We Hold Medicine for Each Other – A Conversation about Race

What does it mean to heal racial wounds? This complex topic continues to bewilder us as a collective and individually. As we search for tools and tactics for solving the ongoing challenges surrounding race and its history, are we asking the right questions? Are we using a lens that will truly get us to a place of healing and liberation?

In this podcast, Quanita Roberson and Tenneson Woolf explore the dimensions of race, including how the wounds of colonization live on in all of us, how to own your work while compassionately allowing others to do theirs, and the promise that this deeper path can hold for true freedom.





Tenneson:  When we think about conversations about race and inclusion and diversity, quite often there’s a reframe and we get to say, “This is about healing. And healing has lots of scales to it.”

Quanita:  I think that we’ve been having the conversation about diversity and inclusion in this country – and maybe beyond that – as if people haven’t been talking about it. We bring people into organizations and we host conversations about it. And I don’t think that is the issue. I don’t think the issue is that people haven’t been having the conversation. I think the issue is that most of us don’t really have the maturity to have the conversation.

And the conversation is really rooted in this idea of how do we extend grace and compassion to others? But the piece we are missing and that I think we’ve jumped over is that, if I don’t have grace and compassion for myself, there’s no way that I can ever give it to you. ‘Cause we can’t give what we don’t have. And unless we’re tending to our own personal healing, then we’re missing the boat. To me, it’s a waste of time and money.

Q: We can do a lot of activities side by side, but I see my job as constantly turning people in the direction back to themselves. I can learn a lot about taking on my own stuff and you taking on yours next to me, and even build connection without actually entering into dialogue about something.

One of the things I love about circle is that circle allows us to put things in the center and we don’t really have to really be in dialogue. Ae can hold it and we can be in our own explanations.

And so it’s about creating these diversity and inclusion communities of practice: “How do I take on my stuff and how do you take on your stuff and go together?” But I’m not trying to take on your stuff for you or even help you do your stuff. I can support you in the ways that you need support, but I can trust that you know how you need that.

Q: I see it more as building warriors than sending people out to war.

T:  For those of us who live in North America and even bringing it down to the layer of the United States right now, this is an economic system that was built on the backs of slaves. There was a deliberate importing of human beings to provide free labor, enslaved labor, to create economic return. And though that may be a story that a significant part of it happened 400 years ago, to bring it forward into an acknowledged wound – and I don’t know what acknowledged means, by the way, but it certainly moves away from denial or defensiveness, or some of these kind of things. They have to move into, “Look, this is the reality of the history of our peoples or our ancestors.” … So, coming to terms with that as a white person.

The second fundamental thing is relationship to land and colonization. As Europeans coming to this land, we took it. We took land from First Nations people and colonized and began wars and didn’t fulfill agreements, and things like that. So, those are important truths to come into relationship with. And I find, as a white man — let me be further honest with it, there have been times when I’ve found it difficult or I’ve found my own defensiveness.

But I think the wisdom or the warrior or the maturity growing has to include further integration of those truths and not just the sort of flashy marketing truths that show up on posters and billboards that are just a white person’s reality.

Q:  I think we’re too eager to go downstream. I think we’re too eager to do, and to join, and to be part of. And the reason I say that is, lots of people are going out — I don’t want them to go out. I want them to go the hell in because I think that the doing has to come from that place. It has to come from the healed place, right?

And I think that part of the Eurocentric model that we all have been swimming in has been putting a heavier weight on the doing than the being. And so bringing us back to balance, actually, it is the, “Let’s come in first.” And for me, COVID is trying to give us that experience of the “go in,” and we’re still running. We still don’t want to be still and go in, and tend to some of the things that we have.


This podcast was originally shared on https://fireandwater.podbean.com/e/tenneson-quanita-talk-about-race.


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