First, this post is by no means a comprehensive look at my thoughts, nor the ending point of my thoughts or actions. Second, this post is not attacking anyone in particular, so do not think this is a passive aggressive attack on you if we know each other personally. If I seem angry or upset, it's because I am, but not at you or anyone in particular. Third, the goal of this post is to shed light on how, even if you as a white person do not intend to be a racist, your actions/inactions are still impacting and supporting racism and ways we are going to change that to become anti-racist. I talk a lot about my own experience in hopes of removing any shame that may come up for you.
I shared the below on my instagram, but didn't feel like it was enough, especially after witnessing the shares and “support” I saw that followed from fellow (well meaning, I'm sure) white people. We are going to address white privilege, being anti-racist, performative activism, virtue signaling, how to show up moving forward, and more. There are resources and donation suggestions at the bottom too.
IG caption to start:
I don’t know a single person who would identify as a racist, but I know handfuls of people who support racism through their actions, biases, appropriation, & silence. Myself included. Racism is DEEPLY woven into our society and it is no longer enough to say “I’m not a racist” and then let your actions (or inaction) speak otherwise.
Here are some of the common racist + white privileged comments I hear/see and have even been a part of in my lifetime before I started listening, witnessing, & educating myself:
Saying “all lives matter” is racist. // Think about it like this: If a friend came to you in pain you’d want to comfort them… you (hopefully) would not just start talking about how much worse/bigger your pain is. Yes, we are all in pain, but when a friend is hurting, you acknowledge it, don’t compete with it.
Acknowledging #BLACKLIVESMATTER + others pain, does not invalidate your life or pain; so stop pitting yourself against others. ?
Saying, “I don’t see color.” // How do you plan to be a part of the solution if you can’t see the problem? How do you feel when you’re experiencing hurt/pain/injustice and someone refuses to see it?
Staying silent because you are tired, uncomfortable, or scared of difficult conversations with yourself, friends, or family. // You want to know who is really tired? People of color who cannot hide their skin (nor should they have to). Whose loved ones have been murdered and our system has failed them. Those who have been wrongly incarcerated and over penalized. Those who are un/underemployed and underpaid. Those who are scared because they risk their lives jogging, breaking down on the side of the road, getting groceries and so much more.
I am not perfect. I am going to say the wrong things and misstep. @ibramxk, author of “How To Be An AntiRacist” said, “striving to be antiracist is an ongoing journey.” This is woven into the fabric of our country and layered.
We talk a lot about how change starts within us, then the home, etc. So start educating yourself, asking yourself uncomfortable questions, calling yourself out. No one in my life has ever called me out for the things above, but I am calling myself out in hopes that you can start to see where you’ve fallen short of being a true ally too. It is our job as white people, to become more self aware and shed the racial bias that persists. That’s what this is about. Do not put the burden on people of color to educate you. Do better. Racism is not just hatred in your heart. It’s ignoring systematic oppression, biases, and inequity. Be anti-racist.
I share that to hopefully take your guard down in reading this. I am aware that the majority of my audience is white and these past few weeks are truly the first time many are having these conversations on a real level… and from what I’ve seen on IG, many are still not getting it. So first…
Performative activism is not activism.
It’s posting on social media so you can lay your head down while feeling good about yourself at night. To save face. To appear like you are on the right side of a cause. It’s surface level at best, and fear of backlash at worse. It's “thoughts & prayers” and not looking in the mirror to see how YOU are part of the problem.
This is what I'm talking about:
I have witnessed people announce their “shock” and “confusion” I have witnessed people share/give blanket “I’m sorrys.” I’ve witnessed people go on to share things about “not judging someone by the color of their skin.”
To which I scream HOW?!?
How can you be shocked or confused?! The Black Lives Matter movement began in 2013. The killing of black people in our country dates back to the very day it was founded.
How can you say you’re sorry if you don’t even know black history? If you haven’t truly sat with, learned about, and begun to understand what white privilege is, how racism has seeped into our culture and more? How you are continuing to perpetuate it with your response and lack of response?
How can you say you’ve never judged someone by the color of their skin when racial bias is literally ingrained into our society? The fact you are claiming that shows how unaware you are about how racism and the injustices in our society persists. Moreover, it's just another way of saying, “I don't see color” which, again, is a form of diluted racism that still exists in our culture.
Yes, we all know (and hopefully can agree) murdering black people is wrong; but what about the lack of access to healthcare? Healthy food? Clean water? The unfair incarceration and over penalization of black people in our criminal justice system? Inability to get employment because of bias towards black sounding names? Getting paid less for the same job, even with higher education, than white people? And the list goes on and on.
