Identity is an Illusion Until…

Recently I took part in an online conversation connected with the word ‘privilege’, a word that causes such a stir in many of us for many different reasons. I shared a powerful talk by Ruth King , Buddhist teacher/practitioner who recently wrote “Mindful of Race”; who speaks and writes powerfully of our racial conditioning, its impact, and potential. She uses the terms ‘ultimate’ and ‘relative reality’, terms that helped me immensely in coming to these uncomfortable conversations around the word and work of privilege.

A condensed understanding: ‘Ultimate reality’ deals with a reality where everyone is one: one heart, one mind, one love; where we all belong to one another; where all lives matter and everybody is equal; where privilege is the privilege of being human and our identities an illusion. ‘Relative reality’ a reality where identity could never be an illusion; where all lives do not matter; where structures and systems make it clear we are not all equal; that we exist as individuals and communities within a context present and past; our histories and the socialization process around those histories an important part of who we are, how we perceive and are perceived and consequently how we move in the world. Ruth King says we belong to both ultimate and relative realities and to understand and honour the difference is crucial to working towards a more just equitable and peaceful world. She also says none of us receives a ‘spiritual bypass’ to the complicated issues of relative reality by working in the ultimate realm alone.

I am grateful for these recent critical conversations; conversations where we critically engaged with one another without having to be right or wrong but to simply share, hear and see one another in a safe circle of anonymity (not easy task these days online). So thank you to those recently engaged, who shared and listened and thank you for being a catalyst to this poem:

Identity is an Illusion Until…

a black man is shot in the back by police for stealing a pack of cigarettes;

a white youth man walks into a school, kills 17 people and walks out and into prison alive;

a child with special needs is beat and shamed for being rude, bad minded, troublesome;

you are Puerto Rican and thrown a roll of paper towels by the President of US after your island has been demolished by Hurricane Maria;

a woman is gang raped and blamed because of the clothes she wears;

you are deported from a country you lived your whole life and sent to a country you were born in a day;

a woman is spat on for wearing a hijab;

a friend is beaten senselessly for choosing to love the same as himself;

you are born in a body that does not match the gender your soul and spirit reflects;

you are four hundred pounds and each time you step out your door people stare you down with disgust and hate;

you are asked to step up on a stage and you are physically unable and there are no alternatives;

woman after woman cry out over and over “Me too. Me too. Me too.”

someone suffering from depression is told, ‘its all in your head’;

your fair skin, African nose, Latino tongue is described as exotic, sexy;

fathers are denied paternity leave;

men are mocked and laughed for showing emotions other then anger;

we walk by a young homeless person begging and we think ‘lazy’;

a mother is imprisoned for killing the man who raped her since childhood;

one hears the news of a shooting or bombing and prays the person responsible is not Black or Muslim or Middle Eastern or …

Identity is an illusion until……

By Maureen St.Clair






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