The intended audience for this post is white people.
Police have murdered another black man, George Floyd.
White supremacy is a deep-seated problem and it is time for white people to do the work of dismantling it. It is time for me to do the work. I am no expert and I know that there are some vital things I need do be doing right now:
- researching and educating myself
- listening to and boosting the voices of communities being affected
- leveraging my privilege to support and protect those communities, without centering myself
I am writing this post to share some things that I have learned, to point you in the direction of more resources, to boost the voices of people who are experts and have the lived experience, and to encourage you to start the work.
“Questions I regularly ask myself when I’m outraged about injustice:— Mariame Kaba
1. What resources exist so I can better educate myself?
2. Who’s already doing work around this injustice?
3. Do I have the capacity to offer concrete support & help to them?
4. How can I be constructive?”
Expand Our Understanding of Racism
Racism is more than an individual’s hatred that manifests in obvious ways like racial slurs and violence. It is embedded in our political and social systems. We need to understand the depth of racism and dedicate ourselves to continual, proactive anti-racism work. Scott Woods writes:
— “5 Things No One Is Actually Saying About Ani Difranco or Plantations” by Scott Woods
“The problem is that white people see racism as conscious hate, when racism is bigger than that. Racism is a complex system of social and political levers and pulleys set up generations ago to continue working on the behalf of whites at other people’s expense, whether whites know/like it or not.…
Racism is an insidious cultural disease. It is so insidious that it doesn’t care if you are a white person who likes black people; it’s still going to find a way to infect how you deal with people who don’t look like you. Yes, racism looks like hate, but hate is just one manifestation. Privilege is another. Access is another. Ignorance is another. Apathy is another. And so on. So while I agree with people who say no one is born racist, it remains a powerful system that we’re immediately born into. It’s like being born into air: you take it in as soon as you breathe. It’s not a cold that you can get over. 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.”
Get Used to Feeling Uncomfortable
Since white supremacy is the proverbial air we breathe, confronting it in ourselves, our loved ones, and our co-workers is going to be uncomfortable. Monique Melton described this in an interview where she talked about “Unity Over Comfort:”
“So the idea of Unity Over Comfort came from…I was being interviewed for a podcast and I just made the statement when we were talking…everything about white supremacy is familiar for White people…it’s comfortable…in order to move to a place of unity it requires a lot of digging and discomfort and being in positions where you’re confused or frustrated. It’s going to require doing things that you’re not used to so there’s going to be anxiety and fear…it’s a lot of discomfort. It’s going to take a commitment to unity, a commitment of healing from the dehumanization of white supremacy, it’s going to take a commitment to repairing the harm that has been done in 400 plus years of legalized and racialized terror against Black folks…it’s going to take repairing the harm and doing the work to end the violence…none of that is comfortable….it’s going to take the commitment to unity over doing what’s comfortable and what’s easy [which] is perpetuating white supremacy…you don’t have to deliberately go out and call someone the n-word or go burn a cross on someone’s porch in order for you to perpetuate white supremacy. It’s much more pervasive than that. It’s going to take a lot of discomfort, a lot of asking questions and being honest, dealing with your feelings that come up…it’s not about how you feel about this work, it’s about you doing the work and sticking with it…despite how uncomfortable it is.”— Monique Melton in “How Monique Melton Is Helping You Be An Anti-Racist” (Forbes)
There is a specific type of discomfort known as white guilt. We need to work through these feelings in a constructive way that does not center ourselves in the conversation. Talking through them is good but we should do that with trusted people. Avoid dumping them online, particularly among the communities being affected. They are dealing with their own complex set of feelings due to fighting for their lives. This is not to diminish your feelings, but it is important to remember the different contexts.
“Don’t ask POC to help you process your white guilt. Those feelings are understandable and should be addressed in a healthy way, but don’t ask us to do that work with you.”— Chanel Matney, PhD
We also need to be aware of and work through white fragility. We are going to make mistakes and be corrected/confronted. We must learn to listen and humbly correct our mistakes — not respond out of frustration or wounded ego. If we find ourselves thinking “But I’m on your side” or “I’m one of the good ones,” we need to check ourselves.
Research and Educate Ourselves
I have learned from watching many interactions that it is important for us to do our own research and educate ourselves. Well-meaning people ask racial justice advocates and organizers “Where should I start?” or “What should I read?” There are many great resources and reading lists out there already. Search those out. I’m linking several on this page! Avoid putting the burden on advocates to do this legwork for us.
Ask fellow white people what resources they are learning from. This has the extra advantage of keeping the discussion going. It is very easy to let these conversations stop once the news cycle has moved on, slipping back into the comfortable default of white supremacy.
If you are able, also financially support the people creating these resources. Many have Patreon or tip jars.
- “White Guyde to the Galaxy” and “Save the Tears: White Woman’s Guide” by Tatiana Mac
- White Homework by Tori Glass
- List of bail funds for protestors across the country — donate as you are able
- “Educate Yourself: An Essential Anti-Racism Reading Guide”
- Google Doc with links to a lot of resources
- An introduction to transformative justice: transformharm.org
- Some social media accounts I recommend following: Andre Henry, Mariame Kaba, Austin Channing Brown, Ibram X. Kendi, Tori Glass, Micky ScottBey Jones, Tatiana Mac
“If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor. If an elephant has its foot on the tail of a mouse and you say that you are neutral, the mouse will not appreciate your neutrality.”