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Why I’m No Longer Hiding Behind My Privilege and My Spirituality

“How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.” ~Anne Frank

We’re all just spiritual beings, bumbling along in human bodies, trying to make our way.

Trying to find the delicate balance between living in a physical world and embracing our higher selves.

In my quest for spiritual enlightenment, I learned how to narrow my focus. I learned to tune out the noisy Facebook newsfeed, I don’t watch the news, and I avoid saying things just for the sake of controversy.

For a while, this worked. As my vibe rose, I started living a life more fulfilled and happy. Whenever people around me got hung up on the latest news story, I was content to basically plug my ears and say “nanananana not listening” and go back to my abundance-minded podcasts and books.

I meant well, I really did; my feeling was that if I were to just focus on the problem, then I was only adding to the noise and not helping the world find a solution.

I didn’t want to just shout at what I’m against, so I didn’t shout at all.

But then, Charlottesville happened.

Full disclosure, I’m a white, English-speaking, thirty-something woman living in Canada. I was tempted to do what I’d been doing when it came to the news—avoid googling it and getting the full story. I didn’t want to “add to the bad vibes.”

But for some reason, I felt a pull to understand this one and I could barely stop myself from typing “what happened in Charlottesville” into Google.

I was horrified at what I saw, needless to say.

Let me back up a bit.

As a white woman, I’ve been somewhat self-conscious in spreading an abundance-mindset message. For a long time, I thought, “Who am I to even talk about this, when life has clearly been much easier for me than for some others?”

I was very aware of my white privilege, and it made me self-conscious. I was scared of the backlash I might (rightfully?) receive if I were to spout things like, “You can create your own reality!” on social media.

“What do you know about real life, middle-class white girl?” I was afraid they’d say. “Must be easy for you to say!”

Because, although I’ve certainly had hardships, my life has been pretty charmed compared to others who grew up homeless, or in abusive situations.

So back to Charlottesville. I felt an uncontrollable pull to understand more thoroughly what happened here. Why, all of a sudden, a group of white supremacists felt it was okay to gather and spread their hate. The KKK marched with no masks—just let that sink in for a second.

The things I was feeling went against everything I’d been practicing in my effort to achieve a higher state of enlightenment.

I was angry. I was ashamed. I hurt for my fellow humans, particularly Heather Heyer and her family.

This time, I couldn’t just “not have an opinion on it.” I couldn’t just bury my head and act like ignorance is bliss. I couldn’t choose not to participate in the human experience.

I realized that I could use my white privilege one of two ways: to contribute to the problem, or to the solution.

To say nothing and ignore it would be to invoke my white privilege in favor of the problem.

Because let’s face it, I am privileged in that I could just bury my head in the sand, and it probably wouldn’t affect my daily life. Nobody would shout hurtful racial slurs at me, simply because they feel empowered to. I don’t ever worry that I got turned away for a job because of my ethnicity.

Spirituality is a beautiful thing, but not when it causes us to turn a blind eye to the experience of our fellow humans, under the guise that they somehow “attracted” it.

Because even if that’s true, does that make them any less deserving of our support and compassion? Of course not.

The problem is, fighting against something just makes it bigger and gives it more power. So how can we affect real change?

I don’t have all the answers, but here’s the beauty I see coming from all this:

The victims of these hate crimes died for a reason bigger than themselves, and not in vain.

The world is at a crucial boiling point that would never have been reached if these people didn’t feel empowered to show their true colors.

All the hatred is coming out, and while it would be better if it didn't exist at all, this is actually a good thing, because you can’t have real equality when the problem is swept under the rug.

It’s caused me (and countless others in privileged positions) to check themselves and question their beliefs and behavior.

More people than ever are using their voices to make the world a safer, and more compassionate place.

You don’t have to sit and stew in the problem with those affected in order to show your support. I’m not saying you have to put all your energy into fighting against the problem. You don’t have to feel guilty for being white (if you are too), and nobody’s accusing you of being a racist.

But we can have each other’s backs.

Simple things make a difference. Like actually listening and believing someone when they talk about their experiences, instead of shrugging them off because they’re “being dramatic” or “too sensitive.” Telling your family or friends when they make an insensitive (and so not funny) joke. Catching yourself when you make snap judgments about someone based on their ethnicity and shifting your behavior as needed.

