As we face one of the most important human issues of our time. Bernadette Petrie asks – until our society reflects clearly that black lives matter, can we confidently claim, we reflect a world where all lives matter? .

We’re approaching the dawn of a new era. There’s so much right with the world, but there are also some very deep-rooted wrongs. It’s vital we understand that the black lives matter campaign does not mean that white lives don’t matter. To do this we have to look deep into the past and peel off the white-wash, revealing a history which exposes that white lives have always mattered.

Educator Jane Elliot said; “We don’t need a colour-blind society, we need a society that is no longer blinded by colour”. Being awakened to the fact that we’re conditioned to be unconsciously racist, is uncomfortable, but essential. As a Northern Irish Catholic, I grew up with negative bias shown towards me, which was horrible and I struggled to understand it. But I also benefited from a system which was positively biased towards the colour of my skin – when it came to skin colour, suddenly my religion was less significant. As a white person in all-white country, it didn’t seem evident, but move that white girl to a multi-cultural society and I was automatically given ‘white privilege’, where as before I may have experienced negative bias. The system was automatically now stacked in my favour. This is how racism works. 

We all have unconscious programming which controls our beliefs. And as with other learned responses, unless we are aware of it – it also controls our behaviour. Once I understood I had racist programming inside my mind, I was able to witness and question it. As uncomfortable as it was, it makes a difference to how I see the world and the urgency to update my programming has increased. 

The recent events have highlighted some alarming blind spots and in my desire to educate myself, I’ve been reading books, watching documentaries and listening to educators from the black community. Jane Elliot, world-acclaimed anti-racist educator, has been helping ‘white’ people to understand what discrimination feels like and really see the damaging myths about skin colour for almost 50 years. With her ‘blue eyed, brown eyed’ experiment, she helps us remember an essential fact – there is only one race on earth, the human race. Yet for centuries we have been conditioned into believing that the opposite is true. 

Raised as a Northern Irish Catholic and being a woman I know how it feels to be treated negatively. But I still experience ‘white privilege’, so I’m still accountable and need to be part of the solution, otherwise I’m part of the problem. Owning that we have dark ideas in our minds is scary. But we’re in this together, and together we can be the change that we want to see in the world. We need to start from deep inside our psyche, because we can no longer deny that when we change the way we see the world, we change the way we are.

To find out about working with Bernadette in the upcoming Barefoot Education experience, other group events or 1:1 sessions please email: bernadette@thebarefootsanctuary.co.uk
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