My heart has been heavy and my mind full this week after Charlottesville and such blatant shows of racism and white supremacy. I'm sickened and heavy, but not surprised. Not surprised because white supremacy and racism's roots run deep in our country.
White people, we need to not only condemn white supremacy and name it for what it is (I'm looking at you 45), but speaking out about it isn't all we need to do. We have to look at our own hearts, our own lives and work to uproot the racism and white supremacy that's there. We need to understand our role in this system - acknowledge how we benefit from it. Because we like to deny that it's not there, but it is. Like Courtney Martin says, "If you are white, if you’ve been socialized in the United States of America in the 21st century, you are racist. You will be racist until the day you die. There is nothing you can do to escape that fundamental fact."
It's easy to say, "Of course racism is bad. Of course we should condemn the KKK and Neo-Nazis and people shouldn't be shouting 'Jews can't take our place." But it's harder to look inward at ourselves and to recognize that white supremacy goes far beyond such bold, outward showcases. We can't condemn the terrorism that happened last weekend and then turn a blind eye to the inequalities that happen every day in places like our education and criminal justice systems. Here are some examples of how white supremacy manifests itself.
I've heard people say, can't we use another word other than white supremacy? No, we can't. We have to name what it is. When we name things they begin to lose their power because we start dragging them out into the light.
Some people have said to me, okay, I get it. We have a problem, but what can we even do? First of all, we don't get to be silent anymore. We never should have been in the first place, but choosing silence, choosing to disengage, choosing to "not get political" and even feeling helpless is a sign of the privilege we have as white people to check out because something doesn't affect us. Remain aware of this privilege and continue to speak out against hate, racism, antisemitism, islamophobia, etc. Don't let yourself forget.
While we need to use our voice, we also need to listen and learn. White people have a lot to learn. There's a great syllabus out there for white people to educate themselves about race, racism, white supremacy, etc. You can find it here. I highly encourage you to work your way through it. (As you're educating yourself, please don't go to a non-white person and expect them to educate you. This is not their responsibility. Google is your friend.)
Here are some other links to get you started:
- White People: I Don’t Want You To Understand Me Better, I Want You To Understand Yourselves by Ijeoma Oluo: "Your survival has never depended on your knowledge of white culture. In fact, it’s required your ignorance. The dominant culture does not have to see itself to survive because culture will shift to fit its needs."
- We Need to Keep Talking About Charlottesville by Brené Brown: This is a video and worth every second you'll spend watching it. Brené talks about the importance of 3 P's: Perspective, Power and Privilege.
- So You Want to Fight White Supremacy by Ijeoma Olu: "Because we all interact with the system of white supremacy, because we all uphold it to some degree — we all have some power to tear it down."
- For Our White Friends Desiring to Be Allies by Courtney Ariel: "Above all, I urge you keep trying. You're going to make mistakes; expect this. But keep showing up. Be compassionate. Lead with empathy, always. Keep learning and growing. If you do this, I truly believe you’ll be doing the work of an ally."
There's so much more that could be said and needs to be said, but hopefully this is a good place to start. I know I say things imperfectly and not always the best way, but we have to commit to talking about this even if it's not perfect. I am always learning, stumbling and growing.
Join me and the countless others that have been at this work for a long, long time in the conversation, in the action, in the resisting, in the dismantling. Remember what Ijeoma Olu says,
"Those of us targeted by white supremacy do not get a moment’s rest — and if you are not targeted by white supremacy, that should keep you up nights as well. Do not give up, do not rest, until the system of white supremacy is reduced to rubble. You may not see it in your lifetime, but your efforts will help ensure that many more of us will live long enough to do our part."
There is a system to dismantle. So we've gotta get to work. It's not just for "politically involved" people or "justice oriented" people...it's a call for ALL people. Especially if you claim to follow Jesus y'all...he was ALWAYS on the side of the oppressed and marginalized. He spoke up and spoke out.
This is not the time to be silent.
(Credit for photo can be found here.)