Our country is hurting and broken.
For those who are hurting deeply, we are with you and for you. We are broken alongside you. We will fight alongside you. Those of us who are white (myself included) can never truly understand, but we stand with you.
When I watch the news and the protests happening now, I see a collective pain and generational hurt that did not appear overnight. If you think what we are seeing on TV is because of the recent killing of George Floyd, you are sadly mistaken. What’s happening stems from hundreds of years of systemic and institutionalized racism.
Especially if you are white and you want to help but don’t know where to start, here are a few things I’ve learned that may be helpful, and more importantly, below are some powerful anti-racism resources.
1. Stop talking and listen.
I joined a racial reconciliation group where I’m not permitted to speak, post, or comment for three months if I want to stay a part of the group. And you know what? It’s been a great thing because it forces me to learn and listen. I thought I had a clue about race in America–I have read a lot. I am married to a brown man, and my child could be one of those children in cages on the border. But the truth is, I don’t know what it’s like to be black or brown in our country. And if you’re white, neither do you.
The only way to learn is to listen to people of color and STOP TALKING. And just because you hear one story from a person of color, that doesn’t mean you’re informed. The experiences of people are as diverse as humanity is.
2. Humble yourself.
No one wants to be called out for approaching the subject of racism in the wrong way. It will be incredibly difficult (especially if you are well-intentioned), but don’t get defensive. Do not go on an ALL CAPS rant. You will perpetuate the problems you want to help. We can view being called out as an opportunity to know better and then do better. And then go learn some more. However, make no mistake. Doing the work of responding to the racial brokenness and systemic injustice in our world will be a life-long process. There will be no arrival.
One article I read recently argues that white people are swimming in a “social environment that protects and insulates us from race-based stress.” This is not to say that life has not been hard for you, but it is saying that many “mainstream sources — schools, textbooks, media — don’t provide us with the multiple perspectives we need. . . Our socialization renders us racially illiterate.” And then when we “add a lack of humility to that illiteracy (because we don’t know what we don’t know), you get the break-down we so often see when trying to engage white people in meaningful conversations about race.”
Without humility, you will not be successful in your endeavor to be an ally to people of color.
3. If you are truly committed to being part of the solution, your feelings are on the back burner.
If you are white and you dive into this learning process, you will have moments when you feel like crap. You will begin to understand things you didn’t before. You will come to realizations you will wish you had had earlier. You’ll realize that you’ve either intentionally or unintentionally made mistakes and maybe have hurt people. You will be offended by things you learn. There will be many uncomfortable moments. It’s a hard process. It’s work.
But these feelings are NOTHING, nothing at all, compared to the atrocities and injustices people of color in the United States have faced. If we want to be an ally in this fight, we must be quiet, be humble, and be willing to put others’ feelings before our own.
4. Use the power you have.
Mamas, I have seen you be a force to be reckoned with. You will NOT QUIT when you put your mind to something. You will speak to the manager, the principal, the doctor, the person in charge until things are put to right. America needs us. Use the resources below to do something. Pick one thing to do a week or a month. Just don’t do nothing.
Anti-Racism Resources for White People
75 Things White People Can Do for Racial Justice
A Guide to How You Can Support Marginalized Communities
Your Kids Aren’t Too Young to Talk About Race: Resource Roundup
Here’s What You Need to Do: A Response to the Murder of George Floyd
National Museum of African American History and Culture Releases “Talking About Race” Web Portal
Originally published November 2020.
The opinions expressed in this post are those of the author. They do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of ABQ Mom, its executive team, other contributors to the site, its sponsors or partners, or any organizations the aforementioned might be affiliated with.
This is so helpful Vanessa! It’s often so hard to just start because there are so many resources to be found. Thank you for providing a few to get us started!
I’ve also started listening to season two of a podcast called Scene on Radio which examines how “whiteness” came to be and how being white in America has looked throughout the years. I highly recommend it! Looking at how the idea of race started and has evolved throughout the years can be eye opening for those of us who don’t really have to think about it on a daily basis.
Thanks, Katie. I’ll have to check out that podcast.
Thank you for writing and sharing this. I think this conversation absolutely needs to happen, everywhere. We absolutely have a duty to put an end to the systemic violence and oppression that’s still happening to this day – our country isn’t truly free until every last one of us is free.
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