What Can White People Do About Racism?

Poster image by @allegrrad.

It’s been heartening to see more of us White people talking about race, sharing their outrage about racism, and asking, “What can I do about racism?” Here’s something we can do. Something that I’m learning (over and over) needs to come before – and remain at the centre of – all of the other anti-racism activities that we pursue.

Shining the light on White harmfulness

Whiteness and White supremacy will do anything to deflect from self-examination and public scrutiny. Focusing on Black pain is such a subtle and sneaky way to feel good about ourselves for being empathic, all the while distancing ourselves from looking at (and allowing others to see) the brokenness of Whiteness.

Focusing on and feeling outraged about Black pain can be a way to keep the idea that racism is something that other White people do. Those bad White people. Not us. And if it’s not us, then we don’t need to look at ourselves.

It’s us too though. And we need to look at ourselves.

We’ve all seen enough Black pain and death. Let’s focus on the White thinking and behaviour that is sustaining White harmfulness. This is how we change it.

Some things to think about …

  • In what ways am I paying attention to, and exploring my own socialisation into the idea that it’s better to be White?
  • What’s my relationship like with shame resilience? How am I working on developing a greater tolerance for shame? So that shame doesn’t derail my efforts to fully see my own racist thinking or behaviour and become more whole.
  • To what extent am I being humble and vulnerable, risking feeling deep shame, and letting my Black friends and family see my whole self – even the parts of me that are still needing to unlearn my socialisation into racism? So that the lies that underpin racism and seek to undermine Black people can be out in the open between us, for us all to look at.
  • Am I letting my White friends and family into my process of learning and unlearning? So that we can all stand against self-righteousness, stay humble, and scrutinise and deconstruct the lies of white supremacy. We have to do this if we’re going to gain deeper insights, and do less harm.