White Ally: A Guide to Cultivating a Deeply Spiritual AntiRacism Practice is available now on Amazon.
This is a book about a deepened yoga practice, a spiritual practice, of intense self-inquiry, of examining who you are and your racial identity. Below is a preview from the book.
My granddaddy called me “yellow girl.” As a young child, I never understood why. I didn’t want to be different than him, or my brother, or my sister, or anyone. I didn’t want to be singled out or alienated. In middle school one day, my white friend said, “Well, you’re not really Black.” And I thought, why not? What is Black? Am I not Black because I don’t ‘look Black,’ ‘talk Black,’ or ‘act Black?’ This demeaning, offensive and backhanded compliment stripped away the race from which I had come. Being a light-skinned Black woman forces me into racial ambiguity. I live in between races. However, I identify as Black. It’s what I experience in the world, it’s how I choose to identify and it’s what I feel in my heart. I recognize my light-skin privilege and I embrace my Blackness.
I was born in 1976 in Redwood City, California, to a white race mother of Mexican and Spanish descent and an African American father. Interracial marriage, once outlawed in the United States of America, became legal in the entire United States in 1967, just eight years before my parents were married.
When I was two years old, we moved from an apartment building on the west side of Redwood City to a house in the suburbs. We were the only Black family in the neighborhood. When my parents rented that house, my “white passing” mother purposely went to sign the lease without my Black father. She also left us, her three Black children, in the car, just in case the landlord had any racial bias. Later, when the landlord met my father, he let him know that the neighbor across the street had said to him, “Why are you renting to that nigger? I would hang him by that tree.”
Sadly, Jim Crow laws legalized racial segregation and existed for about 100 years from the post-Civil War era until 1968. Segregation not only occurred in the southern states of America; California also has a rich history of discrimination.
“Hail Mary full of grace. The Lord is with thee.” I grew up attending Catholic church with my mother and Mexican grandfather. It was a quick one-hour mass of sitting, standing, kneeling, standing again, worshipping rather quietly. I also grew up attending my granddaddy’s church, Church of God in Christ (COGIC), a Pentecostal tradition. My father is now the pastor. I come from a long line of pastors and preachers who have a passion for Jesus Christ. I sometimes attended Sunday school followed by three hours of church. Long sermons where my granddaddy preached, walked, ran, and danced around with a microphone, in order to get his biblical message across to the church members. He would be sweating and swaying to the rhythm of the organ. Eventually, someone would “catch” the gift of the holy ghost, dance around uncontrollably and speak in tongues.
One day, my sister and I were playing in our living room. We decided to reenact the experience of catching the holy ghost at church. I may have danced around a little too crazy because I fell and hit my face right on the corner of the coffee table. Blood squirted everywhere, I went to the ER and had to get a few stitches right under my left eye. My father said, “God don’t like ugly.”
I am grateful I was able to experience two very different religious traditions. My parents always had tremendous faith in God, but as a teenager, I was influenced by mother’s shift into a more spiritual path. I witnessed how a spiritual person deeply cares about people and has a strong desire for soul searching reflections. I respect all religions and don’t follow any one in particular. I believe in one God, and often say, “Love is my religion.”
I deeply care about people. I think the seed of desire to be of service, help improve people’s lives and change the world was planted somewhere around middle-school age. That’s when I started to read and learn about the pain and suffering in the world and to reflect on my own. I discovered Harlem Renaissance poets and I devoured Langston Hughes, Claude McKay, James Weldon Johnson and Countee Cullen. I was activated by Assata Shakur, Mumia Abu Jamal and Malcolm X. Reading their work helped me learn more about slavery, Black identity, and the effects of institutional racism. It changed my world. During that time, I began to write as a way of healing. I wanted to make a difference in my own life and in the world.