How White People Can Work for Racial Justice
"This book is not about whether you are racist or not, or whether all white people are racist or not. We are not conducting a moral inventory of ourselves, nor creating a moral standard to divide other white people from us. When we say things like, 'I don't see color', we are trying to maintain a self-image of impartiality and innocence (whiteness). Ultimately, this disclaimer prevents us from taking responsibility for challenging racism because we believe that people who see color are the problem" -Paul Kivel
First things first: people of color (POC) are systematically oppressed and white people have racial privilege. This doesn't make white people bad and it also doesn't mean that all white people have great lives. It doesn't mean white people aren't oppressed in other ways. There are many different facets of oppression.
But, it is not the job of the individuals that are being oppressed to constantly have to convince the majority that they are in fact being oppressed. As white people, we need to spend less time making POC explain and defend their oppression and spend more time working to end it.
When I went to see Patrisse Cullors, one of the starters of the #BlackLivesMatter movement, speak at my school she said something that really stood out to me. When asked about how white women can help fight for reproductive rights for women of color (WOC) she said something along the lines of this:
If you only fight for the problems of white women, only white women get saved. If you fight for the problems of colored women, all women get saved.
This stood out to me so much because reproductive justice has a huge affect on all women but it disproportionately affects lower class women and WOC. That's why white women working to protect these rights have to look at it from the lens of those marginalized in multiple ways, not just a few.
Here's some examples of what you can do to work for racial justice:
- SHOW UP. Show up to the protests. Don't just share things on Facebook and retweet things, physically show up.
- Call out your friends and family. When your uncle says something racist or your friend says the N-word, call them out. You being uncomfortable about saying something to your family or friend is nothing compared to the burden of systemic oppression. Do your part by not letting things go.
- Similarly, start conversations. There's a way you can talk to your older relatives who miss the "good ol' days" and want to "Make America Great Again" without name calling and labeling. Having calm conversations and helping them look at things in new ways is important. This can be frustrating and hard to do but it's a something that white people need to learn to do if we want to see change.
Remember: speak up, not over. White people's place in the racial justice movement is not being the voice or the lead. It is being an ally. Seek out the people in your friends/family circle that voted for Trump or use the hashtag #AllLivesMatter and talk to them. Show up to protests. Coordinate anti-racism workshops at your workplace or church group. There's so many things you can do.
Some great resources are: