Rachel Ricketts. (Photo: Bethany Schiedel)

Topics: Ethical Living, June 2021 | Interview

Rachel Ricketts on spirituality’s essential place in activism

The author and advocate says we can't fix racism with solely our minds


Rachel Ricketts describes herself as a “global disruptor.” Her recent book, Do Better: Spiritual Activism for Fighting and Healing from White Supremacy, challenges white people to get comfortable with their discomfort and become anti-racist. She grew up in Vancouver. She spoke with Julie McGonegal.

On her grief journey:

I supported my mother in ending her life at a time when the medical system refused to support us. When she finally passed, I was left with the pain of all that we endured at the hands of medical racism and all the pain and trauma that we had endured as multiracial Black women in a white supremacist, misogynist, ableist society. It hit me like a ton of bricks. I consider myself a highly sensitive, empathic person, and there was no possible way for me to prepare myself for what had occurred. Part of that was grieving not only the physical loss but all of the losses we had endured as a result of being made marginalized.

On racial justice work:

Racial justice work to me is grief work; it’s trauma work. It’s work that has to be done from the inside out and requires us to face our shadow—the places of ourselves that we are conditioned to ignore, such as our emotional landscape. I don’t think we can continue to fix the problem of racism with our minds only. That is the classic white supremacist way of trying to address something. We need to integrate the Divine Feminine. We need to get into our bodies. Because you can learn something but you need to embody the change. It requires a cellular shift. This work is internal—and for everyone, not just white people.

More on Broadview:

On spirituality and activism:

For me, you can’t be an activist without being spiritual because spirituality is about connection at the end of the day—with ourselves, with each other, with the planet, beyond the planet. Whatever it is we may call it or believe in, there’s that sense that we’re interconnected beings. And if you’re partaking in activism that isn’t from a place of seeking connection, then I think that it’s probably performative and you’re causing harm.

On collective change:

When enough people come together from an embodied, aware, awakened space, then that’s how collective change happens—when we change the system from the inside out. It’s an awakening—or better yet, given how whitewashed that term has become, a remembering. It’s coming back to who we really are, being able to be whole and complete in our bodies, and affirm and understand others. It is transformative work and it is work to support collective liberation, which includes liberation for each and every one of us, because all of us are oppressed, although in different ways, because of racism.


Julie McGonegal is a writer and editor in Barrie, Ont.

A shorter version of this interview first appeared in Broadview’s June 2021 issue with the title “Rachel Ricketts.”

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