Racism is to white people as wind is to the sky
Posted on July 14, 2013
Dear White people,
Itís not enough to simply know that racism exists, that we live in a racist world. In the outpourings of grief and anger about the Zimmerman verdict, Iím asking myself and other white people: how are we reflecting on and actively transforming our own personal racism? And our collective racism? Because white people: we are ALL racist. It is impossible to have grown up in a white supremacy and not have taken on racist beliefs and actions. And before you defensively cite the number of friends of colour you have, please remember that sometimes these beliefs and actions are incredibly sneaky Ė they are designed by white supremacy to look normal and natural. As white people, sometimes we can find them difficult to spot Ė yet they are glaringly obvious to those who are hurt EVERY SINGLE DAY by our racism. Iím not going to go elaborate with detailed examples today, because on this day of grief and rage I donít want to unconsenually subject friends of colour, particularly black friends, to the details of the socialised things that arise in me and that I need to vigilantly be aware of, unpack and work to change.
White people, the shame is not that these racist things come up in us Ė growing up in a white supremacy, it is impossible for them to not. The shame is when we deny it, refuse to do the work and therefore turn our backs on our sisters, brothers and siblings of colour. The shame is when we are inactive through fear of doing the wrong thing. The shame is when we donít own up to the damage we cause on a daily basis. The shame is in not putting the time and resources into figuring out how the f*** to transform ourselves Ė and it will take time and resources, because weíre battling a massive system of white supremacy that will seek to minimise, deny, divert and violently uphold itself. And remember, whilst I can take a break from doing the work of unpacking and challenging mine and othersí racism, our friends of colour can NEVER take a break from racism.
Itís indicative of how incredibly low the bar is for white anti-racist allyship that I am so applauded for even the most basic anti-racist things that I do. All I need to do, is get ďanti-racistĒ into a sentence, or remember to include an intersectional analysis of racism when Iím talking about transphobia or sexism, or volunteer in support of an event centering people of colour and I am wildly celebrated and applauded. Contrast this to how folks of colour and Indigenous people are often cast as angry and confrontational when they point out racism. The bar is so incredibly low for white anti-racist allyship. This is no judgement on folks of colour who choose to offer kind words to me for the stance I take on racism- please know, your words of support are appreciated, but not expected. Rather, it is a call to action to white folks: there is something very wrong that I get so much praise for the simplest, most basic acknowledgement of racism.
Letís raise the bar. Letís listen deeply to people of colour and Indigenous people and respect their wisdom and stop appropriating it and re-packing it into $30,000 university degrees and pretending we came up with it (thanks Kim Crosby for pointing that out). Letís learn to admit when we f*** up (because we do, everyday) and figure out how to transform ourselves and make amends to those who we hurt. Letís lovingly yet firmly point out racism to each other and hold each other accountable for making amends to the people we hurt and changing our behaviour for future. Letís remember that we are the ones responsible for holding each other through the process of changing, so that weíre not expecting the support of folks of colour Ė think about how painful that must be- first, being hurt by racism, then having to hold the hand of the person who hurt you. And for every bit of support we offer to white people to change racist behaviours, letís offer double the support to folks of colour in dealing with living in a racist world. Whilst people of colour may not necessarily want to debrief racism with us (letís respect their own safe spaces and not seek to insert ourselves in these spaces), there are plenty of other tangible ways we can support: photocopying zines, housework, emotional support, helping set up events, doing childcare, fundraising and being behind the scenes in support of the priorities, activities and movements led by people of colour and Indigenous people. Letís start daily practices of BELIEVING people of colour and Indigenous people when they talk about racism, even when we donít understand. Letís do the work to understand. Letís talk with other white folks and figure shit out so we donít demand the labour of people of colour and Indigenous people in educating us, yet remember who we ultimately will be learning from and who we need to be following the leadership of Ė the people most affected by racism. So letís find consensual ways to learn about racism from folks of colour, like through multi-racial organising, social media/books/films and doing support work like those things listed above. And letís get ourselves set for the long haul Ė because this will be lifelong work filled with heartache, satisfaction, embarrassment, humility, joy, pain, sorrow and sweet, sweet victories.https://sunnydrake.wordpress.com/2013/07/14/racism-is-to-white-people-as-wind-is-to-the-sky/