Three years ago, I wrote about racism for the first time. It was 2017 and I had just watched something happen in Charlottesville that I thought was long gone in this country. I thought the only reason this blatant display of white supremacy in present day was because of the current administration. My question of “how is this possible?” led me down a long and windy path of learning that has really served to show me how little I know about the truth of “democracy” in the United States and how much work I have to do.
This post is for my intended audience: white people who want to legitimately do the work.
Over the weekend, I saw my various social media feeds flooded with white people who had never spoken up, finally speaking up in a very public way about their commitments to know, do, and be better. I have gotten so many texts and DMs about where to start. I’ll get to that. The first bit of advice I have for you: DO NOT, I REPEAT DO NOT, TURN TO YOUR BLACK FRIENDS AND ASK THEM TO VALIDATE YOU AS A GOOD WHITE PERSON. DON’T DON’T DONT. Don’t ask them to tell you all the ways white supremacy has shown up in their lives. Don’t ask them ANYTHING except “What do you need?”
So much of the work needed at this point is a whole heck of a lot of self reflection and learning to see how white supremacy has shaped our lives. White supremacy is a smog. We are all inhaling it. Daily. It most obviously shows up in burning torches and angry white faces. But it shows up in so many more insidious ways. Ways that end with violence against Black bodies. For those just beginning, I recommend starting with history and then follow with three fantastic books that give you the language you need to do more, deeper work (many books will probably be sold out in the links I share – I encourage you to support a local bookstore with this purchase):
- Stamped by Jason Reynolds and Ibram X Kendi or Stamped from the Beginning by Ibram Kendi. Jason Reynolds does the audiobook for Stamped and it is fantastic.
- So You Want to Talk about Race by Ijeoma Oluo
- White Fragility by Robin DiAngelo
- Me and White Supremacy by Layla Saad
For those of you in Fairfax County, I curated this resource back in March that you’re welcome to use to guide your learning (always looking for feedback so please let me know any thoughts you have). I know not everyone likes to read so I organized it by reading, listening, and watching options for different perspectives. You’ll be able to tell where I’ve focused most of my work over the past three years and where I need to focus more attention. Remember, if your antiracist work isn’t intersectional, it’s oppressive.
Take a look at your social media feeds. Who are you following? Who are you listening to? How diverse are the voices filling that feed? How challenged do you feel in your white comfort? I am of the belief that if you as a white person don’t feel at least a bit uncomfortable when reading about racism, you’re probably not doing it right. Pay attention. Reflect. And when you start to feel uncomfortable, rather than acting like a typical fragile white person, lean into that discomfort to see what it can teach you. This was a short list of must follows on Twitter I posted several months ago:
Cornelius Minor – @misterminor
Val Brown – @ValeriaBrownEdu & @ClearTheAirEdu
Kelly Wickham Hurst @mochamomma
Clint Smith III @ClintSmithIII
Christie Nold @ChristieNold
Tricia Ebarvia @triciaebarvia
Julia Torres @juliaerin80
Marian Dingle @dingleteach
Dr. Debbie Reese @debreese
shea martin @sheathescholar
Once you learn how to see the patterns of white supremacy, you see it everywhere. None of this was accidental. It is literally woven into the fabric of the United States. Once you see it, what are you committed do doing about it? How much are you willing to cash in your white privilege? Dr. Bettina Love likens white privilege to an ATM with no withdrawal limits, an eternally replenishing ATM that we did nothing to earn. How are you going to use that power to elevate issues and voices that need to be seen and heard?
Lastly. Regarding the protests (I will not call them riots because that is racially coded language). Violence isn’t a good thing. But for the LOVE OF GOD. What would YOU do if you didn’t know if you or your husband or wife or your child or your friend was going to be the next hashtag of the day? What would you do if NO ONE was ever held accountable? What would you do with that understandable rage? You’d let it all burn until someone took you seriously. So I say let it burn. And let us build something actually resembling justice and democracy out of the ashes.
Welcome. Now, stay.