I have a confession to make.
As of the past few months, I have been finding the most spiritual and enlightening conversations from the Under the Skin podcast with actor/comedian Russell Brand. Yeah, that guy…from the movies Forgetting Sarah Marshall and Get Him to the Greek. His podcast is intelligent, witty, timely, as well as spiritually challenging.
I’ve listed to this particular interview “Vulnerability and Power” with Brené Brown a half a dozen times now and find it really insightful on messages of “power over” vs “power with.”
With some difficulty as it’s a fast and dynamic conversation (I hope you’ll give it a listen), I’ve tried to transcribe a bit of the conversation here, because I think Brené Brown’s statements on the issues of power are thought-provoking for me in my study on systemic leadership structure that serves to protect those “at the top”, rather than the victims “at the bottom.”
“I think we’re in the middle of “white male power making a last stand” and last stands are bloody, long and violent. I can’t calibrate exactly where we are in that….the world is going to change….people who feel like power is finite are going to go down fighting. I don’t believe power is finite…. I believe it’s limitless…the more you share it…the more grows. It not just “white male power” it’s “white male power over”…we’re still reckoning with the remnants of colonialism. I think we see it every day.”
I feel I’m witnessing this too, everyday. I’ve been reading, studying and thinking about systems that serve to protect abusers over the victims. We are so locked in to the dominant, patriarchal structure of our society that even the most liberal and progressive, white people are unable to see when they fall into protection mode of those in power because our systems are created to protect the most powerful over the most vulnerable.
I’m wanting to feel there is hope, but witness so much division and evil nationally and locally. The University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill just gave 2.5 million to the Sons of the Confederacy, an organization dedicated to the white, male descendants to preserve a statue of the Confederacy. We are actively caging brown children at the border. We have a racist and sexual predator as head of state. When is enough, enough?
I want to be brave and stand up to toxic power structures. But I also have to navigate through a lot of fear and shame. I’ve spent a lot of my life being a magnet for narcissists who have actively worked to tear me down. The messages that “you are weak and uninspiring and you are not lovable” have been hurdled at me since early childhood, and even into my middle-age. It’s only recently that I’ve been able to see these messages for what they are and stop the negative thinking that “there’s something wrong with me.” These are messages coming at me through the toxic culture that needs to be dismantled, one system at a time. This toxicity is at the heart of those colonial systems that keep people of color and women subjected to abuse and keep the “white man power over” structure in place.
I hope to raise my voice against this toxicity, as well as be in solidarity others victimized by it, through my writing and art. I hope to break free of my own complicity as a white, liberal person of privilege. I want to see our culture changed for the better where all can hold power together and see a dismantling for good of those who hold power over.
May it be so…God willing.