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Reflective Journaling for Allyship and Racial Healing

Posted by Alina Liao on

The past few weeks of witnessing police violence and white terror against Black people, as well as being part of protests in the larger Black Lives Matter movement, have been a lot to take in. A large part of what I’ve been reflecting and journaling about in my custom journal is what it means to be an ally - what it means to show up for Black Lives, to use my voice and privilege for racial justice, and to use Zenit, even as a one-person company right now, as a force for racial healing and social justice. 

I’ve been energized seeing more Asians and white people express desire to be an ally. A lot of this is being expressed on social media, which can be powerful in both rallying other Asians and white people to get involved and showing solidarity with Black people. 

I’m also sensitive to the risk that after the initial few weeks, the momentum slows, and after all the visible posting, the ongoing, hard, quiet work behind the scenes that’s required to keep fighting to dismantle white supremacy and systemic racism fades out.

As an Asian American woman and daughter of immigrants, I feel responsibility to acknowledge and take actions to combat anti-Blackness in the Asian community. And this does not mean ignoring the pain that Asian Americans have incurred from racism and xenophobia in this country. But it’s important to recognize that it’s different, and that Asian Americans have also benefited from white supremacy and systemic racism - including the trop of the “model minority” which is a tool of white supremacy to discourage Asians from advocating for our civil rights as well as the rights of Black and Brown people. 

I want to remind fellow Asians and remind aspiring white allies that we do NOT get a certificate that we've become an ally. Behind the posting, we have to CONSTANTLY do the quiet work of acknowledging, reflecting on, and processing our privilege and biases - not only when something hits the mainstream media, but everyday, in all the little moments where systemic racism shows up.

A big part of this is building our self-awareness and emotional intelligence. And yes, reflective journaling is a valuable and critical practice for this, especially given how hard it is these days to unplug and have our own quiet, safe space to get intimate with our thoughts and feelings and unpack all our biases, judgments, and emotions that are triggered as we witness racial violence and as we hear different perspectives that challenge our own beliefs. 

It’s important to have our own safe space to express and journal about our own feelings. I have found myself going through a cycle of emotions, which includes:

Guilt
Denial
Fear
Helplessness
Curiosity
Acceptance
Compassion
Hope

And I’ve learned that this cycle repeats. I experienced once again, going back to guilt, when I learned that an Asian man was involved in the violent killing of George Floyd. It’s uncomfortable to experience these feelings. But it’s been critical for me to acknowledge them, feel them fully, express them in my custom journal. We need to do this emotional and cognitive work so that we can move past our guilt and get to a place emotionally and mentally where we are present for Black Lives. If we don’t work through our feelings, we will get stuck in guilt, shame, fear, and that leads to inaction, which is racial violence. The status quo in this country is white supremacy and systemic racism, so unless we are actively working against racist practices and policies, we are complicit in perpetuating racism. And yes, for us Asian Americans, we can be victims of racism and still perpetuate racism. 

I want to support other aspiring allies, because I know it’s not easy, and I know we are at different places right now. I have fellow Asian friends who were radicalized well before me who I look up to as role models, who help keep me accountable. And I know other Asians who are finally now grappling with the idea of complicity in the Asian American community. 

This experience is pushing me to be intentional about how Zenit and our custom journals can be a resource in racial healing - for both Black and Brown people and for aspiring allies. Our custom wellness journals are ready and available for anyone to take care of the mental, emotional, and physical wellbeing, which is critical to sustaining ourselves in this work.

In addition, I’m now working on a new collection of custom journals for racial healing. This will include a Custom Racial Healing Journal for Black and Brown, people developed in partnership with Black and Brown people. It will also include a customizable journal: Growing As An Ally for Racial Healing, which will have a set of prompts to help us aspiring allies process and journal about our privilege and biases, decenter ourselves, understand the truths and perspectives of Black and Brown people, process our guilt and other negative emotions, and practice Unconditional Love for Black and Brown Lives. 

For anyone interested, please subscribe to Zenit’s newsletter to stay updated on these new journal releases. 

I’ll close now with these two quotes, which inspire me and push me:

An ally is a verb, not a noun. It’s not a tag that we wear. It’s borne out in our actions. I think in our current climate, what is most important is for us to see is that we are standing together in solidarity. That we understand what’s happening in our world not as a black problem, but as all of our problems. So we stand together, because it is only together we will defeat this.” - Kathy Hogarth

If you stick a knife in my back nine inches and pull it out six inches, there's no progress. If you pull it all the way out that's not progress. Progress is healing the wound that the blow made. And they haven't even pulled the knife out much less heal the wound. They won't even admit the knife is there.” - Malcolm X

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