To my white sisters, brothers, and gender-fluid others:
Many of you are asking, again, after the recent deaths of Ahmaud Aubrey and George Floyd, what you can do to help.
More black, innocent, unarmed bodies murdered by white, armed bodies
This time, the dead are black male bodies, though there have been plenty of black and brown female and trans bodies murdered over the years. While murders of brown and black bodies have been going on as long as this country has existed, the increase in social media has allowed the news to be more widely known, especially to white people. As a result, more white people are asking what we can do.
Only by bringing to consciousness that which has been unconscious, can we be aware enough to make a choice to behave differently.
There are so many things. There are books to read, actions you can be part of, movies you can watch, teachings you can be part of, money you can give, and movements you can support, like Black Lives Matter. All of these are important and necessary. Action is key, and so is reflection that leads to informed action.
What I keep coming back to is something my brown and black friends have told me when talking about what white people can do, and what I should do: I hear, “work with your people.”
Therefore, I am working with my people: white people.
Step one: acknowledge your racial identity; that you are white.
- Look personally and systemically at the reality, power and privilege of your living in a white body;
- Do the work it will take to learn about and wake up to your whiteness;
- Understand and challenge the biases and training you have received in this white supremacist, racist culture;
- Choose to become actively anti-racist.
While these steps may seem like only four steps, I would argue that they are complex, and this work is a matter of life and death.
STEP TWO: Finding partners in the work
There are people out there, myself included, who work with white people to do what I have written above. In my own experience, as well as with many white people, there is such a desire to work in multi-racial groups, with multi-racial dialogue. I find that we often enter these too soon, before we have done enough work to understand ourselves, our part, and our contribution to the oppressive systems from which we have benefited. We haven’t worked through the deeper reality and emotions that come with comprehending historic and current white dominance and racism. We often haven’t developed enough muscle to listen to and acknowledge the hurt, pain, anger, and truth of the experience of brown and black people. We can get defensive, or try to make it better, when our job is to truly listen and hear. This can often cause more harm than good, especially for brown and black people.
There is an important time and place for cross race conversation. I believe that it can be helpful. However, first, you have to decide you will do the work. Start to learn through books, articles, podcasts, webinars, other white friends. Then, engage with a trusted white, anti-racist guide and potentially other white people on the same journey.
This work is deeply personal. Change can only truly happen if we have the courage to go within ourselves to uncover the truths of what we have been taught. Only by bringing to consciousness that which has been unconscious, can we be aware enough to make a choice to behave differently. If we behave differently, we can stop being part of the problem, we can be part of the solution.