Starting a Sustainable Anti-Racism Practice
In the last few weeks many white people have been inspired to begin speaking out more publicly against racism, which is encouraging. Racism was created by white people, for white people and we need to be able to have (hard, uncomfortable) conversations about that to change things. Dismantling white supremacy is the responsibility of white people. If we want to truly make a difference in our culture; however, our journey needs to start with a look inward. Here are some things to consider on your journey.
Where should you start?
Maybe you’ve been thinking about it for a while or maybe you’re brand new. It’s important to understand where you are in the process. This list of scaffolded anti-racism resources (created by Anna Stamborski, Nikki Zimmermann and Bailie Gregory) can help you tap into the right things at the right time for you.
It won’t be quick and easy.
Looking at your own privilege is difficult and it should be. Frankly, if you’re not uncomfortable when you’re doing this work – you’re probably just staying on the surface and not really doing it.
White supremacy was built over centuries and it is the foundation on which our culture rests. All of us have been steeped in that culture throughout our lives, whether we’re aware of it or not. The process of undoing it within us takes time, work and reflection. There’s no skipping to the end – in fact, there’s no end. You’re developing a lifetime practice of undoing racism.
You’ll need to build your shame resilience.
This work brings up shame – there’s no getting around it. Starting to see our privilege and how we’ve upheld white supremacy (even unintentionally) is challenging. It might make you want to drop it and run away and forget you ever heard of anti-racist work.
When this happens, know that this is what we mean by “doing the work.” It means feeling the shame and pain that will come up, processing it and keeping going. Having a trusted friend or someone else who can do this work with you is helpful. If you’ve never done shame resilience work before, you may want to consider seeking out a coach or therapist who specializes in working with shame.
Start by listening. Then listen some more.
Start by exploring the existing body of work on this topic. The scaffolded resource list above is a good place to begin, but it’s by no means all encompassing. Do your own research. Read, watch and listen to people of color who are educating on anti-racism.
Resist the urge to ask people of color about these topics unless they have given consent to educate you. It takes a lot of emotional labor for POC to do this work and it is their choice whether they want to educate you about a system that oppresses them and benefits you. Compensate people of color for their work wherever possible.
Talk to other white people about racism.
As you begin exploring white privilege and racial injustice, you’ll probably start noticing things around you. You might hear comments in conversation or see social media posts of white people who you know that you wouldn’t have noticed before. There may be things that are openly racist. People you know and love may say things that are unintentionally harmful or uninformed.
Each time this happens, you’ll have an opportunity to engage and educate. This isn’t about trying to prove something about yourself or trying to be competitively more “woke.” Engaging another person in anti-racism work and inviting them to become more educated is more important than being “right” in the moment.
It’s important to speak out about racism, including on social media; but be sure to center on the issues rather than yourself. Before posting something, ask yourself what you hope that post will achieve. Are you educating or informing? Are you amplifying a person of color? Are you seeking attention for yourself or trying to prove that you are “one of the good ones?” Thinking about your motivation provides an opportunity for reflection.
Speak truth to power.
Educate yourself about your local area and issues that impact communities of color. Know where your elected representatives stand, find out about voting rights and issues in your area, attend events. VOTE.
Making it sustainable
It’s important to treat yourself with empathy and self-compassion without letting yourself give up on this work. Do what you need to do to care for yourself and keep working. Take breaks, talk to someone, care for yourself and think about how to make your anti-racism practice sustainable.