I Stand With Ukraine. I’m Also Unsettled By How Much White Lives Seem To Matter When Countless BIPOC Lives Are Still Threatened

It guts me- and so many of you- to watch the violence, to see the innocent people suffering, to gaze in horror as a bully abuses his fellow humans, to witness a colonizer invading, feeling entitled to a country he is not entitled to dominate. The human toll is unconscionable. The entitlement, unthinkable. Even many of the Russian people know that what is being done is morally wrong. My heart goes out to the Ukrainian and Russian people who are innocent is all this and being oppressed by someone whose heart has grown cold and apparently has no bottom to the depth of his immorality.

I also can’t help wondering what it would have been like if iPhones had been filming the European colonizers who conquered my country with entitled violence, slaying the innocent Native Americans and dominating their country. What would it have been like if we had watched the footage of the slave ships stealing humans from Africa so white people could have free labor on their plantations? What if we watched refugees whose skin is not white get turned away at borders when they too were seeking safety from a dominating autocrat?

Why are we not equally heartbroken and outraged when Brown or Black-skinned people from other countries are violently dominated by autocratic dictators? Why do we not wave their flags, send them money, protest on their behalf, write them songs, and take in those refugees with equally open hearts? Unless those countries serve our oil interests, we tend to look the other way. 

The ongoing genocide of the Rohingya in Myanmar by the Burmese government barely gets the occasional headline, much less Americans waving their flags, and Somalia has been committing humanitarian war crimes since long before I was the OB/GYN of Somali refugees who escaped to the California border to flee danger and had to pay criminals to sneak them in. Syrians are actively suffering, as have so many others in the Middle East for so long.

I can’t help thinking we care so much, we’re rallying so hard, we’re protesting with our hearts splayed open, we’re donating our money, we’re praying to our gods and goddesses- because the Ukrainians are white like the European colonizers who once stole this country. 

But BIPOC lives in the US are not even safe in our own country. My BIPOC sister still fears for her son’s life regularly- for good reason. His tail light might go out. Then he might die. Or a white supremacist could target him in a hate crime. That’s real.

Sure, we virtue signal our hashtags like #BlackLivesMatter and give lip service to making reparations with the Indigenous. And maybe we even mean it. But is it possible that we actually care so much about Ukrainian sovereignty, freedom, and safety because white lives still matter more to many of us?

Again, I stand with Ukraine. My heart goes out to the millions of suffering refugees, to the Ukrainian military and their leaders who are fighting so hard to defend their homeland, and to all who have died and lost their homes and been injured thus far. Just because someone’s skin is white doesn’t mean they shouldn’t also have justice and protection and support when they are being attacked.

I just wish we cared equally about the sovereignty, freedom, justice, and safety of all lives, regardless of the color of their skin.

I know I’m oversimplifying. This is politics. It has diplomatic implications. Myanmar and Somalia aren’t threatening World War III; Ukraine is. I know this military invasion potentially affects Americans more directly than some of those other military invasions and murders. I know this is bringing up generational wounds from past World Wars. I know our suppressed Cold War fears are resurfacing. When a siren went off yesterday, my housemate and I both flinched. Was it an air raid siren warning of an incoming nuclear missile? If so, why warn us?

I’m not overly idealistic or unrealistic about such things. I get why many of us are more upset than we might be if an autocrat without nuclear weapons was behaving this way. The stakes are high- for all human lives.

But I do wonder… do Brown, Black, and Indigenous lives really matter as much to us when they are threatened with violence? Can we do more, care more, try harder, protest more fiercely, vote smarter and kinder – to signal that all human lives matter, regardless of the color of their skin?

As I wrote about in the last chapter of my new book Sacred Medicine (https://product.soundstrue.com/sacred-medicine/), it is pure folly to think we can heal ourselves as individuals without addressing the sea of collective trauma in which humanity swims. It’s one of those paradoxes of healing I write about in the book. We are separate and we are One

Yes, it’s true that we can be proactive about making our separate selves miracle prone when we’re sick. We can nourish ourselves with high-density nutrition. We can work out. We can avoid avoidable toxins. We can get enough sleep. We can meditate. We can do our hard, intense trauma healing work to settle our nervous systems and activate the body’s self-healing systems. We can take our vitamins and see good doctors to take advantage of medical technology. We can pray to our gods and goddesses. We can bond together in community to co-regulate each other.

It’s also true that we cannot separate ourselves from the interpenetrating energy fields of collective traumas like what’s happening in Russia and Ukraine, as well as in other war zones planet-wide. Even the most wellness-conscious among us cannot protect our individual selves from the global threat to all of humanity (and countless other beings in nature) of nuclear war, climate catastrophe, systemic racism, colonization, genocide, unfettered capitalism, and autocratic dictators who pillage, murder, steal, and plunder.

As such, any wellness program must also include our activism. None of us can be optimally well until all of us are well.

May the Sacred Medicine we all need mend our broken hearts.


If you’re in need of a nervous system reset, please join me, Internal Family System (IFS) founder Richard Schwartz, Eden Energy Medicine founder Donna Eden, and Intentional Creativity founder Shiloh Sophia for a virtual Sacred Medicine Pilgrimage.

Register for your pilgrimage here



Lissa Rankin


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