What We Think We Are, We Oftentimes Are Not…
Yeah, I get it.
Years ago, I believed that the worst thing that could happen to me was to be labeled a racist by a person of color.
But guess what? It happened.
Me! The person who I thought was committed to making a difference in my life and others by teaching about diversity.
My illusion was shattered by an early experience where I had been asked to try out my capacity as a leader for a new position. Two people of color confronted me regarding some of my behaviors they felt were racist. Me? No way!
I disagreed – but they interpreted my tone and approach as if I thought they were my peers – rather than the leaders of the workshop. They challenged me: Would I have treated them the same way if they were white?
I was in deep guilt, shame and embarrassment. Can you relate?
Why Should Whites Care About Ending Racism?
Whites need to care about racism because there is a life that could be lived that is so much fuller of service and of purpose. So many of us – too many – are walking around oblivious (like I once was) to the daily indignities people of color face, as well as the impact our own behavior has – even if we didn’t intend any “harm.”
Today, I believe as whites, we have a critical and increasing role to work with other whites…to help them recognize the very common dynamics that are happening right at their organization…
We live in such a narrow bubble with racism. When we care and start to take action to dismantle racism, the world opens up to us…to know that we are a part of many movements that are building a more equitable, socially just world…I don’t want to live any other way.
I have no illusions: I have no doubt that there are places I’m not hired because I’m perceived to be too out there. I’m ok with that. For the years that I have left, I want to live my passion, to be in deep service to the world. There are people who may not ever talk to me again, but, oh well. There are so many others who I am able to connect with now.
“If parents snicker at racial and gender jokes, another generation will pass on the poison adults still have not had the courage to snuff out.”
-Marian Wright Edelman
Whites Wonder: What’s In It For Me To Interrupt Racism?
We have been numbed by the Novocain of white privilege. Truthfully, we learn a one-sided view of history. We were taught whites were superior, freed slaves and fashioned a country of freedom for all.
Is it freedom for all – or freedom from all?
That’s how racism fuels itself: by ignorance. We need to stop making excuses and face who we really are on the inside – and NOT what we choose to show others.
We need to end racism – to transform our guilt and shame from our racist actions of the past into meaningful change efforts to dismantle racism in organizations today. We need to use a Race Lens to review and create every policy, practice, program and service to ensure the success of ALL members of our organizations and create products and services that benefit every person we serve.
We can be role models and support others on their path to wholeness as they UNLEARN racist beliefs.
I believe as whites we have a critical role- and an increasing role- to work with other whites and to help them recognize the common dynamics that are happening within their organizations…how it’s hostile for people of color.
It’s our responsibility to notice the daily microaggressions and interrupt them and then come together with other whites to do our work where racist attitudes are still fueling racist behaviors.
Without Racism, Authenticity Shines
I used to lead a very segregated life at work and at home. Now, I’ve made an effort to interrupt my own racist attitudes and behaviors in those spaces and in others.
The results? More authentic relationships with people of color and with whites. What an incredible gift!
When I show up for training…fully and lovingly and in a nonjudgmental way, it is so much more productive and authentic as opposed to the “good white” way that shames others like I used to. The “old way” simply gives people the illusion that they don’t have more work to do.
The reality is that all whites have more work to do. Each positive, meaningful step we take to dismantle racism is one step closer to a fuller, socially just, caring world.
“We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools.”
-Martin Luther King, Jr.
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