So let me first be clear on something that I think prevents a lot of people (including myself historically) from showing up to the race conversation open and unguarded:
You can (and most likely are) supporting and being apart of racism today unknowingly and without having hatred in your heart.
White privilege was born from racism. Racial bias was born from racism. These things do not mean you have hatred in your heart. But you are still perpetuating racism and letting it reside. Remember, this is about being anti-racist, so yes, it's a ruthless stance, but one I think needs a big hitting hammer at this point to shake people into real action.
We live in a white supremacist country. Uncomfortable? Yeah, it is. I’m saying that from first hand experience being on the receiving end of anti-semitism. And as a human being who has eyes and ears living in America.
I know my definition of racism may be extreme. Some people may argue that what I’m talking about is “just” racial bias and that until someone follows that racial bias with an action, like crossing the street to avoid black people, it’s not racism. But we are in extreme times and honestly, I think until people start seeing how their white privilege and racial bias allow systematic racism to persist in our country, we need to call it what it is. To rip the band aid off and see our roles because our silence is leading to violence.
Racism is aiding in oppressing black in order to maintain order, priviledge, and “security.” That silence has allowed systematic racism to persist/grow in our country.
Systematic racism is what we see in our governments, businesses and schools…
Like how black men are incarcerated 5-6 times more often than white men, and black women are incarcerated twice as often as white women. It's the fact black unemployment is typically twice as high as white unemployment, black students are 3x more likely to be suspended in school than whites, black people are shown fewer homes, have a harder time receiving proper health care, and the list goes on and on. Watch this short video which does a far better job explaining it.
Racism is any sort of action, inaction, or otherwise that continues to add to the oppression of black in our country, in my opinion. You may not consciously acknowledge the belief that you're superior because of your race, but silence and not examining your role in being the white moderate, aids in a racist agenda that keeps whites as superior and others as inferior, and allow the continued unjust treatment of black people.
So when you share “I’m sorry” and don’t actually learn about black history in our country to truly know what you are apologizing for, that’s the problem. It’s an “I’m sorry” to shut the conversation down and move on without going into it; it's oppressive.
Here are just some of the white privileged statements I've seen this past week alone…
I don't write any of these to call anyone out, or to hurt anyone, I write them so you can self identify where you are falling short of being anti-racist and so we can hopefully reframe some things afterwards:
“I cried when I read your comment/got your message/etc”
“I felt attacked! I just wish someone would’ve offered to help instead of being so angry”
“Why couldn’t this have been private instead of public?”
“They didn’t take the time to learn MY story and see I’m one of the good white people”
Okay people aren’t actually saying that last part, but that’s what they are implying.
Here’s the thing, black people do not NEED to hear white people’s stories.
They know them. They know most white people do not have hatred in their heart. But they also know, that most white people are radically unaware of the plight black experience every day for hundreds of years in our country, and more than that, how they as white people have benefitted from it.
The responses above are learned responses and part of the problem…
Most white people I know get a pit in their stomach, clench their jaw, etc. when they hear “white”
We are not used to being defined by our race. Our guard goes up because that is the learned behavior.
Anytime race comes up, shed some tears, get defensive, change the subject, start moral licensing the fact you voted for Obama or had a black friend to prove you're not racist, etc. It's a LEARNED response. From the media, from family, and so on and it's time to unlearn it.
Growing up, I was terrified to say “black” or “white.” I thought the very acknowledgement of race meant I was a racist. Textbooks didn't teach (and still don't) real black history. I didn't have conversations beyond, “don't judge someone by their skin color, love all people.” And I know I'm not alone.
And that is exactly why you see people saying, “I don't see color,” and “All lives matter.”
That's how generational racism and racial bias works. That's how oppression continues to persist. Change the subject, make it about your pain, put your defenses up until things blow over and it's a distant memory.
I have seen so many people over the last week say “I don’t have the words.” Of course you don’t, because you’ve never had the conversation. I know handfuls of times when I’ve been in this conversation with people and my heart was pounding out of my chest, worried that I would say the wrong thing or offend.
I have no idea what I’m doing, even in writing this, I'm still learning. I put off this conversation publicly for the last decade because I was afraid of saying the wrong thing. But I know now, it's better to say the wrong thing, learn from it, and help heal than to not say anything at all or rely on performative activism so you can sweep this under the rug and not look at yourself in the mirror.
When you feel attacked, want to cry, go to change the subject that is white fragility; and what I believe to be modern day, diluted, learned racism.
