By Valerie Rice | February 2, 2021
Welcome to Black History Month, the shortest month of the year, and a time you are likely to hear a very watered down version of successful people of color. I admit that I feel positively slimy writing anything at all, being an incredibly pale white person, but I will address the white person side. Every single white person benefits from white privilege. Every. Single. One. This statement, which we hear often enough, leaves out the most important part. Everyone who is not white is oppressed bu white privilege. EVERY. SINGLE. ONE. While you may think that your individual behavior is not racist, your very concept of reality is. So, my darling white followers who desperately want to be allies, let’s look deep and shift our paradigms together. Instead of an intense and overwhelming examination of whiteness, let’s just look at a few things we should avoid.
I DON’T SEE COLOR
First of all, yes you do. What you are actually saying is that you ignore color. Ignoring color is a very privileged position to take. Race has always been the defining issue of status in our country, more so than money, and we need to acknowledge that. Race is what creates barriers for people that you, as a white person, never have to face and probably have a hard time believing exist. We absolutely must acknowledge that race is the center of our societal sickness before we can make positive change. So please, stop trying to ignore the problem. It is a difficult thing to do but Ibelieve everyone is capable of doing it.
BUT I AM NOT RACIST
Oh honey, you probably are. And you probably have no idea. In your excitement to overcome your whiteness, you may even have fetishized and appropriated other cultures because it is all you know how to do. Nobody said it was your fault, just that it is your responsibility to educate yourself and learn a new way of thinking. Hey, we all do it. I was raised in a very white, republican, christian community. Tearing free of racist thought was hard, is still hard, and the training of my youth still rears its head. For example: I will catch myself over analyzing actions around people of color to try and avoid microaggressions and end up freezing and doing nothing because I don’t know how to act. For me, being around any person of color was not in my formative experiences and I had no idea. It rarely happens, but the important thing to do is acknowledge it and work to improve our early training.
TRUSTING YOUR EDUCATION
Not to be “that girl,” but everything you were taught in schools was wrong. It was written by an old white man, most likely,, and therefore takes no consideration for racial perspective and reality. Oh! A quote, if you please! “History is written by the victors.” A statement most often misattributed to Winston Churchill, but he was also quoting. Someone. We aren’t sure who. I will leave the validity of this statement up to the philosophers, but it does seem to have merit. Instead of trusting your educators and whichever white person is about to smilingly vomit a 5 second factoid about Kamala Harris at you, I found a reading list. This list was put together without white opinion, and is hella good. My personal favorite is White Fragility, so I think you should start with that one.
GET OUT OF THE WAY
This ain’t about you, so step down. During an event, like a rally, you may show up to be an ally and end up making things worse. What that means is that white people have a tendency to try and control every situation. You may be overcompensating for your shame and rushing to help, but what you are really doing is aggressively trying to take away the power of the people who have been oppressed for all of time. So ask what you can do to help, follow direction, and support. Don’t think the stinky irony of me, a white person, telling other white people what to do to support black people, is lost on me. I despise needing to use my whiteness but it is all I got.
Okay, we are about to careening down the intense roller coaster of my white identity, and I don’t think y’all can handle it. So let’s stop there. If I had one wish for today it would be that we could all acknowledge the intergenerational trauma caused by systemic racism and start to dismantle it. I wish I could tell you that it will be easy, but this is going to suck. Change is always painful, just like childbirth, but we need to tear down everything we think is normal and recreate a society where words like “equity” and “unity” have tangible meaning. This is the only way to really improve the wellness of our communities.