To my fellow white peers,
This moment is simultaneously ripe for change and a hotbed for hypocrisy
It’s in all caps because the truth of the matter is that many of us will say something, but few of us will go on to do something about it. Our collective outrage is only the catalyst. It’s what we do with it that requires unwavering commitment, patience, a willingness to learn, dedicated effort.
Anti-racism is about [life-long] action
To those of us that feel a sense of gratification for having spoken up: our words alone aren’t enough. Without action, we serve only to reinforce the social, political and cultural structures that led us to this moment. We do nothing to subvert racism itself.
There is a weight of responsibility that comes with understanding that to be the truth. What we say is meaningless if what we do is continue to live as we always have.
This is not business as usual
Do not mistake outrage for action and assume that in voicing your support, you have done your civic duty. Silence isn’t the new racism. Inaction is.
That we will never understand the experience of being black is not a free pass to sit this fight out. Your lack of shared personal experience does not absolve you of your responsibility to try to understand.
It is our obligation to step into this moment, to discontinue the excuses, to start putting in the time. It is not enough to do any less.
If you feel overwhelmed, confused, afraid of doing it wrong
It’s time to actively listen. The second we think we have it all figured out, is the second we stop listening to the those whose voices matter most. And, central to our ability to help affect change, is having the humility to acknowledge where we get it wrong, even when we’re trying to do right. Anti-racism is about staying humble and teachable.
Remain a student for life
That’s the point. We all start somewhere and doing the work looks like humbling yourself, taking inventory of your own implicit biases, and choosing everyday, for the rest of your life, to remain teachable. That is the crux of anti-racism.
Growth is uncomfortable
I have had a real hard time sitting with myself the last few days. You, as a thoughtful, feeling human might have too. If, like me, you’ve been reflecting on how you were raised, the beliefs you hold currently or held at one time, the invisible ways you pass judgements or make assumptions… you’re probably feeling extremely self-aware. The recognition of your own privilege and biases might even make your skin crawl. You may feel a sense of urgency to educate yourself, to begin to undo a lifetime of ignorance — intended or not.
Sit with it. Feel it. Take it in. That discomfort is laying the groundwork for your personal growth.
Talk openly about it
I write all of this as someone who only just ordered her first book about being black in America. Before last week, my social media feed was filled with predominately white faces and bodies. It was only a few days ago that I donated to a political fund working to improve the representation of African Americans by registering black voters for the first time ever.
I feel like I’m having an awakening alongside so many other white people who want to do better.
And that is a powerful thing. But navigating how and where to get involved can feel overwhelming, particularly if you’re feeling ashamed of your ignorance to issues affecting the BIPOC community.
The problem with shame is that it’s both selfish and misleading. It induces in us a sense that we are alone in and tainted by our experience. We hide those parts of ourselves to save us from embarrassment, while doing nothing to address the underlying cause. We choose pride at the expense of growth and cheat ourselves and our peers out of an opportunity for dialogue.
Shame helps no one.
It’s on you to figure it out
So be curious. Proactively seek out resources to educate yourself. Talk to other white people who are learning too. Ask questions. Be critical of the system, the status quo. Get active in local, state and national elections to make sure that at every level of government, elected officials are being held accountable. Donate where you can. Rally others to take part. Action is a requisite of anti-racism.
Most importantly, don’t be afraid to make mistakes; be prepared to acknowledge where you’re wrong. Stay humble. Speak up. Be proactive.
The truth is, you’re either racist or anti-racist
There is no in between. That is perhaps the most profound realisation I have had this past week. I struggled with the phrase ‘silence is violence’ until I understood that, definitionally, you can not be ‘not racist’. (If you want to understand why, I recommend Brené Brown’s podcast episode with Ibram X. Kendi where he lays it out very clearly what anti-racism requires of us.)
The problem with silence is that it signals complicity. And in the current context, to accept the status quo is to, among other things, accept the violence and murder committed against the BIPOC community by law enforcement. It is to accept the mass incarceration of the BIPOC community, particularly black men. It is to accept severe income inequality that disproportionately affects the BIPOC community. It is to accept the stark contrasts in economic opportunities afforded to the white and BIPOC communities.
Which is why your silence is violence. It is why your silence is racist.
I can no longer choose silence
I feel an overwhelming sense of responsibility for my unquestioning complicity in unequal systems that have allowed racism to thrive. I can no longer choose silence. I can no longer justify complacency.
In addition to donating to the Minnesota Freedom Fund and the Black Voters Matter Fund, I have ordered Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates and Why I’m No Longer Talking to People About Race by Reni Eddo-Lodge. I have been having conversations at work and in my personal life, with colleagues, friends and family to understand the significance of this moment, challenge our notions and pre-conceived opinions, discuss how we move forward in a way that makes change. I’ve been listening to podcasts, watching documentaries, actively seeking out black content creators… But this is just the start.
I am going to go beyond the headlines and immerse myself in journalism that exposes the structural inequalities that most effect the BIPOC community in the US and UK. I am going to do my due diligence as a voter and make sure I’m using my vote to help elect officials who see racial equality and justice as paramount.
I’m going to make a point to research and understand the biases within the health and wellness industry so that I can have a more critical lens through which to evaluate and view my own content. And I am going to stay hungry for information from the BIPOC community because I understand that to practice anti-racism is to commit to listening and learning for life.
To the BIPOC community,
I want to apologise for my participation in racist structures and systems. I want to apologise for believing that not being overtly, outwardly a racist was enough. I see now that it is not and I will do my best every single day to do better. I understand why anti-racism is so important and I will do better.