction? What is my intention? I don’t know. I need time but we are moving on. I am bringing anxiety into this space. I notice how my anxiety stops me thinking. The deeper truth that I am afraid of what I will learn about myself emerges more slowly. Nikkia tells us to hunt for our defensiveness like it is treasure. This is a gift. It reduces my fear and I come to know myself more deeply.

I am a White British, cisgender, heterosexual woman with some Eastern European heritage thrown in the mix. I have gone through most of my life largely unaware of this identity or its impact on me or others. My intention in attending the workshops with Nikkia Young is to change my awareness so that I can more clearly see the BIPOC people I interact with.

I am learning much about myself at the workshops and things I have known come into sharper focus. One thing stands out above others and that is my failure of curiosity. I am so busy seeking approval, to feel that I am good enough, that I lose sight of you in the process. I strive to please, but it is for me not for you. I don’t notice the BIPOC person in front of me. I don’t notice your pain and hurt and rage because I am too focused on me. My need for validation has shut down my curiosity and therefore my empathy. I bring this lack of attention to my DDP work, and you don’t feel welcome as a consequence.

There is discussion between workshops about how white people should be using the space – are we too silent? Are we too dominant? I notice myself thinking that we can’t win and then realise that this is the point. In trying to find a way to please I am preoccupied by me. I stop listening to and noticing you. My defense of I want to please you has stopped my curiosity of what is this like for you? I am not listening, noticing or understanding. This is how I have done harm. I can’t have a window into your experience, to feel empathy for this experience, if I am not curious. In protecting myself I fail you.

And then a revelation – my anxiety and discomfort, my worries of getting it wrong, come from a place of white privilege. I make you a promise. I will learn to see you and not the me that is mirrored in your eyes. I will no longer need you to tell me I am good enough. I will learn to notice when you are uncomfortable. I will feel your anger and pain. I will not wait for you to tell me. I will seek permission to check in with you.

I am learning that to strive for racial equity and social justice I need to undo my defenses.


Publisher: ddpnetwork.org (May 2021)