Following the recent events in Charlottesville, Virginia, Lady Gaga was moved to ask what she and other “good” White people could do to help rid the country of racism.
For the Black Community, tell us ways the non-racist white community who loves u can do better to help influence the country? #HowWeDoBetter
— xoxo, Gaga (@ladygaga) August 15, 2017
As expected, Gaga received a lot of praise for her question and an equal amount of criticism. The praise will be obvious to most reading this. With good intentions, a White celebrity asked for help. The criticism, however, may be confusing to some, but is it well-earned?
Racism/White supremacy is a 400 year old problem in America. It is a problem that was deliberately created and one that has a solution. Where Black people tire of questions like Gaga’s, though, is because White folk have a tendency to be apathetic and even downright lazy when it comes to finding those solutions. Even the most well-meaning will ignore the problem until an event like the one in Virginia happens. And, even then, they will ride the bandwagon for a few weeks, but then allow the issue to slide onto the backburner until something terrible happens again. Scores of “good” White people have taken an on-again-off-again approach to racism for centuries.
And then there are those who want someone to hold their hand and tell them what to do. It’s understandable that a privileged class may not immediately recognize White supremacy (rarely have they had to) and that they may not know how to address it when at first they do. White people are an intelligent, compassionate, resourceful and powerful group, though. If White people can organize to save whales, abused animals and the rainforest, they should be able to come up with ways to influence the country to abandon White supremacy.
This site exists as one willing to give you actionable steps, but you still can’t expect anyone to do the heavy-lifting for you. It is up to you to share what you know with your inner circles and it is up to you to organize your own communities. Stop sitting on the sidelines waiting for someone to tell you what to do next. Figure it out for yourself and take action!
Here’s a Little Advice to Get You Started
Don’t view yourself as separate from the problem. You are, in fact, part of the problem and here’s why:
Now some of these points may apply to you and others may not. The very first one, however, applies to all White people regardless of your level of activism. Just by identifying as a White person, you had privilege thrust upon you, which meant someone else was at a disadvantage. As an average White person, you have always been considered by mainstream society as better, more attractive, of sturdier character, smarter, more civilized, more human , more American and more deserving of respect than the average Black person. Again, you didn’t ask for it, but you got that privilege anyway. By going along with that system (even when you didn’t realize that you were), you were contributing to its strength, longevity and validity.
Luckily, you’re waking up now. While you still have privilege… and don’t worry, you will have it for a long time to come… here’s a quick list of DOs and DON’Ts to help you speak out against racism and work toward dismantling White supremacy:
1. Refuse to remain blind to the system. Read books on history, White supremacy, racism and Black people’s struggles. Subscribe to Black magazines, read Black fiction, watch Black television programs and movies. Really tune into what Black people are talking about, thinking and feeling. Watch documentaries, films and video content devoted to educating you on White supremacy. In short, make it your mission in life to understand this system and what it has done and begin to devise ways to stop it.
2. Engage with Black people. Resist the urge to try to show off what you already know or to tell Black people what they need to do. Also resist the urge to make the conversation about your feelings, your stress or “your” anything. Your purpose in engaging with Black people should always be to listen to what they know and feel and learn how you might be able to help.
3. When you find yourself being treated better than a Black person in daily life, say something. This is where your privilege is of use. While a Black person may be seen as angry or a complainer if they speak up, your voice may be treated with more value and respect. Listen to this story where one White-passing woman did exactly that:
4. Don’t be silent about the system or your attacks on it. Your friends and family members may not want to hear you talk about racism/White supremacy; talk about it anyway. Your colleagues may be uncomfortable with the ways in which you address the system; address it anyway. Be willing to place yourself in uncomfortable and risky positions for the sake of doing what is right for humanity. Adopt an “all-in” attitude when it comes to dismantling the system and don’t look back. If it means severing ties with people (or them severing ties with you) be accepting of this. Remember that White people’s silence about the system is what has allowed it to thrive, thus far.
5. Don’t look to Black people to teach you or give you instructions on dismantling White supremacy. They have enough to worry about without having to take you under their wing for specialized training.
6. Don’t return to business as usual. It’s unlikely that racial tensions will die down anytime soon, especially now that White supremacists feel so emboldened by our current political climate. But even when you have the opportunity to return to your daily life as though racism and White supremacy do not exist, don’t! See, ignoring the problem is something you’re privileged in doing, but Black people can never be so lucky as to be able to look the other way. Reject your privilege in this instance and keep your nose to the grind fighting racism whenever and wherever it exists.
7. Form racism awareness groups in your community. Even if you live in a diverse community, it is important to come together around the central issue of racism/White supremacy and engage with others in the fight. If you don’t live in a diverse community, it is ESPECIALLY important that you form one of these groups right away. Start with friends and family, reach out to your neighbors and co-workers, and spread the word about the group whenever you can. Meet regularly to share what you are learning and to talk about your experiences in this space. Building or belonging to a tribe of like-minded individuals will help stretch you beyond your perceived limitations and help you devise ways to successfully take the system of White supremacy down.
8. Invite outside lecturers to speak in your community. Debby Irving, Jacqueline Battalora, Robin DiAngelo, Richard Rothstein, Tim Wise, Chris Crass and others are available to come to your town to speak directly to your community. Invite them and help the people around you (and yourself) learn more about this problem of White supremacy and how everyone can be involved in putting it to rest once and forever.