We’re all doing the best with what we have, and compassion goes a long way.

Real equality (and not just on paper, while minorities continue to be treated like underlings) is on the way. Let’s continue to be the change.

About Shelsey Jarvis

Shelsey is an online business mindset coach for woo-curious female entrepreneurs. She loves singing (and not just in the shower), and loooooves a glass of wine at the end of the day with her two kids and husband. Get a free eight-minute money mindset meditation at leftbrainedhippie.com/money-mantras.

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  • Evil has no loyalty, ethics or a rule book. Remember:

    First they came for the Socialists, Andrew I did not speak out—
    Because I was not a Socialist.

    Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
    Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

    Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
    Because I was not a Jew.

    Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

    – Martin Niemöller

  • Shelsey Cayer

    So eye-opening. Thank you so much for sharing that!

  • Brian4541

    Shelsey,

    Very much enjoyed your post. I think our spirituality truly helps us on the path of “fighting” (don’t mean in a physical sense) against hatred and social injustice. It helps to take action or make speech from a place of caring, compassion, and loving-kindness rather than a place of anger, hatred, and delusion, which I think just feeds the beast. I think it is imperative that we speak out against racism and other forms of hatred, but it’s better to do so from a place of right wisdom and right mindset. And many little actions eventually add up to an aggregate of big action. Thanks for sharing your thoughts. : )

  • michaelrose93

    Neo-Nazi’s suck. So do those who would have you feel guilty for being who you are.

    First they came for the one percenters. I didn’t care, I wasn’t a one percenter.

    Then, they came for the males. I didn’t care because I was a feminist.

    Then they demonized the South. Anyone proud of their Southern heritage must be a racist. I didn’t care, because I wasn’t raised with a Southern identity.

    Then they demonized Whiteness. Whiteness is a form of social oppression, they said (watch professor Noel Ignatiev). I dutifully flagellated myself.

    Then they demonized the Founding Fathers. Those guys owned slaves, so let’s disown them. Let’s rename Washington D.C., let’s blow up Mt. Rushmore. I wanted to be all P.C. so I went along with it.

    Then they demonized nationalism. America was built on slavery. To be a proud American makes you a proud racist, by extension. I joined in the castigation with suicidal delight.

    Then they said that only world government can save us from ourselves. I eagerly agreed.

    Welcome to the New World Order. Comrade.

  • Lacommenter

    I am very disappointed in this article showing you ‘drinking the Kool-aide’ of the bogus idea of ‘white priviledge.’ There is no such thing except in the minds of blacks who are too undisciplined to take responsibility for their own lives, get educated, be respectful and cultured, and be successful. This is merely loser envy at what they didn’t have. I work with whites who also grew up in very tough situations; specifically, they went to school with blacks and hispanics, and had to learn to fight or get beat up regularly. That is not priviledge, but racism against white people for no good reason. Please rethink your ‘white priviledge’ mindset and realize it is the normal American Dream, not something to be ashamed of or apologize for.

  • Davein

    This so-called “white guilt” is nothing more than projecting! Empathy run amok, excessively. If I do something crappy to someone, then yes, I should feel guilty (and I do)–but there’s no way that I’m going to feel guilty over something I have zero control over. And there’s no way that I’m going to let someone tell me that I should feel guilty for my gender, color of my skin, sexual orientation, marital status, or anything else. I am in charge of my feelings and actions–no one else is responsible for me, but ME.
    I normally like and appreciate articles on this site, but they’ve seriously got this one wrong.

  • Shelsey Cayer

    As I stated in the article, there’s no need to feel guilty for being white. I used to, but that was my own stuff and I acknowledge that. However, there are certain privileges that I didn’t even realize I had, and I’m just sharing my experience with it. No hard feelings if you don’t agree 🙂

  • Shelsey Cayer

    Nobody said you should feel guilty 🙂 Have a good one ✌️

  • Shelsey Cayer

    Thank you 🙂 Definitely agree that it’s about the little actions that add up!

