Anti-Racism for White People

Joscelyn Kate

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As white people, we have a lot of work to do in regards to anti-racism, which is a new concept for many of us.

Anti-racism is about combatting the racism that exists, in all its form. Not just seeing it. It’s about acknowledging our privilege and then intentionally, actively, and thoroughly seeking to dismantle it.

Being anti-racist means we, as white people, must work diligently against the very institutions that have served and protected us.

Being white and having never experienced non-whiteness, anti-racism will likely be accompanied by feelings of complacency, overwhelm, or simply an inability to identify racism in all its forms and therefore no desire to try.

This is going to be an active and ongoing internal battle for all of us.

External Anti-Racism vs Internal Anti-Racism

Evolving, and changing, and making progress, silently will be difficult for white people. It’s hard to keep a declaration of betterment to yourself.

But victims of racism and casualties of white privilege do not need to hear that their oppressors are avowing change. Just like victims of abuse do not need to hear that their abusers are getting help.

As white people, we are not rescuing anyone and we need to stare that reality in the face. We are not doing good because we are doing better. We are doing what we need to, what is expected of us as humans who have taken gross advantage of other humans. Our progress is not to be celebrated. It is necessary and required.

The work that most of us need to do is going to be internal.

Regardless of where you are on the racism-realization and personal-accountability scale, the bulk of your work is going to be internal because we need to battle the very behavior that perpetuates racism culture.

In addition to being active advocates, we must be active participants in expanding and normalizing diversity.

External anti-racism is when you want to tell other people about your progress, realizations, or changed behaviors.

It’s natural for humans to want to be accepted and included. White people, especially, are going to struggle with exclusion from the conversation. It’s difficult to recognize your own fault or damaging behaviors and then not speak about your guilt or desire to change.

But when people talk about their guilt and shame, or when they express a desire to change, they’re sharing their emotional burden with whomever they speak.

Acknowledging that you’ve been a part of something oppressive and then attempting to apologize or prove your intentions, shifts the dynamic of the situation.

You then put the oppressed in a position to either alleviate your guilt with compassion or risk looking like an angry, unforgiving person by rejecting compassion and responding with indifference.

Racism and white privilege are not things erased with acknowledgment and promises of change.

Internal anti-racism is an effort and commitment to work on yourself and your own behaviors that exist away from society

Internal anti-racism is about taking personal accountability for the ways your behavior perpetuates white culture and racism culture.

In an effort to discontinue contributing to the invisible wheels of white supremacy, we have to make internal adjustments.

This, internal anti-racism, will take the most work because we’ll have to do things outside of our comfort zone.

Our actions have to be of genuine efforts, made in an intentional way, to help diversify our own lives and normalize non-whiteness in the same way we’ve normalized all-whiteness.

This is a Guide to Practicing Internal Anti-Racism

These are things you can do, in your home and in your mind, to dismantle white privilege and racism.

1. Read the Experiences of Black People

It’s a lot of emotional labor to help someone understand your pain. Don’t ask people to recount their experiences. Don’t bring up stories of when you were nice or anti-racist. Do not burden people who are not white with your questions and realizations.

There are many people who have chosen to share their experiences and perspectives. They have made the conscious choice to endure emotional labor on their own terms. Find those experiences and read them.

Seek out articles, social media posts, books, movies, etc. Continue seeking out resources, as a habit.

Don’t stop looking for accounts of real-life experiences after reading three stories or watching a couple of movies.

Your compassion and empathy will continue to evolve as you continue to see the far-reaching implications of racism and white privilege. Your humanity will continue to evolve. Your ability to identify with their pain and suffering, in some way, will grow.

2. Be Quiet

Seriously. Be so quiet. Avoid asking probing questions, avoid whataboutisms, recognize when you’re standing on a pedestal.

There are spaces where your inquiries and insights are asked for and welcomed. Do not make every space a place for you to express either your ignorance or knowledge. Doing so is furtherance of white privilege. Make sure you’ve been invited to express your thoughts before you do.

White voices do not need to dominate or even be a prominent part of racial discussions. We need to be listening-bystanders taking copious notes.

3. Step Outside of the White Bubble

If you’re white, you likely watch mostly white tv and white movies. Your social media feed is probably mostly white faces and white voices.

Make a point to watch tv shows and movies with black actors, and watch tv shows and movies produced and directed by black producers and directors.

Seek out the works of black creatives, not only to expose yourself to their work but also to give ratings and attention to their work.

