Edited:-Changed the image from “A letter to white people by a white lady” to “a letter to white people about where to start- from a problematic white person” and added anti-racist resources as the bottom
Also, please note that this writing is a beginning point for white folks and this is not to replace work by Black people and other People of Color and professional anti-racism educators. I’m continuing to add resources to this post.
To fellow white people:
We are going to be problematic, no matter how much we try not to be. Being problematic in and of itself isn’t as much the issue as how you deal with it. Will you apologize if called out? Will you make your apology about you (centering whiteness?) and make excuses? Or will you be sincere and apologize for people you’ve hurt and pained– and move on and do better?
And the issue here isn’t whether or not we get called out- the issue is that police are repeatedly killing Black people. Black people are incarcerated at a disproportional rate- by design! There are MAJOR discrepancies in life expectancy based on zip code and race! Black mothers and babies are disproportionately dying during pregnancy and childbirth! The issue is that our system was created to repeatedly marginalize Black people! People of Color are getting targeted, incarcerated, and killed by government institutions like the police and ICE. Protestors who are getting tear gas thrown at them and military/war style responses from enforcing police officers– This is unacceptable! White supremacy is exhausting and deadly.
So to my fellow white people who are trying to do right and afraid of being problematic and messing things up more- you’re going to make missteps. I’ve messed up- and I will again. But it’s not about our egos and our feelings- if you are here to break down systemic oppression and undo the damage that our ancestors have done and we have perpetuated (and continue to perpetuate daily), you have to take a chance and take a stand. And continue to do so. Being quiet and not trying is more problematic than anything. And I understand if it’s overwhelming to dismantle what we’ve been taught and participate in conversations– there are so many resources out there for you to start- and people like me are here to hold space for you while you dismantle white supremacy.
Think about it- truly think about what it would be like if your family could be murdered when being pulled over? And there’s a LOT of information to learn (and unlearn)- Critical Race Theory* being one of them. If you want resources, they are out there- there are many lists compiled and I’m happy to track them down. But DO NOT go into the DMs (Direct Messages, email inboxes, etc) of Black people asking them to educate you or provide you comfort as you’re sitting with guilt- google, follow accounts that everyone is posting about, get some books, question everything you’ve been taught about race, question the narratives and point of views in the media, and if you’re going to pay someone to educate you, pay Black people who have programs or whose content you’re consuming (you may be able to find pay links in their bios).
And when I say question everything, I mean pretty much everything- if a person of color approaches you, do you act or respond differently as if it were a white person? I know that I personally used to clutch onto my things if a person of color approached me. Society taught me that– we have biases. So I have reflected on those moments and continue to ask myself “would my innate response be the same if this person were a different race?” And admittedly, the answer was often “yes”. So I sit with that and continue to question. The question is not whether or not we are racist or have biases– if you are a white person, you do and now you have the opportunity (and an invitation) to dive deep and dismantle.
A friend of color told me that this (being on board with BLM) is more than a marketing stunt while people are dying in the streets. It’s a lifelong commitment. Don’t stop at the instagram post.
And yeah, maybe you’re late to the party. There may be some guilt and shame there. Rule of thumb- don’t burden People of Color with those feelings- at least not unless it’s a space of facilitated restorative conversations. Process your feelings with trusted friends who are doing the work too.
And I know it can feel confusing with messages like
––take a stand but
––elevate and create more space for Black Voices
––don’t center your whiteness
Here’s my take on that- first of all, it’s my understanding that there’s not always a consensus from a whole community/race of people (duh)- what might be problematic to some might be okay to others- we’re all people, you know? And yeah, be clear about your values and that you condemn racism and believe that black lives matter. Then listen to Black voices- hold space and listen. And if you’re called out, don’t make it about you! I know the fear of being cancelled is real but it’s not about that- put your pride aside and apologize from the bottom of your damn heart for harming people. And move on- no tears- it’s not about us (I mean, cry privately if you need to).
It’s not about us. And I know that if you’re new to this, it’s a lot- there’s guilt, there’s a lot to learn and unlearn, and whether or not you’re new, your heart hurts for People of Color. White supremacy is exhausting.
