Actionable Steps for White People After Sitting With Your Discomfort on Race
Pain. Anger. Grief. Fear. If you’re feeling heavy from these emotions right now, you are not alone. Our country is weighed down in mourning the innocent lives of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and George Floyd. But for the African American community, these are not new burdens to bear. The weight of these emotions have left them without air all this time.
It can be easy to look outward at this broken country and miss our own reflection. But we white women, we mustn’t avoid the mirror. We must look inward to catalyze change. We must confront the reality that whether we’re aware of it or not, we have been complicit to the racism in this country.
Are you looking to actively fight racism (both overt and covert)? Are you ready to be a positive change? Good. We have a lot of work to do, so let’s begin.
We must be mindful not to burden our black friends/colleagues/acquaintances with the emotional labor of our own journeys to be anti-racist. Before you send her a message asking for book recommendations or accounts to follow, ask yourself, “am I just trying to prove to my black friend that I’m an ally?” Don’t make this about your white saviorship. Put in the work, educate yourself, do the research. It’s not her job or responsibility to teach you right now. She’s exhausted, she’s hurting, she’s emotionally drained. If you’re actually a friend who wants to help, check in on her. How’s she doing? How can you be supporting her?
We must recognize our own racism. And don’t bother getting defensive about this, you’re here to grow, not to prove that you’re not racist. We must confront the darkest parts of our hearts so we can exorcise them. This Vox article is from 2016, but it’s an informative introduction to implicit bias and the way it harms those with darker skin. Familiarize yourself with the examples, and consider how you can begin to retrain your brain.
Ahmaud Arbery. Breonna Taylor. George Floyd. Say their names. Every day. And when the next innocent life is taken by lynching, say that person’s name. Bring them up in conversations with your spouse, your friends, your kids. Mourn them and recognize that they were more than a news headline, they were people with hopes and dreams, loved ones and a future. Say their names.
Prepare yourself to call out racist posts on social media. When scrolling, prepare yourself to confront your ‘friends’ regarding their white privilege or insensitive posts. Know how you’re going to respond to cries of “All lives matter” and “If they just followed the law these things wouldn’t happen.” Be locked and loaded with comebacks to these problematic ways of thinking, and reconcile with the reality that you may need to confront members of your own extended family. Ask yourself if you’re ready to stop being the ‘obedient girl’ who never stirs the pot and start being an activist.
This Medium article gives 75 concrete things white people can do to fight racial injustice. Share it with your white family and friends, and give updates as you work through the list. Find someone to be your accountability partner so you don’t let these suggestions fade from your radar in a few weeks.
Follow and listen to people of color on social media. Chelsea of @she_colorsnature on IG provided a great list of activists in anti racism work. Her original post is here. The list includes:
Mamas, second only to the work we put into our own hearts, is the work we put into our homes. Talk to your children about race and racial injustices. They’re never, ever too young to understand. While it may be difficult (who ever said this would be easy?!), you need to go beyond “we’re teaching our kids to be kind to everyone.” Continue to do that, absolutely, but we also need to talk to our white children about racism and the challenges that black loved ones (and strangers) are facing each day in our country. Have the hard discussions, remind them that we should never judge someone based on the color of their skin, answer their questions, pray with them, read them books with black main characters, encourage them to seek friendships that go beyond their sameness. Fill their little hearts and minds with the foundation that we are all equal and deeply loved by God. We all deserve the right to live without fear. Love their black friends fiercely, and love the children of your black friends fiercely until the world follows suit.
We should be outraged by the injustices of this world. We should actively fight racism. We should have uncomfortable conversations and confrontations. We should listen to people of color, learn from their experiences, and speak up against the brokenness of this world.
The time has come for a reckoning for the fragility in us white women. It’s going to be a long process, and painful. It’s going to get uncomfortable with all we’re unpacking. But that’s okay. We’re ready to face the mirror.
Guest post by Brianna Baronwoski. You can follow her at here and here.