“When White people made the rules hundreds of years ago, they never counted on us being free. This is what [Ferguson] is about.” – A Black Grandmother
I’ve become very passionate over the last two years about social evolution, which means I’m paying a lot of attention to social justice. Racism and Sexism are my staples. Which means I listen to a lot of black feminist women talk about what they see and experience in their lives.
This passion has caused me to get into a lot of conversations about social evolution, including those about race. Sometimes, I save myself a little time (and some extra grey hairs), and send people here.
Note: Though it is absolutely possible to have assimilated to white supremacist thinking while also being a person of color and for this information to be helpful in those cases, the purpose of this page is to speak directly to white people.
Basically, it all boils down to this: Being a racist, (or sexist, or rape apologist, or any number of other sorrid things) in this society, does not require intent.
More importantly: Believing oneself inherently immune, or inherently irreparable in regards to these behaviors is a destructive no-win fallacy.
While the majority of white people ending up on this page wanting to learn more about racism will likely be motivated by their desire to set *other* people right, the ONLY way to do this work, and I truly mean this, is to be doing it on yourself. Though there is an educational and historical element to antiracist work and it’s helpful to have statistics to cite, there simply is no shortcut here: You have to be doing the work to discover and grow away from your own racist beliefs.
I think the single most important element to being antiracist and making headway in this fight is to be educating yourself and changing your own perspectives, which you then become more and more adept and comfortable speaking and acting from from with empathy and tact, including the voice you use to speak to yourself.
Here’s how you can rise to the occasion:
Realize your privilege exists, everywhere, all the time, always: Your White (cis, male, able, etc) privilege is not an attack, it’s simply fact.
Dismantle your identification with the Just World Fallacy, the belief in which helps you to disregard the oppression around you (including, perhaps, your own):
(which is important to do because of this: http://feministing.com/2014/08/19/fatal-hypothesis-how-belief-in-a-just-world-is-killing-us/)
Contemplate the dynamics of our White Supremacist Heteropatriarchal society which may be contributing to how hard showing up to these conversations may be for you (it’s called White Fragility) and yes that’s a real thing:
Consider the distress one tends to feel when something they’ve always had and felt fundamentally deserving of seems to be changing and how that may apply to you. http://weeklysift.com/2012/09/10/the-distress-of-the-privileged/
Learn about the Helms White Racial Identification Model and consider how you have, both in the past and present, related to it. http://www.pittstate.edu/dotAsset/bda607c0-bbc7-4d4b-8e92-4d0e00c48e94.pdf
Learn about the multiple forms of racism that thrive in all levels of our society, both individual and systemic, and how to talk about race with others effectively (I am still working on this): https://www.raceforward.org/research/reports/moving-race-conversation-forward
Learn how to be helpful, rather than a hindrance, toward the POC who are resisting this social dynamic: http://theangryblackwoman.com/2009/10/01/the-dos-and-donts-of-being-a-good-ally/
Which, if you are an advocate for women’s rights, likely includes rethinking your feminism, too: http://www.thefrisky.com/2014-10-06/10-things-white-feminists-should-know-to-better-understand-intersectionality/
Remember to take care of yourself along the way: https://medium.com/@courtnee/an-open-letter-to-guilted-whiteness-93ef22590428
“There is no anti-racist certification class. It’s a set of socioeconomic traps and cultural values that are fired up every time we interact with the world. It is a thing you have to keep scooping out of the boat of your life to keep from drowning in it. I know it’s hard work, but it’s the price you pay for owning everything.” – Scott Phil Woods
On thing that I run into a lot in my often slogging, infuriatingly frustrating conversations with other white people about racism, is that when many people talk about “Equality”, what they’re actually talking about is a perceived utopia which allows them to continue accepting their predisposed societal advantages and avoid the actual work of creating an equal society.
A better term that addresses the existence of oppression dynamics and the need to adjust in order to right them is “Equity”.
An example of equity is this: If you want everyone to be able to see over the same wall, you would not give the 4 foot tall person, or the toddler, or the paraplegic the same sized crate to stand on as the 6 foot tall person. You would only give each person an equally tall crate in a situation in which equality already exists.
What I hear when most people talk about their view of “equality” is that ‘all people’ getting the same-height crate to view over the same wall is a good enough solution, according to them. This lack of distinction, along with a belief in the Just World Fallacy mentioned above, is often the basis of stubborn, ongoing ignorance.
Your re-education as a white person is an integral first step to being a part of the healing and restorative justice that we so desperately need in our country. But that doesn’t end here, for us, with our voices speaking our truths about what we want to see and how we’ve come to want to see it, or worse with us deciding how we think this gets fixed and taking it upon ourselves to do whatever that is.
Remember that for white supremacy to truly be addressed and neutralized, it’s imperative that we as whites who benefit from that worldwide system take ourselves out of the role of the rationalized, dominant oppressor, in every way that we can, and unlearn having to be the one who calls the shots and speaks for those we perpetually silence.
People smarter about this than me
Grace Lee Boggs
Elon James White
Dr. Stacey Patton