9. Join Black groups that are focused on racial justice. This, of course, in addition to the advice given above about groups with other White people in your community. The goal here is to gain more perspective and absorb ways of approaching activism that may be different from your own. While you’re not expecting Black people to teach you how to combat racial injustice, when you join a group like this education just comes with the territory. Where might you find such a group? Facebook and social media is a good place to start. You may also want to find a Meetup group either in your community or in a neighboring area. Commit to regular attendance and remember to listen more than you speak. You are there as an observer and to lend a hand where you can, not to take over!
10. Create platforms to share what you know and what you are doing about White supremacy. Can you write? Then start a blog or a newsletter detailing your progress. Can you create video content? Interview other activists and talk about what they’re doing to combat racism. Do you enjoy public speaking? Arrange time to speak to your church, your co-workers and others about what you’re doing and invite them to get involved. Whatever your special skills, interests and talents are, use them to further your reach. Doing so will also help other people develop ideas about how they can be involved.
11. Don’t see racism as a “Black” problem. Black people are victimized by racism, yes, but it is White people who have been sold a big fat lie. It is White people who suffer from its pathology. Every privilege has come with a cost. A cost that has separated you from living in unity with or even in close proximity to your fellow citizens. A cost that has caused others to dislike and mistrust you based on the system favoring you over them. A cost that has caused America to miss the opportunity to be as great as it can be. Imagine if ALL of our citizens received the same access to education, to career advancement, to technology, to health care and more? Imagine the strong nation we’d actually be if all of our citizens were allowed to be all that they can be? Racism isn’t just a Black problem. It is a White problem and it is an even greater American problem!
12. Don’t try to distance your individual whiteness from the problem. Greater activists and educators than yourself have admitted that as long as they are still seen by society as White, they are a part of the problem. There is no need to use statements like “not all White people” or “I’m not like that” or “I’ve grown past that”. Possessing whiteness is similar to being a recovering alcoholic or addict. It behooves you to never think you are beyond White supremacy or that you will ever be totally free from its indoctrination. Be okay with this and instead of grabbing the spotlight to explain how you’re different, stay humble and evaluate yourself daily for any biases or practices you may still hold, even subconsciously.
13. Do not succumb to White guilt, White tears or White anxiety… especially while in the company of Black people or in race-related conversations. When people have to stop to take inventory of your feelings and your discomfort, then the focus goes from the problem to you. This is White supremacy in action. It’s not about you! It’s about a system that needs to be confronted and taken apart piece by piece. No matter how angry, helpless, vulnerable or stressed you may feel at any given time, get over yourself and stay in the work. Cry alone or in the company of understanding friends if you have to, but while engaging in the battle, there is no room for your feelings.
14. Stand in solidarity with Black people. When you find businesses that aren’t friendly to Black people, avoid them in solidarity. When you find media programming that is not considerate to the plight of Black people, change the channel. Whenever and wherever you find Black people unwelcome, ignored, belittled or just receiving the short end of the stick, adjust how you interact with the company or brand at the other end of that stick to show your solidarity with Black people.
15. Lead by example! Everyone has a sphere of influence, make sure YOURS sees you taking action. Talk to your children about what you’re doing and why. If they’re of age, take them with you to meetings or share resources with them. As a leader, be mindful of the example that you are passing on to younger White people.
16. Speaking of children, some school textbooks have come under fire for the revisionist, White-centered ways they are delivering history lessons to students. Others are not revising history, but they are glossing over key factors that are very relevant to today’s racial and social landscapes. In his book, The Color of Law, Richard Rothstein tells of reviewing multiple textbooks while writing his book and that all but one completely omitted stories of Northern segregation. In the one that did mention the terrible practice that the federal government imposed on Northern states, the book merely glossed over the details with a single sentence. Your job, then, is to monitor the books that your school district is using to teach the children in your community. If they are offering inaccurate, incomplete or racially-biased accounts of history, then people must mobilize to have these books removed and replaced by better ones. As a taxpaying citizen and, for many of you, as a parent, it is on YOU to organize your communities and make sure that the truth is being taught to America’s children.
17. Do not allow Black people’s resistance to YOU cause you to run or hide. Listen, a lot of Black people are going to be happy that you’re finally waking up and taking a stand against White supremacy. Some, however, have seen it all before and are tired of White people who are here today and gone when it matters. Others have just had their fill of White people, period. All things considered, who can blame them? They’ve been bearing the burden alone or with minimal outside help for 400 years. So, be prepared for some backlash. Be prepared to be ridiculed by some Black people and ignored by others. For those who are willing to check you when you have crossed a line or done something inappropriate, don’t become defensive or argumentative. Humble yourself, listen, self-correct if needed, but keep going! Every White racial justice activist before you has made mistakes, but the most effective ones haven’t given up on themselves at the first sign of error. Don’t you give up either! Black people do not owe you any respect for what you are doing. What you are attempting will definitely benefit them, but you are not doing it for them, you are doing it for yourself and because it is the right, just and moral thing to do. Remember, you should have been doing this all along… racism and White supremacy IS a White problem, after all. You may be nervous, you may be afraid of making mistakes, but take all of that energy and go do something positive with it, instead.
Sincere comments, questions and concerns are welcome below. Argumentative, rude or disrespectful comments are strictly moderated and will not be published here, so please save yourself the time. For the rest of you, the floor is now yours so please comment away.
Oh and if you REALLY want to influence the country, share this post with everyone you know right now!