Shadow Work and White Supremacy

Shadow work is an important part of my practice where I look at the parts of myself that bring me shame, guilt or are just difficult to look at. Recently, after a prompt from @Hexactivist, I have felt called to use my shadow work to look at my whiteness.

When people are talking about race and racial issues, I generally try and amplify people who aren’t white’s voices and keep my two cents to myself. I still believe that in any social justice situation, the voices of those impacted must be centred. But recently, I’ve seen calls from people in the spiritual community in particular for white people to take more responsibility and talk about their whiteness, their role in upholding a white supremacist society and how they continue to benefit from it instead of letting people of colour do all the work.

They’re absolutely right. So I’m using my shadow work to examine my whiteness and the role it plays in my life and in wider society. If you’re also white, I would encourage reading my own experience of whiteness and see how it resonates with you. More importantly, I would encourage you to listen to what others are asking for right now and conduct your own shadow work on this issue too. I have left clear headings and prompts I followed throughout this reflection for you to use yourself.

Knowing my Ancestors

I’ve often felt really disconnected from my ancestors. Recently, I’ve begun to unpack why I’m comfortable exploring the celtic and english magical practices that my ancestors likely would have used but not the ancestors that used them.

Part of this is because I’m ashamed. I’m ashamed of what white people in the past have done to intentionally create this system of white supremacy and I’m ashamed to look at the direct impact my ancestors might have had on its creation. I don’t want to feel connected to that hateful system that oppresses and kills so many around the world today.

But I’m white. I am inextricably connected to it.

I’m trying to open the door to my ancestors more now and understand the good as well as the bad of those that came before me. I know it’s important for me to see how I’m directly descended from those that actively created a system that protects me and kills others with impunity. It’s important for me to recognise how those before me have created and benefitted from white supremacy and how I continue to do the same.

Knowing Myself

As well as understanding how my ancestors are connected to creating and upholding white supremacy, it’s important to know how I am too and to take responsibility.

Firstly, I need to understand my whiteness better. Whiteness is the societal default in the UK where I’m from and so I’m not regularly asked to think about myself in terms of race. I’m allowed to have an identity separate to my whiteness. In order to help dismantle white supremacy, I need to understand my whiteness as a part of my identity. It can’t be something that only comes up when people are discussing racism. It needs to be a core part of how I think about and understand myself and my position in society. Only by continually reviewing this can I understand how I benefit from white supremacy and where I actively uphold its structures.

I have thought about my actions in the past and how my whiteness has allowed me to be ignorant of race and how I have ultimately made mistakes that have served to reinforce white supremacy. I’m thinking hard about this, taking responsibility and thinking about how I can work to make myself not ignorant in the present.

I have started some initial thinking about this in the present and I need to do more. I am vocal about racism and white supremacy and I donate money where I can. I do my best to make this ongoing work but I know I have the privilege to take a break from this and sometimes I do. Sometimes I scroll past the argument because it’s late and I’m tired. This isn’t something I can justify to myself anymore and I need to take responsibility for the fact that my whiteness allows me to be complacent and continually ask myself what more I could be doing.

Knowing my community

I grew up in a very white community that was racist but ultimately saw itself as separate to white supremacy as that was viewed as something withheld specifically for the KKK or the Nazis. What I now understand is this is covert white supremacy. I’m trying to engage more with those that say racist or problematic things such as ‘I don’t see colour’. I need to help others in my community confront their whiteness and use this to help dismantle the system they continually benefit from.

I am also an active member of the spiritual community. I need to actively challenge the idea that is pervasive among white witches, white mystics or any other practitioner that spirituality is somehow ‘above’ racism and political matters. It’s not. It is intrinsically linked to it. Spirituality must be critical of the racist structures within it and the context in which spiritual practice is created and see the destruction of these and the wider racist structures of society as a priority of its work. I must work within the spiritual community to achieve these aims.

I am also British. The problems that the black community face in Britain are different to the problems in America. I need to know where I can have impact and support Black British leaders with the work that needs done to change our government, stand up for what’s right in our communities and be honest about Britain’s racism. Our police aren’t armed but Black people and other people of colour are hurt in countless other ways.

I need to move past my fear of confrontation, particularly with those that I know and do the work that others depend on for survival. I have the privilege of being able to have these conversations in safe environments and I need to use that privilege.

Knowing what to do

I’m listening always and constantly reviewing what actions I should take. Right now, in no particular order, I am:

  • Confronting my own whiteness and identity as a white person

  • Having more difficult conversations with other white people

  • Making sure that dismantling white supremacy is a regular and core part of my spiritual work and providing tools for other white people to make it a core part of theirs

  • Taking responsibility to educate myself more around white supremacy

  • Listening to black voices continuously about the impact of white supremacy on them and amplifying them around my community

  • Taking specific actions when called to by

  • Making financial contributions to organisations that have been identified by Black people as being in need of support

I have a long way to go but I wanted to respond to the call and share how I have been examining my whiteness and white supremacy through shadow work.

If you’re white and want to start dismantling white supremacy as part of your spiritual practice then feel free to reach out with any questions or to share your journey. This is essential work and I want to help provide tools or support in any way I can.

Let’s do the work.

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