  • Courtney

    Hello. Allow me, if I may, to take a moment to deconstruct your diatribe of sentiments.
    To begin, forgive me for asking, but to whom are you referring to in your beginning statement, and I quote “drinking the Kool-aide of the bogus idea of white privilege”? Hhhmm, if I were a betting lady, I would multiply my thousands into millions, and surmise that, it reads like, and sounds like- should I utter it aloud, of an unhealthy dose of stereotyping, and maligning of a particular group, should we say African-Americans, yes? That type of motivation reeks of ill will, and is not coming from a place of peace. What would Buddah think?

    You speak on “Blacks” as a whole as being undisciplined, not taking responsibility for their own lives, etc. Is that not generalizing? Who do you think that you are? Do you know all “Blacks”? You, oh one of ignorance, do not know about me and my family members. What envy do I have of Caucasians, assuming that I am Black? What would the mortal Buddah say?

    All ethnic groups have put themselves through the meat grinder of life. All ethnic groups have committed genocide. Genocide is simply killing ourselves over again times a million everyday, on the hour, by the second.

    I have attended “white schools and black schools.” Hhhmmm, people acted ignorantly at all of them, and on the same hand “they” acted pleasantly, graciously. I have seen the best in all ethnic groups, and I have seen the worst, including myself. No one person in the quick or dead can speak on being pious, or pure, not one. What would the mere man of Buddah think?

    There are not enough apologies in this world to dry up all the tears of grief we as beings have placed against one another and have lavishly spent upon the good earth’s floor. There are no “betters” in any society, save for the good dirt, rock, and air above.

  • Courtney

    Ms. Shelsey Cayer and Mr. Brian…I see that both of you are coming from a place of peace. Thank you. Peace means everything, it is everything. Everyone has the potential to transcend to peace, just have a will, as my parents state, just have a will.

  • Dan

    Ignorant woman

  • Kayte CookWatts

    I am wondering if it is problematic for you to actually say things like victims of hate crimes died for a reason, not in vain. You may believe that, certainly, but it’s not really for you to say. I just compare it to empty platitudes people tend to say when someone dies. Saying something like that is an example, I think, of white privilege. It’s not about you in the first place. You don’t have to make a “statement.” It isn’t really your place. I think it is most important for white people to listen to the grief and frustration of people of color, instead of talking about their feelings. Not that you can’t help,take action, and speak up in situations where racism exists. You actually say in the article to listen to people,call people out on racist jokes(seems like rather obvious advice to me), after talking about yourself for most of the article.Once again, I am not saying you can’t have feelings around this issue, but the only important sentences here were how white people should consider listening better to people of color.

  • Irish

    I see where you were going with this post but I don’t think it came across correctly !!

    “White privilege” my mind is classing that as racist on every level from the mouths of anyone who actually says things like that out loud.

    The reson there is still so much rasicim in the world is because, that is what everyone still wants to focus on. Every time you look there is a new movie about rascim, how can the world move forward if we keep feeling sorry for each other. I’m Irish

  • Irish

    Sorry one more thing I forgot to add the comments about feeling guilty for being white. I’m white why would I feel guilty ? Same as a Black, Turkish, Chinese, etc shouldn’t. The skin colour is not the problem.

    In my opinion the problem is religion & cultural beliefs to name a few.

  • Chillinswing

    Shelsey, if nothing you have certainly invoked a discussion. I read your article several times to make sure I understood your point of view before I commented.
    I am glad that Charlottesville inspired you to become more of a participate in the fight against racism. However, using the very loaded term “white privilege” is very divisive and is a very derogatory term. The connotations around the term ascribes guilt and shame because of a persons skin color. I know that is not what you meant. However to me and some who have commented on this thread that is how it is viewed.
    “I realized that I could use my white privilege one of two ways: to contribute to the problem, or to the solution.”
    Dump the white privilege. You can still be part of the solution.
    I hope this is informative regarding how many view the term.

  • Davein

    You did when you said: “You don’t have to feel guilty for being white…”

    The premise of your statement postulates that there IS guilt for being white, and therefore explicit permission is required to eliminate that guilt.

    It’s exactly like saying “it’s okay to be black.”

    (I already have a good one.)

  • RevNagi

    I applaud your point of view.

