Starting the Anti-Racist Work
June 16, 2020
I’ve been wrong. Very wrong. I’ve made many mistakes in what I’ve said and haven’t said.
All the times I didn’t stop the racist jokes, but laughed uncomfortably to “fit in.”
All the times I saw “Black Lives Matter” and thought “But all lives matter! Unity for all!”
All the times I’ve been frustrated with a scholarship I wasn’t eligible apply for because I am not a minority.
All the times I have avoided tough conversations because it just “wasn’t worth the battle.”
All this has been for self-preservation, protection of my ego, and lack of understanding. All of this HAS to stop if I want to help the forward momentum towards social justice and equity.
Trust me, I know the world feels heavy and the Black Lives Matter movement may seem like “the straw that broke the camel’s back” in light of the current COVID-19 pandemic and quarantine. I know we are all itching for change. I can’t help but feel our time in isolation has given us the pause to increase awareness to our realities. It has given us time to get real on our values and propel us towards ACTION for lasting change.
Personally, I am committed to unpacking my personal experiences with racism and working towards being an anti-racist because I believe in social justice. This doesn’t mean that all the information out there isn’t overwhelming.
Yet, if you’re here, maybe you also want to understand. Let’s get to work together.
I don’t know where to start.
All this is so overwhelming – what resources should I use?
Black? African American? BIPOC? What’s right?!
I don’t know what to say. Everything I say ends up being wrong.
This is all so overwhelming.
I guess it’s easier to just stay silent.
If you’re White and have been blasting the above questions, comments, and narratives to Black women and men across the globe, PLEASE stop.*
The bodies, minds, and spirits of our Black neighbors are tired and they’re not here to guide us hand-in-hand through our white guilt and fragility. They’re not here to hold our hands and walk through the discomfort of unpacking our own privilege. This work is OURS to own.
*That being said, you may have Black friends, family members, or contact with Black activists who are open to this conversation, but they are NOT here to do the work for us. If we want Black lives to matter, we HAVE to understand our White experience. Perhaps opening the conversation with empathy is the way to start if you’re going to reach out. (Some suggestions of how to reach out can be found here.)
Think of it this way: When you want to try a new recipe, do you wait until Gordon Ramsay walks you through the process? (Okay, honestly, it’d be more like screaming in your ear through the process.) Do you ask him what to do every step of the way? Hey Gordon, what temperature do I preheat my oven to? Do you DM him, asking what to do when you over/undercooked your food?
Probably not, buuuuuut if you’re on a DM/phone call basis with Gordon Ramsay, I want to be your friend… haha.
Instead, you probably Google how to make a new recipe. For example, when I decided to try making eggs Benedict, I didn’t plea Guy Fieri to show me how. I found a recipe on Google, cooked it, and made really gross tasting Hollandaise sauce. I then researched a DIFFERENT recipe for Hollandaise, which I combined with the original recipe. I kept doing this until I found a combination that worked for me and tasted pretty darn good. (YES, Eggs Benny is 100% my favorite quarantine meal success.)
Even with finding the perfect combo, sometimes I still messed up. Over-poached my egg. Forgot about the English muffin in the oven. Error, error, error. Did I pretend I didn’t make these mistakes? Nope, and I ate them (almost) every time — burnt muffin and all.
Researching. Gathering information. Trying out the results. Finding new information. Refining the process.
THIS is what the process of becoming anti-racist should be: Trial, error, and trial again. More errors, more yuck, but more knowledge in the long run.
Maybe you’re like me. You would NEVER consider yourself racist! You have a Black friend/coworker (tokenism), have helped poor Black communities (white supremacy), and you don’t see color because “ALL lives matter” (color evasiveness and, spoiler alert, we’re not truly all equal).
Or maybe you’re not like me. Maybe you’re a person of color (POC). Maybe you’re Black and struggling with increased DM’s and questions from White people asking for a recipe for becoming anti-racist. Maybe you’re a Black activist who is overwhelmed with the amount of people finally waking up to the work you’ve been doing for 10+ years.
Or maybe you just can’t be bothered. You want to be neutral. It’s easier that way—you don’t have to be so aggressive and posting all the time to declare your side. You just want to be NOT racist (or, non-racist). Yet, the truth is: there’s NO NEUTRALITY when it comes to racism. You are either racist or anti-racist. In the words of Ibram X. Kendi:
Nonracists, historically, are people who defend policies that create racial inequity and express ideas of racial hierarchy. When those policies and ideas are challenged as racist, their response is, “I’m not racist.” An antiracist is someone who deliberately is confessing the racist ideas that have been nurtured within them while trying to be better, trying to be different, and trying to support policies that create equity.
Let’s be honest. Most of us have moments where we are racist. This is NOT about being perfect all the time. This is about recognizing when we are wrong. And then doing better next time.
How to Start
Sometimes, finding the “why” means starting the work. It means just a LITTLE research. Like Googling “How to make eggs Benedict” and watching a video by the Food Network. Instead, try Googling “Resources for becoming an anti-racist” or “white privilege” and see how much information is out there.
A mere two weeks ago, I was misusing “POC” to represent Black people for Black Lives Matter. Two weeks ago, I was saying “sorry” to the Black community for the “decades of injustice.” Two weeks ago, I didn’t know about mass incarceration. I didn’t understand microaggressions, white privilege, or white fragility.
And you know what? I STILL don’t understand it… fully. Part of starting is being compassionate with yourself. Recognizing you’re going to make mistakes. Owning this process and taking responsibility for your role in this movement is the BIGGEST way to start.
The process of accepting our white privilege and moving through the next steps is HARD and you’ll likely shed tears and feel icky/gut-wrenching discomfort, shame, and GUILT.
