Why should whites interrupt racist dynamics? It’s not my place….
All too often I hear these comments from whites who are afraid to speak up for fear of making a mistake or making things worse and then being called racist.
We sit back in silence and hope someone else will take the risk to say something, even though we know about the devastating impact of the extreme emotional tax on people of color who always seem to be the only ones taking the risk to raise issues.
Whites have to step up and do far more to partner with colleagues of color in our organizations to recognize and interrupt racist dynamics in interpersonal interactions and group conversations as well as in organizational policies, programs, and services.
We have to find the courage and deepen our capacity to co-create more racially just organizations. Yet, too often, we can’t seem to muster, much less sustain, what it takes to be an effective ally and accomplice for racial justice.
Why Aren’t Whites More Fully Engaged in Dismantling Racism?
Whites are so secure in our privileged world.
White supremacy allows us to live that privileged life – without having to see it as privileged. We see it as something innately ours, our birthright.
We can be so overly focused on our own individual achievement and success, while believing that people of color could live like us, too… if they just worked harder, stopped making excuses…
I used to hold these racist beliefs. I never understood how my success was far more related to my whiteness and white privilege than to my efforts or talents. I was almost always assumed to be competent, assumed to have deep leadership potential, given the benefit of the doubt and extra chances if I failed…
It took me decades to realize how different the experiences of people of color were from my own as a white person; to recognize the vast advantages I was given each day just for being born white.
Coming to these realizations was painful for me. Being white, I’d never had to ask myself if I was qualified or talented enough for a position compared to a person of color. I believed I deserved what I got, that I had earned it. I never questioned all the opportunities and breaks that came my way simply because I was white.
I never really thought much about racism – much less how it was manifesting in my organization or me. I was complacent and colluded to maintain the racist status quo in ways I now deeply regret.
It’s the people who don’t recognize the racism within themselves that can be the most damaging because they don’t see it.”
-Sterling K. Brown
Selling Your Soul For White Privilege
I have sold my soul for white privilege. I chose to look away, numb out, and justify the racist discrepancies with scores of PLEs, Perfectly Logical Explanations.
I participated in and colluded in racist systems that privileged me and consistently oppressed people of color. And so few ever challenged me to think differently. I didn’t listen for years to anyone who tried to raise my awareness.
Do you see yourself in any of this? Do you see the jagged scars that racism inflicts – inflicting wounds that go so deep that healing may take generations?
Why should whites – why should I – work for racial justice? I never want to participate and perpetuate racist dynamics like I did in my past. I never want to hurt people of color like I have before. I don’t want to live with the shame of my silence, the guilt of my racist actions. I am no longer willing to sit by and watch my friends and colleagues of color face painful, traumatizing racism while I stay silent and do nothing.
“Defeating racism, tribalism, intolerance and all forms of discrimination will liberate us all, victim and perpetrator alike.”
A Racially Just World – The Only One I Want to Live In
Take a moment and imagine the world you want to live in, to create? What do you believe all people deserve? What do you know in your soul that no one should ever have to experience? We can create this world, step by step, moment by moment in our organizations and communities. We can leave a far better world for our children, for our children’s children.
When you are part of a movement that is working to build a more equitable, racially-just world – you’ll realize you don’t want to live any other way. The promotions, the money, the accolades, the illusion of safety – no longer seem as important as creating racial justice each and every day.
I know it can come with costs. I’m sometimes perceived as too out there, but I’m okay with that. For the years I have left, I want to live my passion, live in integrity, and be in deep service to our world. I hope you choose to step up, speak up to co-create our vision of what is possible.
“We must learn to live together as brother or sister or perish together as fools.”
-Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
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