White People: “What can I do?”
In the midst of injustice, many ask “what can I do to help?” The answer to this is extremely personal and based on one’s intentions and circumstances.
Robin DiAngelo is author of the bestselling book “White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk about Racism.” She suggests we start by reconsidering the common definition of racism that refers to individual, conscious, intentional, malicious harm. With that definition most people would say they are not a part of racism.
Instead, she suggests this definition of racism (also referred to as systemic racism):
“Racism is what happens when you back one group’s racial bias with legal authority and institutional control. … When you back one group’s collective bias with that kind of power, it is transformed into a far-reaching system. It becomes the default. It’s automatic… It’s circulating 24/7, 365.”
Seek to understand racism
So, one thing you can do is seek to understand more about what racism really is. Here’s a place to start:
Katie Couric’s list of anti-racism resources (including for kids and teens)
Some concrete things you can do
- Donate to organizations with anti-racism missions
- Volunteer your time with those organizations
- Write letters to legislators
- Read/educate yourself
- Have conversations with others – talk about it (no more silence)
- Shop black-owned local or online businesses
Social justice resources:
Local organizations working for justice (from onmilwaukee.com)
Lake Country Unitarian Universalist Church Social Justice Resources
Black-owned businesses in metro-Milwaukee:
Milwaukee Magazine resource links
Former President Barack Obama said on NPR recently: “You look at these protests, and that was a far more representative cross section of America out on the streets, peacefully protesting,” he noted. “That didn’t exist back in the 1960s, that kind of broad coalition.”
There are people of all races and ages peacefully protesting, even kid-friendly events planned. Here are a couple links I found to local planned events:
BLM Google Doc List of Protests, Vigils and Events
Self-awareness and reflection
This is a very important thing we can all do – perhaps most important.
What implicit biases do you have? We all have them! That’s what our brains do. Whether or not you think you do, you do. Explore that, learn about yourself and your biases. Having biases doesn’t make you a bad person – it makes you a person.
It’s inevitable to have biases regarding race. It’s productive to look honestly at how you’ve been shaped by the system you were socialized into.
Guided 28-Day Workbook
Consider the workbook called “Me and White Supremacy,” a NY Times and USA Today bestseller. Based on the viral Instagram challenge that captivated participants worldwide, this workbook is a guide, complete with journal prompts, to the necessary and vital work that can ultimately lead to improving race relations.
“Me and White Supremacy” is so popular on Amazon that all you have to type into the search bar is “Me” and it pops up #1.
Guided 21-Day Racial Equity Habit Building Challenge
For 21 days, try this Racial Equity Habit Building Challenge and do one action per day to further your understanding of power, privilege, supremacy, oppression, and equity. This website includes links to everything you need, including suggestions for readings, podcasts, videos, and ways to form and deepen community connections.
Some self-reflection questions to start:
- How do you feel about being white?
- How do you feel about being white right now (at this time in history)?
- What does it mean to be white? How does it shape your life?
- When has racism benefitted you? When has it negatively affected you?
- When has it benefitted your parents? Your children?
- What did you parents tell you about race or people of color? What did they show by example?
- Did your parents have many friends of color? If so, where did they live? Did you visit those neighborhoods?
- If your schools were racially segregated, why didn’t you attend together?
- If this is because you lived in different neighborhoods, why did you?
- If you went to school together, did you all sit together in the cafeteria? Why or why not?
- Were the advanced placement classes equally racially integrated? Why or why not?
- Were your teachers of the same race as yours?
- What made a school good or bad?
- Who went to good schools? Who went to bad schools?
- Growing up, did you have friends of color? Why or why not?
- Do you have deep friendships with people of color now? Why or why not?
- What did it take for you to start asking yourself all these questions?
- Why are you asking them now?
- How will you stay committed to asking and answering them (and the additional questions that will naturally arise when you stay committed)?
Wherever you choose to start – THANK YOU!