Practice Showing Up Guide: A Resource for White People in Transforming Grief and Rage about Racism into Solidarity and Action

by Margaret Ernst

“Hope has two beautiful daughters; their names are Anger and Courage. Anger at the way things are, and Courage to see that they do not remain as they are.” Augustine of Hippo

In the one month since Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick has taken a knee in protest against police brutality during the national anthem, inspiring similar protests from athletes across the country, at least 15 Black people in America have been killed in encounters with police [hover for link].  Several of these shootings have been laid bare to the world through social media.  In Springfield, Ohio: Tyre King.  In Tulsa, Oklahoma: Terrence Crutcher.  In Charlotte, NC: Keith Lamont Scott.

Bearing witness to these deaths is deeply traumatizing for Black people, and for other people of color who know that too many of our country’s systems, from policing to education to American democracy itself, were not built to protect them.  For White people, taking in the violence of people who look like us and the institutions we have been trained to believe in can make us also overcome by a range of emotions.  Grief.   Shock.  Confusion.  Anger.  Shame.  

In the same moment, we are also called into action.  Time after time, after time, White people have received calls from Black communities to take on our own work in dismantling white supremacy.  We must do the “brain” work of understanding and sharing with each other the history of White supremacy and how it operates today.  We must learn how to organize and build power against institutional racism alongside movements led by of people of color.  We must, as “Mama” Ruby Sales, elder and fighter from the Southern Freedom Movement, wrote yesterday morning [hover for link], turn our “articulated outrage at these police executions into action.”

Yet to come to this work with energy, focus and our whole selves, we can and must look to spiritual practices to strengthen us.  As our souls are crushed in realizing the depth of the sin of racism in America, we must discover new ways to restore our bodies, refuel our spirits, make space for our grief, heal our shame, and attend to our own internalized racism so that we can show up fully to the work of racial justice in the world around us.     

This is the purpose of Practice Showing Up: A Practice Guide for White People Working for Racial Justice [hover for link]. Created by Jardana Peacock, a White healer and coach in Liberatory Leadership, the guide contains embodied, writing, reflective, and prayer practices lifted up by White activists across the country who are working against racism in their communities. Jardana writes:

“In this time of intense state violence against Black bodies, our hearts are breaking, our communities are dividing and our children’s lives are at stake. However, there is also incredible hope. Demonstrations, gatherings and actions for Black Lives are blossoming all over the world, calls to end policing and move towards restorative justice are stronger than ever, and more and more white people are coming into consciousness and breaking white silence to end this violence… It is a time for us all to show up, our freedom depends on it.”

In her recent message to White people, Ruby Sales continued: “The time is here to show courage. The time is here to show the goodness that is in you. It is time to be courageous. It’s time to become whole.”

Download the Practice guide here and share it widely [hover for link].  Also check out the 8 week long upcoming webinar series from White Awake, Bringing Spiritual Tools to Anti-Racism Engagement [hover for link].

Let us believe in ourselves and each other.  Let us keep sharing the words and practices that bring us healing and resistance power in the face of a horrific history and present, not only of White supremacy but of the suffering caused by capitalism, patriarchy, and homophobia.  Let us become the ancestors that our descendants can draw strength from, following the call of the Divine towards justice and righteousness, walking the path towards true shalom.


margaret-pic_for_websiteMargaret Ernst is a Masters of Divinity student at Vanderbilt Divinity School serving as a field education intern at Scarritt Bennett Center in 2016/2017. Throughout the internship year, Margaret will deepen her own learning and contribute to the Center’s mission through two main areas of focus: 1) organizing predominantly white faith institutions to bring their people and resources into motion for racial justice, accountable to people of color-led movements, 2) nourishing the spiritual side of white anti-racist organizing outside of traditional faith communities, by providing pastoral care and support for activists as well as convening others who do the same to share practices.