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Racial Justice Is Healing Justice—This Is Why It’s a Wellness Practice

Kells McPhillips

Kells McPhillipsAugust 5, 2020

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In the wake of George Floyd’s murder and the uprising of the Black Lives Matter movement that followed, white and white-passing people across America (and beyond) have been working to understand their massive and irrefutable role in oppressing members of the BIPOC community. And during a recent online panel collaboration with Dive in Well and Well+Good, which focused on the intersection of cancel culture and racial justice, it became clear that many have been confronting how they respond to being called out or called in. While the gut reaction to being called out or in is often to play defense, that won’t lead to real racial healing.

As activist Rachel Ricketts, Well+Good Changemaker and founder of the Spiritual Activism, said, as a panelist at the event, “racial justice is healing justice.” The sooner that non-Black people learn that activating a commitment to anti-racism is a healing, wellness practice, the sooner everyone can get onto the path of racial justice.

An early step toward racial healing and justice that non-Black people can commit to is experiencing callouts and call-ins (for example, “Hey, this is racist because of __________” or “I know you didn’t mean it like that, but it made me feel __________.”) as an invitation. That is, an invitation to mindfully mend a relationship and grow—rather than interpret the callout or call-in as a personal insult. Cultivating this growth mind-set starts with taking a huge breath, Ricketts said. “Literally, take a breath. I sound condescending, but I really mean it. Take a breath. Take a beat. Take a second, get into yourself. Check in [and ask yourself], ‘What’s going on. What am I feeling? Am I getting defensive? Why am I getting defensive? And, most importantly, ‘Is my need to be good and right more powerful than my commitment to anti-oppression?'”

“Racial justice is healing justice.” —Rachel Ricketts

It can be hard to accept that being wrong can be a wellness practice because white people often conflate well-being with comfort. That misconception is one that Ricketts tackles in her online spiritual activism courses as both a barrier to growth and an obstacle barring wellness from being a powerful tool for socio-political change. “If you want to be good and you want to be right, you’re not here for anti-oppression work, and you’re not going to be able to show up for racial justice, period,” she said. “You can’t be good and right and do this work. You’re going to be learning how language changes every five seconds. It’s already evolved—you have to continue to grow. This is healing work. Racial justice is healing justice. It’s a journey.  There’s zero destination, And you will constantly be learning and bettering yourself and the collective.”

Furthermore, this often-uncomfortable-feeling and transformative work absolutely counts as wellness. And according to Ricketts, it is continuous—for good reason. “This is why I talk about spiritual activism; because this work needs to be tended. We need to be addressing our wounds all the time so that we have the capacity to withstand our discomfort, irrespective of how and who this conversation or engagement or experience is occurring,” says Ricketts. That’s where opportunity comes in.

When a Black, Indigenous, or person of color calls a white person out or in, the best response is one of openness to hearing, responding, and—most crucially—changing. Doing so allows for practicing wellness in a way that’s transformative and focused on real racial healing—and not just aesthetic or self-involved. “So take a breath, center yourself, and actively listen and process. That might mean you need to take some time to process [so that] you don’t have to come up with a packaged answer,” says Ricketts. “As we’ve said time and time again, being called in or called out is an act of love. It’s time energy, emotional labor, and care. It means I care enough about you to believe that you can change and to want to repair this relationship.”

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