Defining Myself For Myself: Why I Won't Be Selling The #MeAndWhiteSupremacy Workbook

 
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The thing about having so many different intersecting identities and experiences is that I’ve always felt like I simultaneously fit in everywhere and nowhere.

I am an East African, Middle Eastern, British, Muslim, woman, mother, wife, writer, poet, teacher, feminist, spiritual seeker who lives in Qatar and speaks to a global audience. Although I come from, and can claim, many different places, nowhere truly feels like ‘home’. My father who is a seafarer always described himself as a ‘citizen of the world’. Audre Lorde whose identities crossed many different intersections described herself as a ‘sister outsider’. I feel like I sit somewhere in between those two descriptors.

Feeling like I fit in everywhere has given me the ability to speak about dynamics and issues that may apply broadly to people across locations. But feeling like I fit in nowhere also means that I can never truly speak to the depth of the dynamics and issues on the ground.

Over the last few weeks I’ve been sitting with my heart and how it has been feeling about both the outer work I have been doing in the world over the past year, and the inner work that has been taking place within me that only I can truly know. Especially as I sit at this point in time, poised to publish the #meandwhitesupremacy workbook. And I’ve come to this conclusion: I don’t belong everywhere, and I don’t belong nowhere. The only true place I belong is within myself. Is within my own identities and experiences. The only true place that I can speak from is from my own self. Only I can define myself according to what is true for me. And as impactful as my work has been in helping people to address issues like white supremacy, ultimately because of where I live and the privileges that I hold, I have decided that that work is now best left to people who are ‘on the ground’. People like those I have interviewed on my podcast and whose work I have shared and recommended through social media over the last year. People who are activists and educators - two things that I am not. And people whose lives are currently impacted not just online but also offline by white supremacy. Which I am not.

When I first started talking about white supremacy last year, I was speaking from my own experience in the spirituality, wellness and personal development industry.

An industry that I discovered when I was 19 years old and struggling with generalised anxiety, depression and almost daily panic attacks. An industry that gave me tools and resources to help me heal myself, and later an industry that I would train in and become a coach, speaker, writer, and leader. An industry where I invested a lot of money, time and energy over many years. An industry that I worked and played in every day, despite living where I live. An industry that I realised last year is built on a lot of principles and practices that are oppressive. 

Last year I had my own racial awakening around my identity as a black woman who had grown up as a daughter of immigrants in the UK, and how white supremacy has shaped how I saw myself and how I showed up in the world, AND an awakening around racist dynamics in the spirituality, wellness and personal growth industry. With that awakening came anger. A lot of it. Which was channeled into writing, and unexpectedly led to public growth. With that growth came more experiences (both uplifting and soul crushing), mistakes, deeper learning and more writing. And the more I wrote and grew the more I began to define myself by what I thought others expected me to be and do (because of who I had been and what I had done) and forgetting that in each moment, it is my responsibility to define myself FOR myself. I want to be clear, every choice I have made has been my own. Everything I have said yes to I said it because I felt that that was where God was guiding me. And when I have made mistakes and caused harm, I am the only one responsible for that. The things I have said yes to, the times I have used my voice, I have done so because I am obedient to God’s calling and devoted to doing the work I am called to do. I stand proudly behind the work that I have put out into the world. And I will never deny any part of my journey. 

However, right now as I sit at the point in my journey where I am poised to publish the #meandwhitesupremacy workbook I have been asking my heart - is this what I want?

Does this still feel right? Am I doing this because of the momentum I’ve already created behind me, or because it truly feels like the next right step? Fuck the money, the followers, the opportunities - how does my HEART feel? Am I being honest with myself? Is this my work to continue doing?

And these questions do not undervalue the powerful impact that my work has had to date on thousands of people. It does not take away from the learning, shifts and transformations I have helped to give rise to. But there is a niggling in my heart. And it doesn’t matter how many people praise me or criticize me, at the end of the day it is my heart that I have to answer to. And if I don’t feel right in my heart, I will never feel right.

Over the last few years, but especially the last year, I have learned that I have a voice.

That I can use my voice. That when I use my voice, things happen. That how, when and where I use my voice matters. That I have a responsibility to be discerning about how, when and where I use my voice. That my silence will not protect me, but neither will using my voice without clarity and sovereignty. That others will try to use or twist my voice for their purposes. And that if I haven’t defined myself for myself, I will allow that to happen. That it is my responsibility to get clear within myself so that when I do use my voice, I’m not doing so for any other reason or in any other way, than that it is what feels right and true in my heart. And that when I use my voice, I must speak from within my own experiences only - which are unique because I’m both a citizen of the world and a sister outsider.

What does this all mean?