  • RevNagi

    Hi Shelsey! I very much enjoyed your post. I don’t know (obviously) if you have read any of Ram Dass’ stuff, but from what I have read I think you would enjoy it.
    Just a thought.
    Nagi

  • Chetty664506

    I totally agree with your assessment of “looser envy!” Seems to me that many racial, and or ethnic groups were persecuted at one time or another. In general, they all have prospered in the ensuing years since….Japanese, Chinese, Jews, Irish….but not the Blacks or the native Americans? As Edison is quoted: “There is no substitute for hard work!” They might not grasp this concept?

  • Courtney

    What would the great Buddah think about your disparaging comments against “Blacks and the Aborigines” of this continent? This is a website supposedly geared towards an individual(s) welcoming the opportunity to glean insight into transcending mentally, physically, and spiritually. I find it ironic that “Tiny Buddah” allows for certain remarks to be removed, but remarks on this article that are clearly cynically and racially based have been allowed to remain. Your remarks are nonsensical, and I am willing to bet once again that you, oh ye of ignorance, have not studied the teachings of Buddah. I reel in great love of individuals such as you, for you use certain statements as a prop in order to simply spew your venom from your viper tongue. I am willing to bet that you care very little for any of the ethnicities you admiringly referred to, for you used them simply as a proper. Good job, my sinful friend. Great job “Tiny Buddah”.

  • Melissa Pennel

    Shelsey– thank you so much for writing this. It is inspiring to see people speak up rather than keeping their heads buried– to risk saying the wrong thing rather than saying nothing. This was not the wrong thing, because it acknowledges very real facts about our world, and disappointing circumstances warranted by the systems we exist within. Thank you for not turning the other cheek, and doing the very best you can to own your own privilege and educate all of us. We all need your voice.

  • Lacommenter

    No hard feelings at all; I generally love every post here, find them incredibly helpful, wise and insightful. But I’ll never agree with this one. 🙂 And that’s okay by me to agree to disagree! 🙂

  • Lacommenter

    Courtney, You most likely will not like anything I write here, however I am answering your questions and therefore will be very specific;

    1. By ‘drinking the Kool-Aide’ I am referring to accepting a certain mindset that is promulgated by black activists who are themselves very racist and hateful. One only has to look at the leader of the BLM movement for a concrete example of this. This mindset would have you believe that you should feel guilty for your ‘white priviledge’ that you don’t even know you have because you are white, so of course you can’t know what it feels like to grow up ‘unpriviledge’ black. I will be more specific. I don’t care. Not my problem.
    As it happens, I grew up in an incredibly strict, fundamentalist religious environment that demanded outward perfection everywhere at all times. My personal identity didn’t matter, just the church. We had to ‘be a witness and testimony everywhere’ because if we erred, some poor soul might spend eternity in hell because I may have been a stumblingblock to someone. How’s that for mental or emotional abuse? So, no that wasn’t growing up in violence, but it was distinctly an unpriviledged situation compared to almost every other student that I attended school with. So should I whine and complain about those folks with ‘religious priviledge?’ Because almost every other family took vacations, had more money than us, drove new cars, were allowed to do ‘normal’ things together like party, drink, go to movies, etc..
    So, I hope that I have defined what I mean when I use the phrase ‘drinking the Kool Aide’. It is the acceptance of lies that white people are all privileged racists who somehow ‘owe’ black folks money, material things, etc…because of the acts of a few ancestors who were slave owners.

    2. I stand by my comments that blacks as a race do not take responsibility for their own well being. Statistics back me up in almost every category you might discuss; Let’s be specific; a. The number of broken families because black males apparently think it’s okay to impregnate a girl, then not be a man by supporting the poor woman b. the highest crime rate vs the percent of their population – there are more blacks incarcerated not because of racist police, but because they actually commit more crimes (there’s a thought now!) c. lowest education outcomes d. high unemployment etc….If you find this offensive, then why do we not see the same thing in the Oriental race, Hispanics, for example? They have a completely different mind set.

    3. Yes, I agree, that obviously, I am generalizing, but to address your accusation that I am stereotyping, most likely I am. Because stereotypes were not created in a vacuum, but exist based upon generalized observed behaviours.

