There’s a lot going on in the U.S. right now. I want to take this time to make it very clear that I support the Black Lives Matter movement, and am doing my best as a white woman to be anti-racist. I’ve been more outspoken on personal social media platforms – but just so that I’m clear and consistent across all my platforms: I am committed to working on myself, working with other white people, and taking action.
While I am now doing my best to be anti-racist, I failed spectacularly in the past. I admit that as a younger person, I said and did things that hurt people of color (including black people, but not just black people), and that’s something I’m ashamed of. I behaved badly and wrongly. I’ve made concerted efforts, as I’ve gotten older, to examine my belief systems, own my shitty behavior, and commit to change. All white people need to do this.
Because here’s something that’s important for white people to understand: I never perceived myself as racist, even when I was saying and doing things that were racist. There was a huge disconnect in my head between how I perceived myself and how I was acting and impacting those around me. I thought racism involved white hoods and burning crosses. Some things I didn’t understand were racist, other things I knew were problematic but didn’t give much thought to – because they didn’t impact me.
This image (not mine, it was sent to me) perfectly explains how I once was:
Most of what I was doing was in the covert category, and what I thought racism was is solely in the overt section. Thus, a disconnect, and me being a shitty person without understanding that I was being a shitty person. That’s not an excuse, and it doesn’t in any way negate the negative impact I had on others. But it does explain why so many white people claim to not be racist but still engage in speech and behavior or support things that are racist – the disconnect between overt and covert that this graphic illustrates is part of the issue. They think not engaging in the overt is enough. It’s not.
The only reason why I’ve been able to evolve and be better is because I had that realization and have been working at continuing to learn and change. Part of practicing anti-racism as a white person is realizing that you are likely still engaging in or complicit in racism, and continuously working to root that out and change it. You may not be doing it on purpose, but it’s an intent vs impact thing – they’re not equal. Impact is what really matters. Ignorance and good intentions don’t mean you’re not accountable when you have a negative impact.
Which brings me to another important point: As a white person, being anti-racist isn’t an event – you don’t suddenly cross the anti-racism line and get a gold medal for it – it’s an ongoing, lifelong process. A lot of black people have pointed out that you can’t ever, as a white person, be 100% perfectly anti-racist. The sooner we accept that, the better we can be – because truly accepting that means learning to not get defensive when someone points out missteps and bad behavior, and being able to self-reflect, reassess, and evolve.
Listening and educating ourselves is important, but action is even more important. Educate yourself, but also…do something. Do a lot of somethings. Do as many somethings as you can, and then keep doing more. There’s a lot of good information out there about ways that white people can take action to be anti-racist and dismantle racist systems.
I’m not going to tell you where to find that information*, because one thing white people need to do is learn to do the research. Learn to find those sources. Figure it out. Don’t bother the black people in your life or wait for them to call you out – do the work yourself. That’s another important step. We need to be proactive rather than reactive.
(j/k I added a page. But it’s not exhaustive and you still need to do your own reserach.)