I have been working through quite a lot of things internally ever since finishing the #meandwhitesupremacy challenge, and I have to come to a few insights and decisions for myself:

  1. I will not be selling the #meandwhitesupremacy workbook. As the whole challenge already exists on Instagram anyway, and I have written most of the draft of the book I was planning to sell, I will simply put the prompts into a PDF document which will be available to download for free from my website. I will let you know when it is available. I do not want to continue to build my work in a way where I will be labelled an activist or an educator. I am neither of those things. And although I have done an immense amount of intellectual and emotional labour over the past year around white supremacy, I feel it is right going forward to leave this work to those whose lives are more directly impacted by white supremacy than mine is. People who are more versed and experienced in this work, and who don’t have the luxury of only dealing with white supremacy in virtual spaces. However, since the #meandwhitesupremacy work already exists, and I know it has helped and could help many people, it will be available to download for free for whoever wants it. 
  2. I do not want to be called an expert, activist or educator on white supremacy. I have done big work in this area over the past year, yes. But where my work has grown to has far surpassed where I started from. And though the work I have done in this area has been extremely valuable, I feel in my heart that I have done what was mine to do, and that it is best to now leave this work to those who are more directly impacted and harmed by white supremacy, and who do not have the privilege that I have of not living under white supremacy in their day to day life (as opposed to their virtual life). 
  3. I am in a stage in my life where I’m truly beginning to define myself for myself. I am doing some deep healing work around some core inner child wounds and it’s important for me to give that my full attention rather than putting big work out into the world right now. At this tender stage of my healing, it is not wise to move too fast or make decisions that I may later regret.
  4. I do not know what my next steps are. I don’t have a grand plan. And actually the thing about me which often feels like both a blessing and a curse, is that I am a woman who is constantly in process. Just when I think I’ve figured out who I am, new layers are revealed to me. I used to think this made me flakey. Now I think it just makes me a human being.
  5. However, there are some things I know for sure. I know that I am a writer and a poet. I know that what makes my writing powerful is when I write from my own experiences. I know that despite all the different routes I’ve taken over the past years, there is a constant thread that runs through my work: the desire to find freedom and liberation from both internal and external oppression. That means that I will still talk about the intersections of race, feminism, spirituality and leadership, but I will do so in a very different way - in a way that is from inside my own stories, identities and experiences, and not as what is perceived to be activism or educating. I know that I will continue to evolve and define myself for myself again and again. I know that though I am not an educator, I am a teacher. My writing teaches. It possibly even supports healing. I know that the work I have done up to date about white supremacy in the way that I have done it is now enough, and it’s time to focus on doing liberation work in a way that centers my experiences and identities. I’m still not sure exactly what that looks like, but I know that I am more of a writer and a poet, than an activist or an educator. I know that learning to love myself as a black woman has been, and will continue to be, some of the most important work of my life. I know that I am still figuring all of this out, but my heart finally feels more peaceful having shared all of this. I know that I will continue to follow divine guidance, even when it doesn’t make sense to other people. I know that what will continue to drive me throughout my life is my desire to be a good ancestor. And I know that being a good ancestor means being in integrity with myself, being fully myself, fully loving myself and doing the work that is mine, and only mine to do. I know that it is okay, and right, to keep defining and redefining myself until the day I die. 

There is a quote by Audre Lorde that says:
“If I didn’t define myself for myself, I would be crunched into other people’s fantasies for me and eaten alive.”

And there is a quote by Glennon Doyle that says:
“I’m trying to strip myself down to my barest essentials so I can figure out where I begin and where the woman the world told me to be begins. I’m going back to the starting line.”

I did that in 2016. I’m doing it again now. Before the world sets me on fire for not living up to expectations that I agreed to because I was growing too damn fast and ignoring my heart, I’m choosing to slow down and set myself on fire so I can start over and figure out who I am, what I want and what my expectations are for myself. I am choosing to let who I have been and what I have done go, so that I can define myself for myself and move forward with an unshakeable foundation of clarity and sovereignty. And again, saying that does not undervalue or invalidate any of the work that I have done up until this point. But my heart says it’s time to take a different road now.

This may not make a lot of sense to you. Or maybe it makes a lot of sense. What matters most is that it makes sense to me. That it feels right for me.

If you are a white person who followed me because you wanted to learn about anti-racism and white supremacy, by all means read my articles, Instagram posts and download the #meandwhitesupremacy workbook. But also, and more importantly, learn from the black people, indigenous people and people of colour in the countries where YOU live who are doing that work and who are more directly impacted. Pay those people. Uplift them. Share their work. They live where you live. I don’t. They are much better positioned to educate you on the issues where you live. And they have a breadth and depth of real life experience with white supremacy that I do not.

Lastly, because I am in a time of healing, listening to myself and defining myself for myself, I need quiet. I will continue to have the comments turned off for my Instagram posts. And I will be pulling a Beyonce and unfollowing everyone on Instagram. I need silence. I need to listen internally for the next right thing, instead of reacting to what I read and see. I need... me. I’m gonna be messy from here on out, and that’s okay. I know it looks messy to the outside world, but it feels right and makes sense to me.

Thank you to everyone who has supported me & my work to date. Thank you to those who will continue to support me & my work as i continue to evolve.

Thank you to my husband and inner circle who love and support me, and who trust me to do what is right for me. Thank you to the amazing black womxn I have had the honour of learning from and growing with over the last year. And thank you God, for always guiding me to the next right thing. I’m scared, but I trust You.

Here's to a New Moon, and a new cycle of death and rebirth.

P.S. If you signed up to hear about when the #meandwhitesupremacy workbook will be available, I will send you the workbook PDF when it is ready.

Layla Saad