Much of white privilege resides in the fact that white people give more attention to white creatives — in movies, music, tv shows, etc.

Black creatives are often passed over for recognition and awards due to ratings and exposure, which is specifically a result of white people choosing not to expose themselves to the work.

The inequality that exists within the entertainment industry is a result of white people’s preference for the domination of white culture.

The same is true for retail businesses, the hospitality industry, and so on.

Intentionally spending your time and money on the work black people have invested their time and money in is something you can do on an individual level to deconstruct white privilege and encourage equity and equality.

4. Follow Black Influencers

Include, not just black activists but black influencers and creators in your social feeds. If you follow mom bloggers, fishing experts, travel guides, or anyone at all for information and entertainment purposes, make sure your feed is diverse.

Seeing only white faces suggested in your feed normalizes and promotes seeing only white faces. If you already see only white people, it’s likely that is all that’s being suggested to you due to “algorithms.” Make an effort to find people you can connect with who are not white.

It may feel comfortable for you, as a white person, to identify with other white bloggers or influencers or entertainers, but know, that it shouldn’t. You should be able to identify with other humans regardless of race. That is going to take some work on your part.

We’ve been conditioned to identify more easily with white people (a result of being surrounded by white faces in our white bubble). It will take intentional work to dismantle the filter that controls our empathy circle, and reserves it for white people.

We must seek out ways to identify with people, not because they are white but because they’re a human.

The ways we feel disconnected to black people are not inherent or inevitable, they’re intentional and facilitated by white culture, white privilege, and white supremacy.

5. Attempt to Validate Rather than Discredit

When you hear about the experiences of black people, try to validate their position first. In your own mind.

Look for evidence that what they’ve experienced does happen, in other ways. Commit to believing their account as true and prove it to be right, for your own understanding.

Don’t discredit experiences either vocally or internally by looking for evidence that conflicts with their account.

For example, just because you are white and your boss is black, doesn’t mean workplace inequality doesn’t exist in your place of employment. Do not try to equalize or simplify deep-seated racism through personal anecdotes.

If you’re unable to validate or relate to an experience, keep trying. That just means you haven’t done enough work yet.

6. Acknowledge the Thoughts in Your Head

I previously shared my decision to approach a situation as if I’m being racist first. Rather than attempting to defend myself out of experiencing life outside the white bubble, I’ve decided to really evaluate why I make the decisions I make.

When I’m looking for health and wellness influencers on IG, why do I scroll past the profile of a black person? They may have been the 100th profile I scrolled past, but I’d probably have a different reason for not following each one if asked specifically. So I need to ask myself, was it racism first? Was it a preference for white faces first?

I need to be honest about why I am not following as many black influencers as I am white influencers. I need to really ask myself and wait for the response. Otherwise, I’m protecting myself from discovering and correcting my own prejudices.

Anti-racism is Going to be Hard Work

We’ve done a lot of damage. Change will not be painless for white people, nor should it be. It will not be comfortable, nor should it be.

Anti-racism will be an internal and individual battle, one that each of us must undertake over and over again.

Correcting conditioned behavior will be mostly about intentional self-discovery. It will take criticism and critiquing of your own behaviors and the behaviors of those who you allow to surround you.

You’re going to have to put on a new thinking cap. We all have to start ferociously searching for racism, and white privilege, in our every day lives.

For too long, we’ve normalized certain realities, and discovering the world outside of those realities is going to be awkward. You will have the urge to defend or seek out certain facts or instances that can alleviate the guilt or offense you may feel. Don’t.

Anti-racism is going to be hard work. Don’t try to make it easier, don’t try to make it more comfortable. It’s not about you or your intent.

Impact is Greater than Intent

Anti-racism is about the impact your actions have on combatting unfair, unfounded, hurtful, and deadly practices.

Your intent to understand, your intent to listen, your intent to not be racist is not enough.

What you must monitor—in order to be a productive, proactive, and helpful ally, and to be truly non- and anti-racist—is your impact.

Are your actions having an impact in any way? Are you taking personal responsibility and exercising personal accountability in a mindful, private, and quiet way?

Sharing memes and stories, speaking up to family members, speaking up to coworkers, acknowledging your own complicity Is. Not. Enough. That is simply external anti-racism.

You must also turn inward, dissect the reality in which you live, and as often as possible, ask yourself why? Why does my reality look so white? What do I do to contribute to my own white bubble?

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Lover of lattes, champagne, avocados, sleep, and my perfect family. The epitome of a liberal millennial snowflake.

Boston, MA
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