And remember to not post something on social media and then stop there. That’s performance allyship and for show or optics. This is a lifelong commitment to dismantling your ingrained beliefs, challenging your racist uncle on facebook, telling your neighbor that “yeah, it’s too bad that buildings are being broken into but what is worse is Black people dying and I value them more than property- and protests are happening in response to the consistent problematic and deadly actions of police”, and giving money to people and orgs on the front lines, and moving to defund the police (which SYSTEMATICALLY kills People of Color with NO accountability- many guilty cops have been acquitted, it’s a fact), and have weird conversations with your parents or whomever. It’s on US to listen to Black people, and it’s on us to do the emotional labor of educating white folks- by challenging problematic actions and words, teaching them, holding space as they’re dismantling shit, calling them out, holding influential people accountable (especially those who take Black people’s money and are doing a shit job at being anti-racist and see how they respond–– do they give a heart felt apology about how they hurt people and unlearn their racism? Or do they silence Black people and give tone deaf half ass apologies? Marie Forleo, Brooke Castillo, Russell Brunson come to mind. And I hope they learn and do better– and they really should if they continue to have People of Color in their paid communities.
And I’m not saying we have to cancel people who make a mistake forever (this is what’s called Cancel Culture)– but how do they respond to being called out (or called in- privately) when they do something problematic? If they’re not truly sorry and make it right, then go for it and cancel if you wish.
And don’t hop on the bandwagon just because you’re afraid you’ll get cancelled if you’re not on board on Black Lives Matter. I hope that’s not the case.
But there’s an argument to be made that cancel culture isn’t effective or restorative. Like, if I’m called out, I’m prepared to reflect, truly understand how I messed up and did harm without being outwardly defensive or making it about me (which is called centering whiteness). But instead being sorry for who I hurt and moving on to do better and not make the same mistake.
If your internet hero is harming Black People and People of Color by ignoring them, erasing their comments, or saying or doing harmful things, tell them, and see how they respond and what actions they take. If they fix themselves, great- restorative! And more people on the correct side of things! And if not, let your dollars talk and stop giving them your money or whatever. AND GIVE TO BLACK and POC OWNED BUSINESSES (you can do this no matter what!)
Anyway, that’s what I’ve got to say to white people. Our problems and fears of getting called out are NIL to what BBIPOC (Black and Brown and Indigenous People of Color) are dealing with. And it’s okay to have emotions around it- this is the work- do your work, have messy conversations with other white people to help them do the work and to help you- the onus is on us.
*Please note that the stages of Racial Identity Development originate with Janet Helms and Beverly Daniels Tatum
NPR Code Switch Podcast https://www.npr.org/sections/codeswitch/484785516/the-code-switch-podcast
An Article from Rolling Stone- A Practical Guide for Defunding the Police https://www.rollingstone.com/politics/politics-news/defund-the-police-1007254/?fbclid=IwAR3SEnbHgQSZ2VHuAjnLeYy-VXqAOiQfWeanBmQLjs3nuWoAcY_2XyZ5FRo
Resources for Business:
Trudi Lebron- Diversity, Inclusion, and Equity Strategist https://www.instagram.com/trudilebron/
Erica Courdae- Diversity, Inclusion, and Equity Strategist https://www.instagram.com/ericacourdae/
Article: How to Create Diversity within Your Online Business by Rachel Rodgers: https://helloseven.co/how-to-create-diversity-within-your-online-business/
Advocacy and where you can donate:
Black Lives Matter: https://secure.actblue.com/donate/ms_blm_homepage_2019
The Loveland Foundation: https://thelovelandfoundation.org/ways-to-give/
An Article from Nylon: Where to Donate to Help Black People with Disabilities https://www.nylon.com/life/black-people-with-disabilities-donations-resources?fbclid=IwAR2gUlRzYJoJCEZpbmu9DJ82fPRSh_qYebHYhYBWHPaGeg5ojB26y-SCORY
Chicago Community Bond Fund: https://chicagobond.org/
Southern Poverty Law Center: https://www.splcenter.org/
Black Birth Workers: