Living and thriving in predominately white spaces: a PoC survival guide

Stand in your truth.  What does it mean to stand in our truth? To my understanding, standing in one’s truth means being in alignment or harmony with all parts of self: mind, body, spirit. Which means there is a voice tugging at our consciousness, telling us something is off. Whether it be physically, emotionally, or spiritually. Often when I am doing something—be it a project, relationship, or in an area which runs counter to my nature—I get a feeling which I cannot shake. To put it simply, I am aware of what serves me and wary of what does not. I am finding it increasingly important to seek out what will allow me to vibrate higher and root out what will not.

Take care of what serves you. Finding what serves me has taken a lot of time and effort and essentially comes down to basic needs. Finding what or who makes me feel good and making sure, to the best of my ability, that requirements are being met to keep them in my life. Whether it be showing up to work and doing the work well, watering my plants more or less so they don’t shrivel up and die, or hanging out with a friend when I may be a little tired. Doing maintenance to make sure that blessings continue to cycle in and out of our lives.

Ask for what you need. People of color are magic. We have always been magic and we will always be magic. It comes as no surprise then to realize that we have been pouring all of our time and energy into places and people which do not serve us. Through conversations with fellow PoC, I am coming to notice a trend. More and more artists, organizers, and the like are moving their gifts from white spaces, which have frequently only served as a sucking void, into PoC spaces which feel nourishing and validating. Because of rampant (often unchecked) racism and appropriation in predominately white spaces, it is understandably difficult for PoC to advocate for themselves and be heard. Lack of support and understanding naturally leads us to find other outlets for our gifts. People of color are coming to understand the depth and breadth of our history on this continent and are finding that makes more sense to divest from what does not serve us and invest in what does. If we aren’t getting what we need from one space, we will create and nurture one that does. This energy is evident in the growing PoC spaces around my own town, which is replicated in many other (thought still not enough) communities. Spaces that span many areas of life from music, to spirituality, to interpersonal.

Make sure you’re being compensated. Should PoC choose to lend our gifts to spaces which may not serve us but serve the greater good, it is important to make sure we are compensated. Creating and manifesting take time and labor, and existing is hard. To ask PoC to invest in a thing which actively harms us (i.e. asking a PoC to enter a white-only or nearly-white-only space specifically to educate) is counterproductive; we need to make sure we are being paid for our time and our energy. This is basic and a realization which has helped me to understand how far people are willing to go down the path to liberation.

Make sure you’re being supported. More than being compensated, it is important to ensure we are being supported. When considering where to place my energy, personally, professionally, creatively, I check in to see if the people, organization, facility I am working with has got my back. Regardless of whether there are PoC, I ask myself, “Are the people I am dealing with down for the movement?” If I don’t know the answer, I ask questions to find out. Where does my request for validity and self-respect meet their boundaries?

Take care of your heart. Beyond all of this I am finding the most important thing to take care of my heart. It becomes easy to get so caught up in the daily grind of it all, crossing off check-lists, putting away groceries, getting through the next thing…that we forget to be kind to ourselves. We need to be gentle with ourselves—as people of color we stay being under an extreme amount of stress while somehow finding a way to dream and achieve our goals. Despite our magic, it cannot serve us if we run ourselves ragged. This is a lesson I am learning for myself; understanding when to slow down, ask questions and when necessary, step away from what does not serve me. This is a thing we all can do by paying attention to what we need, investing in our gifts and taking care of our hearts, we can stand fully in our truth.

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