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Why People of Color Need Spaces Without White People

  Illustration by Alicia Brown
Illustration by Alicia Brown

I’m breathing deeply as I write this. What I’m writing about is charged. I feel this energy in my body. It’s a heat in my throat and a rumbling in my belly. It’s an intensity that’s frustrated that these words must even be written. It propels me through my fears of backlash and worry about not getting it exactly right. What I say may anger you. You may disagree. You may feel more confused, and this, I would say, is good. It means the work can begin.

Breathing.

People of color need their own spaces. Black people need their own spaces. We need places in which we can gather and be free from the mainstream stereotypes and marginalization that permeate every other societal space we occupy. We need spaces where we can be our authentic selves without white people’s judgment and insecurity muzzling that expression. We need spaces where we can simply be—where we can get off the treadmill of making white people comfortable and finally realize just how tired we are.

Valuing and protecting spaces for people of color (PoC) is not just a kind thing that white people can do to help us feel better; supporting these spaces is crucial to the resistance of oppression. When people of color are together, there can be healing. We can reclaim parts of ourselves that have been repressed. We can redefine ourselves and support one another in embracing who we are. The necessity of these spaces is obvious to me as a woman of color learning to embrace layers of my own identity by being in community with other Black and brown bodies.1 This has been especially important in my spiritual community, Shambhala Buddhism, where we are taught that surfacing vulnerability is the path to creating a more fair and just society. Yet, in my own organizing of a PoC meditation in Oakland and in conversations with other people of color in my sangha across the United States, I have been angered and baffled by the responses of white people to these spaces. . .

Read more by Kelsey Blackwell at The Arrow

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