Do not play the victim in this. It’s okay to acknowledge this is uncomfortable, but it’s not okay to hide, deflect, or make it about you.
Becoming aware that your tears, your empty apologies, your feeling attacked is your white privilege, and how racism continues to leak into the hearts of our society. It's how the conversation about structural racism and real change continues to be oppressed.
I want to talk about tiredness for a moment…
(as it relates to the conversation about race)
I saw an IG story from Preston Smiles (listen to our podcast episode here and follow him on IG here) and he said something to the effect of, “I know you guys are getting tired of this. I know you want me to just move on and go back to being love & light Preston… but let me challenge you to think about how tired the black people in our country are. They cannot hide their skin, this is what they face every day. So if you think you’re tired, think about who really is tired in all of this.”
And it hit me a new layer of my white privilege. Of course you need to take care of your health, I’ve gone into this conversation in DMs and texts and face to face, then taken a break for a few hours. But, when I start to regain the energy, that’s when Preston’s words echo in my ears and I hope they do for you as well.
What is virtue signaling? And have you been doing it?
I want to take a moment here because I saw so many captions like this over the last week from white women. Captions that said, “I’ve written and rewritten this caption” or “I sent an apology to someone because I see my privilege now” or “when I was a minority in this situation where I was the white savior, I realized how unjust things were.” Or, “I'm supporting, listening, and learning” then sharing photos of their families and shopping hauls. And then following up with: “but this isn’t about me, it’s about our black brothers and sisters.”
PLEASE STOP THIS.
If it’s not about you, then don’t make it about you. Lead by example with humility – not with your ego wanting to show that you’re one of the good white people.
Don’t navigate challenging conversations from a place of ego. You are not truly listening if you are. You need to open your ears, eyes and mind – you can’t do that if you’re worried about not coming off in the best light.
Again, most black people know, that the majority of white people do not carry hatred in their hearts for them. They don't need you to waive a flag saying, “I'm one of the good whities!!” They need you to listen. They need your help in dismantling racism by using your voice and lifting up theirs.
For those who have heard any of the following growing up:
“They act like animals” – “They are different, they are angry” – “They are dangerous”
May I offer you another perspective: Perhaps they are angry, wouldn't you be? If you were taken from your family, your land, your home and enslaved? Raped, bought, sold, abused, discarded like trash?
Wouldn't you be if you were in a system that won't hire you, pay you a fair wage, wrongfully imprisons, tears apart your family, and murders you?
Perhaps they only appear dangerous to you, or your family, or whoever because that's what you our white supremacist country has wanted white people to believe so they put out propaganda, condiiton society through character development of black people on TV shows and in movies, and so on.
I was talking to a friend a few years back and she said something that always stuck with me, “I don't get why white people are so afraid of black men, what's are they going to do? Steal your purse? White men will steal your purse and you. Put you in their trunk, rape you and cut you into tiny pieces.”
I don't say that to suggest all white men are dangerous nor that black men have never done anything wrong; but I do say it it because as far as generalizations go, she is right.
Hitler was white. Most serial killers? White. It's easy to forget that because most of us white people think of our husbands, fathers, brothers when we think of white men (how many jumped to defend their man during Me Too?); but let me remind you, black men are also husbands, fathers, and brothers too.
There was a time in my life, I felt like a caged animal. I was dehumanized, demoralized, and stripped of basic human respect, kindness, and decency. Do you know what I did? I became the self fulfilling prophecy of how I was being treated because it felt like I had nothing to lose and no one was seeing me as a person anyway. Someone could have – and even may have – said all of those statements about me during that time of my life.
Until you've walked in someone else's shoes, you have no idea how you will respond. What comments you'd leave, questions you'd ask, or how your tone would come off. I beg of you, put your ego aside and just listen, don't make it about your pain or proving yourself.
Now is the time for rigourous self reflection and speaking up
…Well yesterday was the time, and every day before that. But it's time. I stayed too quiet on this topic for years despite always wanting too talk about it publicly. I was afraid, but that's no excuse for not trying. I had heard mixed messages. Some of my black friends said that white people have had the microphone long enough and it’s not my story to tell, they are right. Others have said, “you need to speak up, because the people who need to hear it will never listen to someone that looks like me,” they were right too.
So yes, I am aware that I am still centering a white voice right now. But, in the words of Robin DiAngelo, author of White Fragility, I am “using my insider status to challenge racism” which is, in my belief, the only time white people should be commenting on this subject publicly. They should not be doing so to virtue signal or ease their conscious around their newfound white guilt, because that only leads the way for more white people to do the same and that isn't creating real impact.
