You Can’t Fight What You Can’t See

“If you are willing to dare to look white supremacy right in the eye and see yourself reflected back, you are going to become better equipped to dismantle it within yourself and within your communities.”

Layla Saad, Me and White Supremacy: Combat Racism, Change the World, and Become a Good Ancestor

Last February, I downloaded what was then a free workbook from Layla Saad’s website called Me and White Supremacy. Since that time, she found a publisher and now her book has become a New York Times bestseller. If any of y’all are looking for something to do over these next few weird weeks, this would be a great book to get your hands on.

Once the book was released, I got my pre-ordered copy and started re-reading it. This is definitely a book you can come back to many times over. I’m not the same person I was a year ago when I first started digging into what is meant by white supremacy and I’m seeing and understanding the text with a different lens now.

An idea I’ve been grappling with for the better part of a year (and am still very much grappling with) is this idea of personal work versus systems work; people taking the necessary time to engage in deep self-reflection about white supremacy and commit to taking actions in daily lives versus the system functioning to produce equitable outcomes. I’ve been pushed to think about these two different types of works from so many people I’m learning from – Melissa, John, Cornelius, DeRay. I find myself simultaneously being overwhelmed by the huge systemic issues our world is facing but also feeling empowered to change things within my sphere of influence.

The more I think about this the more I realize that I’ve been thinking about this as a “versus” situation rather than an “and” situation. The question isn’t personal versus systems work; it’s personal AND systems work. It is critical for people to take the time to know exactly what it is they’re fighting to change at a system level. If we don’t know how white (male) supremacy is the toxic fog we’ve all been inhaling since before we were born and how that’s showing up in our own daily lives, we won’t be able to see how it’s impacting those at the margins and we won’t know what policies we should be demanding.

Anyone reading this either already worked through or planning to work through Me and White Supremacy? Let me know – would love to share reflections with you.

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