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Three Things for White People To Remember in Starting Anti-Racism Work

Updated: Jun 2, 2020

The rising recognition of racism is making the choice to do anti-racism work and the privilege of that choice more obvious than ever. While its uncomfortable to look at the harm we’ve been doing, it’s essential if we want to claim to be in integrity and honor humanity. Now more than ever, the choice to ignore racism work is a conscious choice to continue to support white privilege and the structure of dehumanization.

Here are three things I am learning in my process of doing my own anti-racism work:

We don’t know.

White people don’t know the lived experience of people of color, so we have to stop coming to the conversation like we do know. The very function of white people setting the stage, history, rules, and context is the problem. Having a few friends who are black or brown or having a few people of color who agree with us about a specific, racially charged instance, doesn’t make us experts in the topic. Instead, we can ask ourselves what we don’t know.

What response does the topic of anti-racism elicit in us and why?

Why might we not have thought of these things before?

What is new to us?

What questions do we have and how can we find appropriate education and support? (People of color are not the appropriate choice to bear the entire burden of education and support.)

We need to stop focusing on specific incidences rather than looking at the historical and structural dynamics; and start getting curious about the right way to engage.

White people are used to having the microphone. We are used to being able to share what we think whether or not we really have anything to say. This can show up in focusing on information we receive from specific news stations, our personal experience with people of color or other avenues of information.

The issue of racism did not begin with any recent events, just like what has led you to this point in your life has little to do with anything specific about today. We get to listen to people of color and their experience. Consider what they know that we don’t. Make space for their voice without demanding anything.

Here are a few resources I have used to get started:

Youtube and read books by Tim Wise

Read books and articles by Robin DiAngelo

Read research and engage in workshops with Peggy McIntosh

Listen to That’s Not How That Works Podcast

Follow @accordingtoweeze , @trudilebron and @nikkakarli on social media

We all benefit from equity and we are all invited to the conversation.

The fear that shows up a lot for white people is that we will go unexpressed or there won’t be provision for us in some way. Doing anti-racism work means making room for people of color to be included and truly having equal access to human rights. It means white people listening more and talking less, and relinquishing some of our need to be right. It means a lot of things, but it doesn’t mean that we won’t get to participate at all. Actually, the lack of participation has been the biggest contributor to the issue of systemic racism.

Louiza Duran gave the analogy that diversity is the invitation to the dance and inclusion is the recognition that everyone has different music to dance to. No one is asking people to leave the dance completely. The necessary work is for us to listen to someone else’s music for a change, and even enjoy the new music.

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