Healing Racism: 12 Things I Learned

By Milagros Phillips

I have devoted the last three decades of my life to healing internalized racism and, in the process, have assisted thousands in healing their racial wounds. Many seem unaware that racism is the result of a myth that has become our reality.

Race is not real. The idea of race was created by those in power to justify keeping people in bondage, extract free labor, control the economy and the narrative, and build wealth for themselves and their families. Racism, the idea that certain groups are superior to others based on their physical characteristics, is the result of hundreds of years of conditioning facilitated by the myth of race. Race is not real, but racism is! Healing such a deep wound, and the normalized dysfunction it supports will take time.

Here are a few things I learned from working with thousands of people from all different backgrounds.

1) Racism is institutional, systemic, internalized, and interpersonal.

For hundreds of years, the myth of race has controlled the narrative. We can heal from racism, but to do so, we must understand what we are really dealing with. We institutionalize something by turning it into law. We then set up systems to support what is institutionalized. This includes neighbor-to-neighbor policing. People born under these systems internalize what is institutionalized, accepting it as "that's just the way things are," and act out of what is in their environment. Because the original history is hidden, there is no context for the behavior. We call this unconscious bias. People internalize what they experience, act, react, and interact out of what has been learned, which they now believe to be normal. The dysfunction becomes normalized, and then people interact with each other out of what they have internalized.

2) We are ONE HUMAN FAMILY, and we all need healing from racism.

No amount of racial conditioning can change the reality that we are one human family with all functions and dysfunctions that we find in individual families. We are each responsible for our healing.When it comes to healing from racism, no one can heal for you, nor can you afford to wait for others to change to improve your life. You are worthy of healing. Healing is the path to wholeness, something that racism takes away from all of us. You are a whole human — mind, body, spirit, and emotions — which means that you will need to heal your racial conditioning at all levels. You deserve to claim your wholeness... not tomorrow, or someday... you are worthy of your wholeness now!

3) Innocence cannot be an excuse for ignorance.

Awareness is a powerful healer. If we are going to be serious about healing our racial divide, race literacy will have to be at the forefront of the process. Awareness gives you information to transform your life, and that information gives you choice; it gives you the ability to enact one of your superpowers, the power of choice. We often take our ability to choose for granted. Choice is inextricably linked to free will, and free will is a divine right. You cannot heal what you have no awareness of, but you can choose to become aware.

4) If we can't own our shadow, our shadow will own us.

Healing requires that we accept the truth of what has been. It requires that we acknowledge and accept our share of the dysfunction, change our ways, and make things right. If we are going to heal from racism, we have to accept the shadow side of our history and look to make amends. Shadow work is essential to the healing process.

5) Intergenerational and historical race trauma are silent stressors, and therefore silent killers.

People being shot, beaten, and killed are the most extreme ways that racism claims lives. There are other, more subtle ways that racism takes people's lives. The human body makes a chemistry for everything. Our subconscious stores every event in our life and holds it like a silent treasure with the intent of keeping us safe. It stores every physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual experience we have ever had, and it holds our traumas. Research has shown that trauma gets passed on from generation to generation. We fall victim to known and unknown trauma until we become aware and decide to heal.

6) Racism is a problem FOR people of color, not the problem OF people of color.

Discernment is essential to the healing process. Whose pattern of behavior are you acting out of — your family's, your society's? How have you been conditioned to behave by our racialized system? Discernment can be the doorway to freedom and transformation. It can help you get clear, and clarity enables you to see what is yours to heal and what belongs to other people. Know that racism is a problem FOR people of color. Racism is not the problem OF people of color; therefore, they cannot solve it. Whites have to address racism. People of Color and Black people have to heal the many ways that they have internalized the oppression.

7) You are only responsible for healing your share of the dysfunction.

Let others do their own work. You can be compassionate and generous, and share what you have learned if you wish. You can be an ally and walk side-by-side with others on the same journey of healing; this is very important. However, when it comes to racism in America, Whites need to heal their racism (prejudice plus power), xenophobia, and internalized supremacy. And people of color need to treat their internalized oppression, colorism, and Stockholm Syndrome.

8) Anger is a natural part of the healing process.

Anger is not to be feared, but to be embraced compassionately, and with patience. Your anger does not define you. It is a feeling tied to an emotion whose very root is fear. Anger is what shows up when we feel lied to, deceived, abused, and betrayed. The anger will pass as you engage in healing. How you end up on the other side of that anger depends on the choices you make.

9) Learn as much as you can about the past. 

Your past is tied to your liberation.What you know or don't know about the past is affecting your worldview. If you want to change the future, find out how the past is affecting your present.

10) What others say and do, says a lot about them, not about you.

What others say and do is about them, not about you. People can only see as far as their filters. The broader their worldview, the more accepting and gracious they tend to be.

11) Align yourself with peaceful, loving, joyous, generous people. 

Better yet, become that yourself.You are in a position to be sovereign over your life and be the change you want to see in the world. You will become more effective if you choose to keep an open heart. It's not easy to stay open in the face of so much toxicity, but it is vital to your health and wealth.

12) Keep your heart open.

There are times when it’s hard to get out of our own way or deal with our pain. A loving smile opens the heart; so do kind thoughts. An open heart opens the doors to the world.

Milagros Phillips has been facilitating seminars on race for more than three decades. Working with diverse groups, including corporate leaders and members of Congress, she facilitates race literacy programs that inform, transform, and lead to inspired action. These programs are presented at educational institutions, corporations, and through public seminars. 

Her work comes from lived experience and is backed by historical and scientific research. It comes from walking through the shadow to find her light, and, in the process, helping others find theirs. She brings to this work great compassion, a deep understanding of race, and an awareness of our individual and collective power. 

In her 20 years facilitating seminars, she found that people often lacked the information with which to transform. Without the systemic and institutional background of race and racism, it is difficult to get beyond the personal. The missing information associated with race keeps all of us in a loop of endless repetition. However, we are not stuck. Race literacy and awareness puts us in the driver's seat of our lives and allows us to choose differently.

Milagros’ program on race, RACE Demystified, walks participants through the healing process. Her background uniquely prepared her to do this work. Her indoctrination began early as a Black Latina; having spent her formative years living under a dictatorship in the Caribbean, she understands the various forms that oppression takes. She has experienced racism and prejudice in two languages, and understands the impact of both racism and colonization. She is committed to compassionate transformation.

Click here to join Milagros every Monday at her Racial Healing Lunch & Learn event.

Click here to visit Milagros’ website. Click here to email Milagros.

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This article appears in: 2020 Catalyst, Issue 19: Plant Medicine for Modern Epidemics Summit