    4. I have taught high school in ‘white schools’ and in a ‘minority school’. Guess which group was more respectful, mannerly, had the better work ethic, and actually knew how to do math? I think that it goes back to how individual’s brains are ‘blue printed’ ie…what beliefs they are taught about their world, themselves, and other people.

    5. So in my humble estimation, everything goes back to what we think, which originates largely from what we’ve been taught, heard, and seen modeled for us. Personally, my view of the world comes from a white, lower middle class rural farm background. I like and respect people of all races individually based on their personality and character. I currently enjoy teaching part time at a local community college, where it is my priviledge to just get to know students of all backgrounds, races, and from different countries, and just like them for who they are. I respect individuals after they prove themselves to me. Oddly enough, even to me, I have found more than once that for some reason, I get along really, really well with former gang members, people who have worked themselves out of very difficult circumstances are are changing their lives. I respect and like them for that, and they respond in kind.

    6. I agree with you completely that none of us, especially me, is in any way pious, or perfect. I don’t care what Buddha would think. I do, however, enjoy your writings here very much!

  • LJ

    The notion of white privilege is liberal nonsense. You don’t have to feel any guilt because you didn’t grow up in a homeless shelter, nor should you feel any sense of guilt regarding any of the following: nazi concentration camps, the transatlantic slave trade, third world poverty, the situation in the middle east. You weren’t personally responsible for any of those things and it’s unlikely you benefit from them in any meaningful way. In addition i’m sure you oppose them. To suggest that you are somehow guilty of anything merely because you are white and middle class is pure racism. Blaming an entire group of people for the actions of a few people, often many centuries ago, is literally the definition of racism. Do some thinking for yourself instead of allowing a poisonous idea take control of your mind.

  • LJ

    The irony is that the left doesn’t seem to care about individuals at all. All it seems to care about is attacking groups and promoting others without any mention of personal responsibility. Rather than accepting history and moving forward there is this bizarre move towards towards trying to guilt trip certain innocent people due to things like colour and sex. I’ve been left leaning my whole life but now I’ve moved right after seeing how intellectually poisonous leftist ideology has become. The writer of this article is a victim of this : she feels a vague sense of guilt and responsibility for things that she had nothing to do with – her mind has literally been infected. It’s strange to get political on this website but I think it shows the extent to which mindless and poisonous liberal ideology has been accepted uncritically by so many people, even free thinking spiritualists.

  • Becky0237

    Good article. It’s often hard to find the balance between when to speak up and when to keep silent.

  • Pixel Cube

    Please stop mixing spirituality with half-baked politics.

  • Allison Elizabeth Brown

    Your title suggests two themes: hiding behind privilege and hiding behind spirituality. I’m not going to get into the white privilege piece, because others have already expressed my perspective. I really liked what you said, though, about hiding behind spirituality. I’m a huge fan of Abraham Hicks, but I understand that the power of attraction isn’t as simplistic as we’d like to make it (people don’t cause all of the bad things that happen to them – that’s victim blaming, not cool). I do agree, though, that fighting against the problem keeps it in existence (ie, war on drugs).

    I completely agree with you on these two points, “The world is at a crucial boiling point that would never have been reached if these people didn’t feel empowered to show their true colors” and “All the hatred is coming out, and while it would be better if it didn’t exist at all, this is actually a good thing, because you can’t have real equality when the problem is swept under the rug.” We do need to bring this to a head so that we can address it (not keep pretending it’s not there). And, the PC police will cause the opposite to happen – when you squash free speech, it goes underground. We need respectful dialog! I’ve written about this very thing on my own blog. Other than the WP detour, I really enjoyed your piece!

  • Aisha

    She didn’t get it wrong if she is speaking from her perspective, it’s like your choosing to have issue with they way she put her own feelings on something. No need to get snippy, if you don’t agree.

  • Aisha

    Thank you for your honesty and sharing how you feel. However you spoke it is your choice to find your own words and articulate them. I am reading some of these comments and people are correcting you as if you can’t think or say for yourself. I am a Black woman and I get what your saying and it will take all of us as human beings to end this ugliness of division. The labels that are attached to all of us would be a good start. 🙂

  • Davein

    You of all people, a black woman, as you made sure to label yourself above (while hypocritically condemning labels) should realize that the division you speak of will continue as long as people continue to declare their skin color, and all of the characteristics that separate us.
    If you think that was snippy, it’s likely because you grew up with timeouts, and participation trophies, otherwise you’d not be so sensitive. I’m sorry your feelings are hurt, but the world isn’t getting any softer–the sooner you realize that, and adapt to it, the better prepared for life you will be.

