Understanding Race, Racism, and White Supremacy as a White Person.
This is yet another post to not only my fellow white people but to myself as well. As white people, we need to not only acknowledge the history and context of white supremacy and racism within the US that puts us into a position of power but also start to actively destroy the current system and status quo. Acknowledging racism and tearing down the system of white supremacy as white people will be uncomfortable at times but it is completely necessary. Dr. Robin DiAngelo wrote about why it’s so hard to talk to white people about race, highlighting in the beginning that:
Social scientists understand racism as a multidimensional and highly adaptive system — a system that ensures an unequal distribution of resources between racial groups. Because whites built and dominate all significant institutions, (often at the expense of and on the uncompensated labor of other groups), their interests are embedded in the foundation of U.S. society. While individual whites may be against racism, they still benefit from the distribution of resources controlled by their group.
I wrote recently about some starting points for myself and other white people, in which I included the PBS production Race – The Power of Illusion. The reason I’ve referenced this twice now over a short span of time is because of the impact the production had on my own understanding of race and racism. PBS has a plethora of online resources to read but everything I’ve found about the actual video seems to indicate that you’d have to order the video straight from PBS in order to see it all. If you ever do get the chance to watch the film, I definitely recommend it.
And it’s important to keep in mind that the way in which we as white people experience the world is completely different than people of color. Maisha Z. Johnson wrote up a list of examples that prove that white privilege protects white people from the police, highlighting the fact that racial profiling and implicit biases impact how police interact with people of color and many other factors.
Nikole Hannah-Jones wrote a letter from Black America about the relationship that many black Americans have with police. Jezebel Delilah X also wrote about four reasons why the US police forces is an extension of slavery and white supremacy. And The Guardian points out that black Americans are significantly more likely to be unarmed when killed by the police than white Americans and people of color are proportionally more likely to be killed by police overall.
There’s also this belief for many white people that the US is a post racial society after the Civil Rights Act was signed in 1964. (Like, for example, the success of some means racism is over.) But Braden Goyette and Alissa Scheller came up with 15 charts and stats that prove that we are far from a post racial society. (One in which is to the left.) Crystal Fleming wrote a piece talking about white supremacy and the killing of Walter Scott, particularly highlighting:
Black precedent reveals that a black president is not enough to halt the onslaught of anti-black violence that has always been routine in our nation. What we continue to need is sustained multiracial activism and political engagement to bring about a more just and compassionate society — the kind of grassroots work being done by organizers and activists pushing for police reform in Ferguson, New York, Cleveland and across the country.
Also reverse racism (racism to white people) is not a thing. Dain Dillingham wrote an article with 5 questions for anyone who thinks they are a victim of ‘reverse racism’. Racism, simply put, is a systemic power + prejudice, something that only white people have within the US.
Lastly, there are a few more articles I wanted to include – most having to do with what we can do as white people. Jamie Utt wrote last November about how Ferguson calls on white people to regain our humanity. Utt also wrote another article about a month ago about how as white people, a big way to end racism is to invest in other white people. This, of course, sounds like the wrong way to go but Utt wrote that:
…the more that I think about it, I realize that White people who wish to work in racial justice solidarity and who strive for allyship need to realize our fundamental responsibility to do more than simply “call out” other White people.
We must take up the long, difficult, often emotionally-exhausting work of calling them in to change.
SpectraSpeaks wrote something similar long before Utt did though – calling for white allies to stop unfriending other white people over Ferguson. Spectra wrote that as an afrofeminist Nigerian advocate, she was not able to do the same things that we as white people are. She particularly calls on white people to step up more, saying:
I need you to step up in a major way, and leverage the connections you DO have to address ignorance with conversation and interrogate white privilege with compassion. Because I will not do this. I cannot do this.
My rage as a black person witnessing yet another moment in the endless cycle of racism in the US prevents me from engaging in “level headed” conversations with people who see this terribly unjust Ferguson ruling as just another news story to banter about at the water cooler.