Privately though, white person to white person, please express all of the thoughts above and beyond…
Do it with someone who is actively anti-racist. Someone who can lovingly challenge you to help peel back the layers. Hire a therapist who is versed in this work. Again, this post is not meant to shame or call anyone out. I've repeatedly shown you just where I've been guilty too here. I do that because I want you to see where we all as white people have fallen short in being an ally, even with the best of intentions.
Acknowledging it, owning it, is how we heal it. I spoke about what racism is and have used the words like diluted racism in this post to show you it's not scary to address it. It's scary NOT to address it. The shame and fear of acknowledging it, is what left me silent publicly for so long.
Whenever you speak up on this subject publicly as a white person, I urge you:
Ensure it risks your own privilege and leaves you feeling uncomfortable. Ask yourself, will I lose money from this? Will I lose followers? Strain my relationships? etc. If you are not uncomfortable in these conversations, then you are remaining the white moderate, who is the biggest oppressor in our country to date. Again, it's not enough to not be racist/have hatred in your heart, we must become actively anti-racist… because in my book today, anything less leaves you as the oppressor.
Also, even if you have 10 followers, I urge you to speak up publicly. People are listening, witnessing, and learning from everyone right now which is why I decided to publish this now (go back and re-read these last two sections if that isn't clear or doesn't make sense – re: public vs. private action).
Books, shows, readings:
NOTE: this is NOT a comprehensive list, nor an “anti-racist list. It's just a list of things that educated me and I enjoyed and I think may be good starting points for some
Juneteenth is coming up, if you don't know what that is, Black-ish made an entire episode on it a couple years ago, I suggest you watch it (and all of Black-ish for that matter, and thrown in Grown-ish while you're at it).
Watch Good Trouble on Hulu and read White Fragility
Watch + read The Hate U Give
Jenna Kutcher's email exchange here with Toi Marie, and then follow it with this post and this post from her account. I don't share this to drag Jenna – if you read that exchange think otherwise, go back and re-read this post. I share this exchange as it's wildly relatable and a real life example of so much that I've written above.
If you do not know who the white moderate is, and haven't read Martin Luther King Jr’s Letter from Birmingham jail do so here, and see just how little has changed.
Again, this is not a comprehensive or anti-racist list of books, movies, shows. You can google and jump into those if you want. But I urge you to remember this: it's only recently that we are seeing black leads. Celebrate them. Binge the movie Lovebirds if you haven't yet, watch Insecure, Little, Girls Trip, read The Last Black Unicorn and We're Gonna Need More Wine. Show the entertainment industry that we want to see black leads and diversity. Have these on and around your home so your kids can see white people aren't the center of the universe.
Please use this site to verify you are donating to a legit cause if you do not know the people running the cause and feel confident about how they will disperse funds.
The Innocence Project working to prevent and correct wrongful convictions
the Love Land Foundation donating towards a therapy fund for black women and girls
Campaign Zero working to end police violence in America
The Bail Project working to combat mass incarceration, standing by people's right to a speedy trial (most of our jails are overcrowded with people waiting to go to trial and can't make bail, basically guilty until proven innocent as many are given “time served” by the time they see a courtroom; think about being arrested for protesting, and your family depends on you to work to pay the bills, but it takes months for your hearing, that's why we need to help bail people out).
Where do you go from here:
Hire and purchase from black people. Systematic racism persists because of the financial injustice. Do your part in reducing the gap.
Reflect and get honest with yourself, family, friends. Remember, this is layered and deep within this country. I am a first generation American on one side, and my other side came over around the Holocaust. To the best of my knowledge, we did not own slaves, but that doesn't mean we aren't impacted. It's deep and no one is exempt so please don't come at me with “but the Jews went through this too!” I know, I am one, and I am not exempt.
Know, you will continue to discover new biases. Your knee jerk reaction will be to comfort your white friend because it's so easy to see their discomfort in this (after all it's yours too), but choose to go a step beyond being an ally to your white friend, and be an ally to your black friends too by offering alternate perspectives that bring us together rather than pushing us apart. You may feel triggered and defensive at times, just acknowledge that and choose to put it aside. It's how you will grow. Listen. Be a white voice who dismantles racism. Raise anti-racist children.
Lastly, do not rely on black people to educate you, care for your white guilt, applaud you, or give you a pat on the back. You do not need to bring this new awakening to them. You need to do the work inside yourself and be an example for your white peers.