I love Ivirlei’s video on HOW to start the sticky, uncomfortable, but NECESSARY internal work:
View this post on Instagram
I’ve gotten a ton of messages from women who have decided they want to stand up and be allies. I’m hoping this video brings some clarity on how to do that. 🙏🏾 This was hard to film. As passionate as I am about sharing to create change and connecting, I had very little bandwidth today. But I know that these conversations are urgent. Send it to your friends if you are having trouble articulating. As black women, it is not our job to educate and carry the weight of anyone else’s guilt. Our load is full. It’s up to you to stand up become the go-to amongst your friends. No more fear of using your voice and truly leading!! This is where things change.✊🏾 #justiceforgeorgefloyd #ourlivesmatter #melanatedvoices #melanatedvoicesmustbeheard
- What have I ignored?
- What have I assumed?
- COMMIT to using your voice.
- Don’t be afraid to have hard conversations or call out racism.
- Don’t be QUIET and/or dismiss as ignorance.
As I’ve been finding my voice, I’ve also discovered conflicting views. #8can’twait or defund the police? Should I use POC or Black? Shit, shit, shit. I keep getting it wrong. Who do I listen to? What do I do? Everyone has mixed information!
Then… I realized… this narrative is in defense of my ego. I keep GETTING IT WRONG because I am NOT all-knowing. There is NOT a checklist or a handbook to make this work perfectly. I shouldn’t feel SHAME for getting it wrong. I should accept it and learn from it. I don’t deny the mistakes I have made and I also understand I’ll continue to make them. I also recognize there are different voices for the same issue and that’s okay, too!
When beginning the work towards being anti-racist, we must first recognize this is HARD work… but it’s necessary work if we want social justice (if you’ve read this far, you probably do… right?).
Our systems in the United States have been built to benefit those with white skin. Yes, we have all endured personal struggles and trauma. This movement is not to invalidate our personal experiences on earth, but rather to VALIDATE that having WHITE skin (rather than BLACK skin) gives us a huge advantage from the moment we are born. Oppression is written in the entire history of Blacks in America, from Slavery to the War on Drugs to Mass Incarceration. (etc,etc,etc,etc.)
Even outside the United States, white privilege is prevalent. YUUUUP, I’ve seen it.
P.S. This is white privilege explained in a digestible way (discovered via Dr. Tiffany Bowden @rootedgoddess):
View this post on Instagram
Do you have a relative that denies having white privilege? This video is for them. It’s meant to be a non confrontational explanation to help people be more open to understanding. Watch until the end before you comment ✌🏼 Thank you to my mom for inspiring this video – her change gives me much needed hope!! If she can change, anyone can change ❤️ (If you’re not from the US this video might be confusing to you. If you’re confused, please do some research of White Privilege and BLM before commenting).
External work also means having tough conversations with your family, friends, coworkers, neighbors. It means finding a way to ACT. It means continuing to learn. Expanding your knowledge. Resting when you’re tired. Listening to podcasts. Watching movies. Supporting local Black artists and businesses. Signing petitions. Sending emails. Donating to causes you feel invested in. DOING. THE. WORK.
Whatever it looks like for you, just keep moving forward.
My internal and external work has been primarily journaling and tapping into resources recommended by Black activists and individuals I follow on social media. Many family members, friends, and I have engaged in these discussions which has led to discovery of more resources. And more and more and more.
In effort to continue the momentum, I created a spreadsheet of all (most of) the information and resources I’ve gathered. I have most certainly NOT done everything in this spreadsheet, but organizing information was a critical step in my self-paced curriculum. If you know me at all outside of this pixelated screen, you know I am a ridiculously organized person. Basically, I kept sending myself emails, messages on Facebook, and saving things on Instagram until my brain literally felt like it was exploding and I had too much information everywhere… so I did this for my sanity and learning process. Also I like color coding and easy access to information.
I wanted to share my spreadsheet with you as a way to start (or interrupt lol) your own process. PLEASE, do with it as you wish. Delete and add as much as you want. Change the colors. Change the descriptions. Make it your OWN. Share it with your parents/siblings/coworker/significant other/dog/social media platform/pen pal.
The spreadsheet is organized into different categories for your anti-racism journey:
- Watch: movies, documentaries, Instagram TV/stories, videos.
- Read: books, articles, Instagram posts, research articles, PDFs.
- Listen: podcasts.
- Connect: to yourself and others.
- Act: (un)learning, building community, supporting.
- Lists & Courses: master lists of resources and paid memberships/courses.
Within each tab, the tables can be sorted based on the name of the resource, topic, duration (for watching/listening), etc. Just click the arrow next to the column you want to use to sort and select “Ascending” or “Descending” to organize the table in this way.
This spreadsheet is yours to keep and was last updated on Monday, June 15 at 09:00PM Pacific Standard Time. I will probably eventually send an updated spreadsheet as I discover more resources, but no promises (I don’t make any I can’t keep!).
Thank you for joining me in this journey towards being anti-racist. It’s a bold move and one that we’re best to take together in solidarity.
Then… learn more, ACT, and recognize this is a MOVEMENT, not a MOMENT.
Note: Cover photo was downloaded from the Black Lives Matter website here.
Thursday, July 22, 2021 @ 12:43 PM
First off I would like to say wonderful blog! I had a quick question that I’d like to ask if you don’t mind.
I was interested to know how you center yourself and clear your head before writing.
I have had a hard time clearing my thoughts in getting
my ideas out. I do enjoy writing however it just seems like the first 10 to 15
minutes tend to be lost just trying to figure out how to begin. Any suggestions or hints?
Monday, March 29, 2021 @ 3:01 PM
Such a nice calm relaxing blog