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  • Writer's pictureDeven Sisler

I missed the point of Black Lives Matter

Photo by Sarah Wills

I was much more comfortable saying, "all lives matter" when this movement began in 2013, it felt radical, angry, uncomfortable for me. I thought I was on the outside of the conversation, not part of the cause. I felt, as a white yoga teacher, that "all lives matter" was more inclusive, more safe. It also resonated with the phrase that I repeat daily, "lokah samasta sukinoh bhavantu" which translates from Sanskrit as "may all beings have happiness, health, & freedom". I now know, I was missing the point. As many have pointed out on social media, when we hear a call to action to "save the rainforests", we don't respond, "save ALL the forests.". This seemingly mild translation from "Black Lives Matter" to any other phrase: centers me, rather than Black people; means I am not listening; I am not responding to a direct request; I am diverting the conversation; and thus supporting the underlying systems of racism and white supremacy. Saying something like, "all lives matter", allows us to feel "nice" without doing the work that humanity needs us to do. And humanity needs us to do work right now. When I say & support, "Black Lives Matter", then I am truly supporting the intention of my daily mantra.

I considered myself an environmental activist for decades. This belief got me into a few spats with a Black ex-room mates around environmental justice versus social justice. I didn't realize until recently, that my White privilege allowed me the ability to pick and my areas of concern, activist work and protest. I thought environmental justice was essential for humanity, now I know I was wrong-- social justice and environmental justice are all wrapped up together and we all must walk together.

I often look for the positive reframing and phrasing of language-- instead of translating Ahimsa, as non-violence (which implies violence), I prefer "compassionate loving-kindness". So I was also resistant to the phrase "anti-racist work", but the racism is the smog that we all breathe and I have embraced this term and acknowledge that I live in a society within which I benefit, so it is my duty to educate myself, listen to Black & brown people, amplify their voices, donate, protest, call our government officials and teach our children as daily practices.

Art by Bryce Wong

I am a recovering perfectionist, so I don't like to do things unless I am going to get them right. This tendency has also held me back from doing more sooner. Antiracist work is something I am not always going to get "right", so I will continue to try, and my sincere hope is that you will join me too. Below are a few ways to get started, and please email me if you have questions. I am here to discuss.

Listen to this article

This is a great introduction to the issue and the problem at hand, if it is new to you or you are looking for ways to start teaching your children. NPR interview with Jennifer Harvey

Teach Your Children ASAP

It is imperative that we start these conversations with our children as soon as possible for the safety, and inclusion of all our children.

  • Get books with Black & brown children.

  • Get dolls & toys that are Black & brown

  • Follow @theconsciouskid and @readlikearockstar on Instagram for leadership on how to teach kids in an AntiRacist framework.

Educate/Adult Reading/Listening List

Let me know if you want to join a virtual book club starting next week by emailing

  • White Fragility by Robin DiAngelo

  • So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo

  • Raising White Kids: Bringing Up Children in Racially Unjust America by Jennifer Harvey

  • How to Be an AntiRacist by Ibram X Kendi

Buy from independent bookstores or get the ebook right now

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