  • Magickmum

    Hi Shelsey,
    I do agree with you about white privilege. I know it every time I am NOT followed around a store by security. I recognize it in the way I feel comfortable moving in any space. I never feel that I shouldn’t be somewhere or I don’t belong. That is white privilege. White privilege is the lack of fear and not needing to beat the norm. White privilege is being the norm. White privilege is knowing that I can choose to fight for others but I can choose to opt out. People of color never get to opt out. I read White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack and for some reason, it really resonated with me and made me see my life in a different way. I will never be the same and I am grateful.

    I also thank you for this piece. I have had a lot of similar discussions with my family and friends in this same vein. Each of us has to determine where we stand on the issues facing our world today. It isn’t about being Buddhist or Christian, it isn’t about being American, whatever that looks like. To me, it is about “whatsoever you do to the least of these”. It is the idea of power vs. justice. It is about striving for kindness and compassion to ALL people in everything I do.

    I am trying to find balance because it is easy to lose perspective in our world.

  • Aisha

    You sound like a person who just likes to hear themselves talk. Maybe listen and not speak on what you know nothing about. And I will continue to say I am a Black woman, you don’t get to decide what I call myself.

  • Davein

    You’re a label. Nothing more.

  • Davein

    You don’t have to feel guilty for being a black woman.

  • Bina Jackson

    If we look at world history, yes religion, cultural beliefs

  • Bina Jackson

    Sorry, I wasn’t done sharing. All humans, no matter what race or ethnicity given the right time and circumstances are capable of committing the same crimes. It is about power and control. Look at other countries and their history past or present and you see that their own people commit crimes and oppress their own. I am responsible for myself, how I live my life, how I treat others. As for white privilege, how about all others that own their most current new phone get rid of them. Because you are also taking advantage of others.

  • Irish

    I totally agree, we are all responsible for our own words and actions. However, this is only true when we fully understand this statement ! There was a time when I didn’t, I let people influence my world through their eyes because I didn’t know any better. Until I decided there was so much more to life and went travelling. Now Looking back, these were people who never even came into contact with what they were talking about. These are the rubbish cultural beliefs I’m taking about, they get passed by people who have not experienced them themselves, instead, just believe what they are told to believe. After all why would our parents, caregivers, people we know & loves lie to us ? In reality their not they think it is the truth because it was true in the past, on the news, etc.

    Travel is where I learned about the world and the people in it. And, everything I thought was true before I stepped on the first plane was put to sleep really quickly. People said things like you’re going to be kidnapped, robbed, taken advantage of. How I had to be carful of men in certain countries, etc. And, yes I did get robbed, my fault, for not paying attention.

    Let me give some examples of the cultural believes I have come face to face with

    *Turkey – A great friend of mine who is from one of the poorer areas of Turkey told me, in this particular holiday spot the men prey on white woman who are over weight for the reason they must work in doors meaning they have more money – Told by his mother trying to get him a better life.

    * Harlem – A friend I meant while travelling. We were both staying in this hostel and when he checked in had to wait for the people to come to give him his keys. I was making lunch he was in the kitchen didn’t say anything to me. When I went to the breakfast room I walked straight over to his table and started talking to him. He looked at me like I had ten heads. (Accent obvious 🙂 He said I can’t believe you just sat at my table and started talking to me, he said, I’m black and your white. I was so confused, he told me growing up he never really mixed with “whites” because they were different. He didn’t teach himself this, did he ?

    When we hear this kind of rubbish growing up it goes really deep into the unconscious mind and we believe it. And, by the time it comes to question it the mould has been set making it harder to remould. Meaning, we just accept it and this is a sad reality for a lot of people in this world. It’s easier to stay the way we are, rather, than start all over again.

    That’s just my opinion, thought 🙂

  • ProfessorRabbitShaver

    I wish I was white so I had that option. Jesus, being black is a f#cking burden