I don’t purport to be perfect or even close. I make mistakes. I’ve grown up in a culture that teaches us all to be racist, sexist, and all the other -ists. I fight against these oppressive beliefs, but I’m sure as hell not perfect.
My voice doesn’t deserve to be heard over others–especially over the voices of people of color.
That said, however, I’ve been around several people recently who’ve asked:
As a white person, what can I do? How can I be an ally? How can I be anti-racist?
It is not the responsibility of people of color to give us–you and me–a list of Top Ten Things White People Can Do To Have Less Guilt. That’s asking too much emotional labor from a group of people fighting for their survival–emotional, mental, and physical.
So, although my thoughts are not authoritative, I thought I’d share what I can in the hopes that it be somewhat helpful for some people. (And if I mess up here, I am open and appreciative of the time anyone takes to educate me.)
What can we do as white folks? Here’s some of the things.
- Talk to your kids about racism. Make sure they know what happened in Charlottesville. Make sure they know why white supremacy is wrong. It doesn’t matter how old they are. Talk to them if they’re 3 or 5 or 11 or 17 or, hell, 26 or 42. I’ve heard parents say they don’t want to talk to their young kids, because they don’t want them to be upset/scared/confused. Do you think kids of color have that luxury? Talking about racism doesn’t make you racist and doesn’t give your kids sudden knowledge about racism that might lead them to be racist. Silence on racism perpetuates racism. Silence excuses. Silence says, “This isn’t a big deal. You don’t need to be worried about it.” Teach. Them. Now. And continually. About racism, antisemitism, homophobia, sexism, cissexism, ableism, etc etc etc.
- Every single white supremacist who went to Charlottesville comes from a community of mostly white friends & family. Do not look the other way if someone in your community is a white supremacist. Don’t think they’re just misunderstood. Don’t think they’re just playing devil’s advocate and they don’t really believe that. Don’t give them the benefit of the doubt. As Captain Awkward says, Don’t date Nazis. Tell them their views are not okay. Do not support physically, mentally, or emotionally while they espouse hatred. Sure, tell them you’ll be there for them when they renounce those views, like these parents. But do not be part of their community, wring your hands, and say, “I never thought he’d really [fill in the blank]” on the day after. Also? If you think someone might pose a threat? Report them to the police. Like. Now. Even if they are your father, your husband, your brother, your son.*
- Listen. And read. Seek out people of color and their views on what’s happening. Take their thoughts, fears, and insights seriously. Seek out scholars and undercover researchers and trustworthy reporters. Educate yourself. Arm yourself with knowledge you can share with other white folks–not the ones who are proud to call themselves white supremacists, but the ones who think there are “all sides” or use the term “alt-left.”
- Read fiction. Read fiction written by people of color. People totally unlike you. This will make you a better, kinder, more understanding person. Really.
- Speak up. But don’t speak over. I don’t mean this in a white savior way, truly I don’t. But just like men need to be responsible for ending sexism, because sexism is largely perpetuated by men and gives men advantage, white people need to be responsible for ending racism. On a systemic level, white people control many of the institutions that perpetuate racism. We gotta change those systems. We’re in charge, so we have the power to do this. Now, we shouldn’t assume we know best what needs to be fixed or how to do it–this is where listening comes in.
- If you belong to any house of worship and the religious leader did not devote the entire service this weekend to denouncing white supremacy, ASK WHY. Call them now. Ask what they stand for. Ask what your place of worship stands for. LEAVE if they don’t have a good answer. Find a place where people want to make this world a better place and aren’t afraid to confront the realities of what’s happening–in the name of nonpartisanship, in the name of preserving relationships, in the name of raising money during the offering. It is NOT POLITICAL to be against white supremacy. It is perfectly appropriate for a place of religion to denounce racism, antisemitism, and hatred.
- Wake. Up. This is happening and if we can’t find a way to fix it? Then more people will die. Call your elected officials. Call your parents who voted for Trump. Talk to your neighbor. Do something. If you can do nothing else, donate your money to those who can fight these fights.
Okay. That’s my thoughts for today.
I wish you all love, peace, and joy, my friends. Now let’s get working.
*Yes, I’ve used all male terms there. I WONDER WHY?
ps. I don’t have some cute picture for this post. It’s not that kind of topic.