Living a Vision of Healing: Decolonizing Accountability and Acts of Forgiveness
What does it take to heal - especially when the hurt and trauma come from within your own community? POC communities have been facing very visible and humanizing revelations about our idols that have been harmful to communal identities and social justice movements (Kanye, Nas, Bill Cosby, Junot Diaz...the list goes on.) In reality, these men are protected by a patriarchal society that upholds justification for these actions, embedded in their own trauma from oppressive structures. A long list of excuses are brought to light - and though validity is present in these moments of empathy and compassion, it should never discount the harm and damage they cause. The real deal is that if these celebrity men I listed decided to be on the defense or denial tip they could, like many before them, go on with their lives - protected and supported by patriarchy and capitalism, and still glorified by many.
Should the response be to “dead” our idols, to disown them and discount what they may have stood for to us? Is there no coming back from these harmful words and actions? Is there no possible means of reconciliation? I ask these questions not just about celebrities, but in connection to those within our own circles who may act in ways that offend, harm, disrupt and destroy bonds that have been built, particularly in the walk toward Love and Liberation.
I’ve been sitting deeply listening to the questions arising in my heart about how the journey of accountability in our communities asks us to move beyond the very real reactionary feelings of anger, disappointment and mourning that often make us cut people from our lives. I ask us to envision how those who have insulted and injured us can be held accountable to daily practices and actions that align with a “Vision of Healing.” Because of the complexities of trauma in this world, it is a common practice to sever and erase rather than work on restoration and reconciliation. Often we do this out of fear, to avoid further hurt and deeper injury. We cannot believe that after someone inflicts pain on us, they would be willing or able to heal what has been destroyed. And because of the constructs of this world, they often don’t; partly because they don’t know how, or because the ills of this world have made them really feel they haven’t wronged us.
The complexities of the work of accountability go beyond just “calling someone out” and disowning and disregarding them; it becomes much more difficult to “invite them in” to a vision of betterment and rebuilding that asks us all to shift and see underneath the constructions that make us forget our responsibility to one another. We must see how much we are all responsible for maintaining suffering and oppressive cycles when we cannot see beyond our pain and trauma. If we cannot as a whole community make room for these difficult healing processes to be created, we abandon hope and maintain the rupture that breeds distrust and fear.
It is important to understand that when we are harmed by others we become victim not just to the individual who has harmed and hurt, but also by all the societal influences rooted in oppression and injustice that subconsciously support these occurrences. Capitalism, patriarchy and white supremacy are the main agents of colonization that influence so many of the actions that harm self and others. Understanding how we are all moved by these constructions of oppression is crucial to the possibility of healing. When harm and hurt occur, we are being confronted with much more than a moment of offense from a single person - we are being confronted with lifetimes of ancestrally-inherited traumas that propel and fuel an ability to hurt, even those we cherish and love most in this world.
I believe that we are being given an opportunity with the visibility of celebrities causing communal harm to begin creating protocols for accountability and for healing these egregious acts. We must live out that healing with sound discernment of what accountability looks like beyond just statements of regret and promises to make things right. What does it look like to reconcile? How do we make room for the healing needed by those who have been harmed, but also for the individuals that have caused harm? How can they take responsibility in a way that their living becomes continuous acts of healing for self and community? For any given situation where we have felt a loss of faith in someone, what will it take to heal?
I have been formulating protocols for myself on how to hold community and self accountable by creating Visions of Healing together, rooted in lived actions and practices on a path toward healing and liberation for all those affected. For now they remain quite simple, as the real complexities lie in the actual continuity of practice.
Honor your reactive feelings, but do not let these reactions be what leads your process of addressing the harm and hurt.
Actively and communally examine where the hurt is rooted for you (personally/relationally/societally). There is no timeline to this. It may take your whole life to understand where it all comes from - or you may never fully understand in this lifetime.
See Each Other
Recognize dynamics and create exchanges to understand all involved perspectives. Let yourself become aware of all conditions that allow the hurt and harm to take place.
Vision the Healing
Ask What does it look like to heal this? while understanding that there is never a quick fix to any hurt or harm. Be conscious about what it means to be in “continuous healing.” Center all means of healing with continued action and practice.
Live in your Vision of Healing
Know that healing is a lifelong journey. Moments of trauma stay with you. Root yourself in daily actions and practices that uplift, empower and love beyond just reconciling the hurt and harm, but that ground you in the ability to be held and hold others accountable for the liberation of us all.
The specifics of this process will vary from moment to moment, but it is a starting foundation that I have begun to implement in my daily life. Continuously asking myself - and now asking you all: How do you create your Vision of Healing? Your Vision of Communal and Individual Liberation? And live in it, inviting all others to join you?
Jana Lynne "JL" Umipig is a multidisciplinary artist, educator, and activist who seeks to elevate the narratives of Pilipina wom*n as a reflection of her own life's journey toward decolonizing, re-indigenizing and humanizing self. She is the creator of the acclaimed Movement Theatre production "The Journey of a Brown Girl," noted as a "transformative human experience through the lens of the Pinay Narrative." She is a core member of The Center for Babaylan Studies, an Inner Dance facilitator, and founder of Butikaryo mga Babae, which creates sacred space for Pinay Womxn Healers seeking to learn and remember healing practice and knowledge connected to our ancestral traditions.