Why I Resist: A Letter to Facilitators

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by Priyal Shah

Note:  The audio file of this essay was not available by our publication date.  It will be posted very soon.

Dear facilitators & friends of the Work That Reconnects and Active Hope

As I pen these words, a tumultuous sea of emotions engulfs me. There’s a sorrow that clings to my heart, a sadness born from the experiences I’ve had, yet there’s an invigorating fire that burns within me, a resilience that refuses to be extinguished. I am blessed, profoundly so, for I am a part of the Global Majority, a collective body of diverse souls bound by shared histories and dreams.

And in this moment, I find solace in the pages of the Deep Time journals, a sanctuary where people can voice their concerns, their fears, their hopes. It is in this space that I am able to reflect on my journey—through workshops, webinars, and training—and speak my truth.

…the experiences I have encountered bear the unmistakable imprint of white fragility, structural racism, and an absence of true allyship

From the depths of my soul, I tell you, the experiences I have encountered bear the unmistakable imprint of white fragility, structural racism, and an absence of true allyship. These are not mere abstractions, but lived realities that have colored my experiences, casting long shadows over the promise of unity and understanding.

In sharing this, my purpose is not to indict, but to illuminate, to bear witness to these experiences so we can begin the necessary work of transformation. It is from this place of profound honesty that I speak, and it is in the spirit of hope and unity that I look towards the future.

Our world is scarred by the deep-seated virus of white supremacy, a socio-political malady that privileges white people over others, oftentimes subtly and unconsciously woven into the fabric of our societal structures. It is a painful reality that even the noble structure of the Work That Reconnects, though not endorsing such beliefs, might unwittingly perpetuate them. Its teachings and practices predominantly echo Western thought and philosophy, thereby implicitly centering whiteness and, at times, marginalizing the voices of the Global Majority.

I want to voice an uncomfortable truth. The Work That Reconnects, a transformative body of work developed by Joanna Macy and her colleagues, despite its noble intentions, has inadvertently created spaces of marginalization, exclusion, and oppression.

My resistance isn’t a denial of the Work’s potential but a cry for its necessary transformation.

I resist the subtle yet powerful currents of white supremacy that run through the veins of the Work That Reconnects. I resist the insidious grip of settler colonialism that subtly erases our indigenous cultures, dilutes our unique voices, and discredits our invaluable knowledge. My resistance isn’t a denial of the Work’s potential but a cry for its necessary transformation.

I stand at the crossroads of intersectionality, where the intertwining threads of racism, sexism, classism, and other forms of oppression meet. It is in this intersection that we bear witness to environmental racism—the glaring injustice where the weight of environmental hazards is disproportionately borne by the people of color. This calls for our undivided attention, our unequivocal resistance, and the urgent need for real decolonization in the Work That Reconnects.

I recognize the barriers on this path to change. The discomfort of white fragility, the ignorance of denial, and the absence of sincere allyship. We must face these challenges head-on. We must foster an environment where these uncomfortable conversations can be held, where our allies can listen, learn, and take action to transform this space into one that truly embraces the Global Majority.

White Supremacy and Settler Colonialism: Recognizing the Challenge

Now, let’s be clear. The Work That Reconnects doesn’t set out to cause harm. Yet, its structure can inadvertently perpetuate white supremacy by privileging Western thought and practices. This implicit bias, coupled with the erasure of indigenous cultures through settler colonialism, creates a space that might not feel welcoming for everyone. If we are going to move forward together, we must first acknowledge these issues and strive to create a space that is inclusive for all.

Intersectionality, Oppression, and Environmental Racism: The Call for Justice

To address these issues, we must embrace intersectionality – the understanding that multiple systems of oppression overlap and interact. We need to recognize how racism, classism, sexism, and other forms of oppression compound, leading to environmental racism—a system where people of color disproportionately bear the burden of environmental hazards. This oppression and systemic bias highlight the urgent need for real decolonization within the Work That Reconnects.

Denial, White Fragility, and the Call for Allyship

Change is never easy, and it often begins with confronting our own biases and assumptions.

Change is never easy, and it often begins with confronting our own biases and assumptions. Denial and white fragility can be obstacles on this path, but we must be willing to listen, learn, and grow. It’s time for facilitators and participants to become true allies, committed to transforming WTR into a space that is genuinely welcoming for the Global Majority.

How do we do this? How do we turn this resistance into a revolution? The answer lies in the very structure of the Work That Reconnects—the Spiral.

First, we Honor our Pain. We confront and acknowledge the deep-seated pain of marginalization, of being unheard, unseen, and undervalued. This is not a step to overlook or rush through. This is the cornerstone of our revolution.

Next, we express Gratitude. We celebrate the resilience, the richness, and the diversity of our cultures, our knowledge, and our perspectives. We recognize our strength and value as members of the Global Majority.

Then, we commit to Seeing with New Eyes. We challenge our biases, confront our assumptions, and adopt a new understanding of intersectionality, oppression, and environmental racism. We strive to see the world not as it is, but as it should be—a place of equality, justice, and inclusion.

Finally, we are Going Forth. This is not just a stage, it is a call to action. A call for every participant, every facilitator to actively dismantle oppressive systems and foster an environment that is welcoming for all.

Let us dream of a Work That Reconnects that de-centers whiteness

Let us dream of a Work That Reconnects that de-centers whiteness, that acknowledges and incorporates the diverse knowledge systems, experiences, and perspectives of the Global Majority. Let us dream of a Work That Reconnects  that confronts white fragility and denial head-on, that recognizes its potential contributions to environmental racism, and takes concerted efforts to rectify this.

Let us revolutionize and rethink WTR into a space of genuine inclusivity, a space that respects and values the wisdom and experiences of the Global Majority, thus ensuring a better experience for all attendees.

In the words of Barack Obama:
“Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We are the change that we seek.”(Obama, 2008))

 There is no ‘Active Hope’ if the Work That Reconnects cannot be decolonized. This is a call to action—an unapologetic declaration that the Global Majority will not be defined by white supremacy within WTR. To truly work towards reconnecting, we must revolutionize the narrative and create a space where the Global Majority feels seen, heard, and valued.

Reference:

Obama, B. 2008. Speech to supporters after the February 5, 2008 nominating contests, provided by Federal News Service.


Note:  The audio file of Priyal’s bio was not available by our publication date.  It will be posted very soon.

Priyal Shah is a recent addition to the guest faculty of the Spiral Journey Program. He has co-founded ‘Becoming Kin’ with Cindy Barnes, providing workshops on the urgency of the Climate Crisis, focusing on decolonizing the Climate Justice movement and amplifying the voices of the Global South and Global Majority. He is dedicated to fostering allyship, co-liberation, and addressing social and racial injustice.

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