Hi white people who have just realized “racism is a problem and I am part of the problem” and welcome!!!
Please know white people created racism, anti-Blackness and white supremacy and it’s our responsibility to dismantle it. We need you! Please don’t go away. And please commit for the long haul, as a friend of mine said yesterday, “this isn’t even the bootcamp yet, we are in the recruitment phase.”
At the same time, exhausted Black people do not need further trauma. If you don’t come correct right now you will cause further harm.
Here’s some tips for how to show up:
1) Contact your Black friends and colleagues and express your support, ask how they are, shut up and listen.
DO NOT say “I can’t believe this is happening.”
DO NOT compare anything you have experienced or are experiencing to their experiences.
DO NOT center your feelings, ask them to absolve you of your wrongdoing, or to educate you about racism and the trauma they have experienced.
Yesterday, a Black friend told me she is consoling her four year old daughter, who dreamt the police killed her, and meanwhile she is fielding calls from white people asking her to absolve them of their guilt about racism.
DO NOT DO THIS.
Send them a text, some money, or a bottle of wine. I saw someone post “Share with your Black colleagues what your salary is.”
Let them know you are thinking of them and if they want to talk, you are all ears, and simply listen without judgement.
DO NOT tell them how you are doing. DO NOT say “oh you are so strong.”
Ask them “how can I support you?”
At the end of the call, thank them for entrusting you with their story, and honor your commitment.
2) If you want to protest, that’s GREAT, and make sure you don’t perpetuate white supremacy while protesting. Follow Black leaders and do exactly what they tell you to do. Those closest to the problem are the leaders. THEY decide the tactics, not you.
Protests are meant to disrupt and confront power, NOT to be consumed as a photo op. I highly recommend watching this conversation with Ben McBride and Linda Sarsour about how to show up to protest as a white person. Sweetwater Nannauck facilitates workshops on “Decolonizing Our Activism” I highly recommend.
3) DO NOT write posts about how you are now awake.
I know that feeling, when I first realized how bad racism was, I started writing about it immediately. Right now is NOT the time to do this. Amplify Black activist’s voices instead. Read the Memo: What Women of Color Need to Know to Secure a Seat at the Table 2019 by Minda Harts. Or this article by Kharma Kelley on What it means to be a true ally to women of color? Post quotes from them- attribute them and encourage your followers to learn from them.
4) Build your analysis.
DO NOT ask Black people to educate you. Here are some good books & films to get started:
White Rage: The Unspoken Truth About Our Racial Divide- 2016- Dr. Carol Anderson
When They Call You a Terrorist: A Black Lives Matter Memoir- 2018- Patrisse Khan-Cullors and asha bandele
Biased: Uncovering the Hidden Prejudice That Shapes What We See, Think, and Do 2019 by Dr. Jennifer Eberhardt
How to be an Antiracist- 2019 Dr. Ibram Kendi
So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo
The New Jim Crow — 2010 — Michelle Alexander
Race: The Power of an Illusion — 2003 — by the California Newsreel
13th- 2016- by Ava Duvernay
When They See Us — 2019- By Ava Duvernay
King in the Wilderness 2018- by Kunhardt Film Foundation
3) Confront your racist family members.
White people are raised to believe conflict is bad and to avoid it. I highly recommend Dr. David Campt’s White Ally Toolkit to help you learn a constructive way to engage your racist family members. You may not convince them but your other family members, especially the younger ones, are watching and learning from you.
4) Understand the intergenerational trauma you are carrying, grieve, and process it, in the company of other white people.
Are you feeling guilty for feeling guilty when you feel like you should be empathizing with the people who are actually harmed by police brutality and racism-yet you still feel guilty?
You are 100% correct that it is NOT the time to center your feelings AND it is normal to feel these emotions. We are carrying intergenerational trauma. Metabolizing the trauma is not an intellectual exercise, it’s something we must feel in our bodies. I highly recommend reading
My Grandmother’s Hands: Racialized Trauma and the Pathway to Mending Our Hearts and Bodies — 2017 — by Resmaa Menakem, where he shares exercises you can do to heal. He has a free online course on his website.
Get in community with other white people, and process our grief and trauma together, so when we show up we come correct. Showing Up for Racial Justice is a great organization for this.
5) Stop sharing videos of police killing Black people.
It retraumatizes Black people- and desensitizes us all- to watch these videos. Instead learn about who victims of police brutality were as people. Artists including @broobs.psd on Instagram and @OreeOriginol on twitter create beautiful images of victims of police brutality. Share those, donate to their families, and keep their memories alive.
6) Educate yourself about the role of white people in maintaining systemic racism- and stop doing it.
Are you wondering “How is it possible that I am just now seeing systemic racism as a highly educated person?” The system is designed that way. The truth is we highly educated white people built this system and benefit from it every day. Learn more by reading these books:
Toxic Inequality by Thomas Shapiro
The Case for Reparations by Ta Nehisi Coates
Dream Hoarders by Richard V. Reeves
The Color of Law by Richard Rothstein
7) MOST IMPORTANT: know WHY you are engaged in this fight.
“If you have come here to help me you are wasting your time, but if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together.”― Lilla Watson
Black people are leading the fight for their liberation, and our liberation as white people is bound up in theirs. We are all traumatized by racism and we all need to heal. We are here to listen and support and follow and help in ANY WAY THEY ASK US TO.
Not to police or tell them what to do.
When we succeed, we will all be free.
Karen Fleshman Esq. she/her is a single soccer mom, mentor, activist, entrepreneur, attorney, author, educator, and proud San Franciscan. She is the founder of Racy Conversations, a workshop facilitation company, with a mission to inspire the antiracist generation. Her first book White Women We Need to Talk: Doing Our Part to End Racism, will be published by Sounds True in 2021 and is available for preorder here.