To commemorate this year’s National Day of Racial Healing, the Equity Institute team considered the concept of Racial Healing and how it guides our work. Here, members of our team offer thoughts on healing, anti-racism, and justice. We invite you to share with us, what does racial healing mean to you?
Eileen Hogan Heineman:
For me, a white woman, racial healing is founded in deep listening, honest reflection and accountability. Healing can happen when people share their stories in an atmosphere where they will be heard, respected and, if appropriate, acted upon. It means holding both myself, and the systems that exist in our society, accountable to those who have been marginalized, dismissed or otherwise violated; it means continuous work to eliminate the imbalances that our systems have created.
To me, racial healing starts as a disruption from rote engagement in the systems we inhabit daily that are still operating out of racism and causing racial harm.
In that disruption is a space to come together for new meaning-making, and new creation. We use storytelling, ritual, communal care, and other healing practices to learn to tell the truth about our stories, our racialized bodies, and our racialized environment. We also co-create a way forward that upends those systems and enacts new ways of living together. We weave back and forth between the two to fully attend to the harm that racism has caused and continues to cause.
Racial healing starts with healing me. It begins with going back. Recalling the stories of my childhood. Recognizing the depth and power of those narratives. Coming to terms with growing up in a racist culture with racist media and surrounded by racist jokes. What did it take to disconnect me from myself? The cost of denying my feelings and swallowing my confusion was belonging—unwittingly tied to the narratives which held power, starting with my white family, then schoolyard hierarchy, then moving to a shiny neighborhood. It took leaving, learning what I was never taught, becoming a curious adult, living with people who didn’t look like me. I came to understand that denial was foundational to the disembodiment I was conditioned to live as a woman and as a white person. How else could white culture do so much harm? Racial Healing Circles opened me to the power of telling—feeling!—my story and deeply listening to the stories of other beautiful humans, holding space with love and openness and wonder.
I believe that racial healing is the foundation of anti-racism and justice work. I think about the immense amount of work it takes to repair a relationship when one side continues to invalidate the other, that feels the same as trying to eliminate structural racism without acknowledging the deep pain and trauma that all of us have experienced due to racism in this country. The process of healing begins with listening to one another, gaining perspective but also shared acknowledgment of this shared history. Racial healing also requires us to return to this process of listening to each other even as we break institutional and structural barriers, reminding ourselves of our shared humanity.
Racial healing to me is a process for rebuilding from the lie that there is a hierarchy of human value based on skin color. It means seeing race; it is accountability; it is giving grace to myself and others; and it is understanding and experiencing that we are all deeply interconnected.