Am I transracial?
These are questions I had to ask myself this week in light of Rachel Dolezal's situation and the huge response to it.
Race, power and our identities are inextricably linked.
So how do the puzzle pieces fit together?
Race is a social construct. So yes, in one sense, it's not real. It was created to keep a dominant class in power and a subordinate class intact. The problem is, though it is an illusion, it's one that we've invested so heavily in we believe and act on it. Instinctually. Culturally. Socially. Politically. Brutally.
Race, racism, white supremacy are structural, institutional problems. Though we created them, no one individual can rewrite the rules of this social contract we keep agreeing to enter into. These are roles we are born into, live, and die by. So here's a question: How, right now, can we stop agreeing with racism and white supremacy?
I ask these questions partially because my gut reaction was "heck no I'm not transracial!"
But I wanted to look deeper. Most of the time, I'm an Indian woman in the U.S. But because I'm of mixed heritage and I'm an immigrant to the U.S. I am also highly transcultural.
So this recent incident invited me to think deeply about race, racism, authentic vs. performed identity, culture and liberation.
When I was young and figuring my immigrant, brown, British-Indian, American self out I was lucky to discover Maria P. Root's multiracial bill of rights.
Here, she proclaims:
"I HAVE THE RIGHT... To identify myself differently than strangers expect me to identify. To identify myself differently than how my parents identify me. To identify myself differently than my brothers and sisters. To identify myself differently in different situations. To change my identity over my lifetime--and more than once."
This was so empowering to me. I hope it is for you if this is the first time you are seeing it. I don't have to choose "one side or the other" but can be all of myself. That means I sometimes switch norms within cultures. But I try to bring all of myself wherever I am.
Most of us can relate to this urge to resist boxes. And to live from self-determination. This is part of yogic svadhyaya, or self-study.
It's also a key part of the Gandhian philosophy of swaraj- self-rule. This practice helped overthrow colonial rule. The idea (that worked!) is once we are truly present in our own identities fully- no one can oppress or colonize us any longer.
More than whether or not we believe someone can be transracial, the heart of the argument comes down to our intentions. These make up the power of our presence: Do we intend to live in the struggle for our people? Are we there for family and friends? Do our actions take into account structural systems of discrimination and oppression? Do we honor and care for our ancestors- whatever their past?
What is important are our actions and our integrity.
Part of the concerns folks are raising about Rachel Dolezal have to do with her seeming lack of integrity and authenticity.
No matter how we identify, can we cultivate authentic presence?
Because: Our presence is so deeply connected to our power.
When we are fully centered in the beautiful, complicated web of all we are then we are truly present.
I believe we can end racism because we created it. Because we are powerful creators of our reality. But we cannot end it by switching color and culture to suit us, or for advantage, pretending we don't see color or race, or by denying its existence.
Moving towards self-unity is so powerful. Transcendent of each individual facet of our identity is the power of our unified presence. Transparent but fully aligned. Perhaps being as transpresent as possible is a pathway to swaraj- self-rule, that will help end racism.
Here are a few tools I use to cultivate authentic power and trans-presence:
- Be raw. The deepest, truest you.
- So, you know, that means: Take those risks that scare you.
- Have Courageous Convos (even when they are hard.) Both you and those you are talking to can grow. But this can only happen if you speak your truth!
- Let go of anything that is no longer serving.
- Reflect on our own blind spots.
- What are the parts of us we might seek to ignore, hide or disown? I've heard that we are only as sick as our secrets- so if we bring them to light for ourselves then we are free to be healthy.
- Act in integrity. Keep our word.
- Celebrate and love where we come from so we can love who we are today.
- Bring ourselves to presence with the breath.
- Act like we are all interconnected.
We can all be our best reflections of one another when we are centered, strong and at peace in ourselves. Trans-present.
P.S. If you are interested in working with me online or in person write me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I go deeper into invoking these tools 1 on 1 and in these Summer workshops.
So much love and light to you as we heat up into summer. I look forward to connecting and sharing transparent, authentic presence with you.