Building Collective Liberation: Tools for White People
I have spent the past week thinking, processing, and reflecting. I don't have much to say that hasn't already been said by people who are smarter, more qualified, and more experienced than me. To listen to those people, you can check out my previous post for a sampling of voices on white supremacy and what went down in Charlottesville last weekend.
What we have heard from Black/indigenous/people of color, overwhelmingly, is that we white people need to sort our shit out. We do. But that's hard to do in the midst of the 24-hour news cycle, massive Twittersphere, and frenzy of white people rushing to abdicate responsibility for white supremacy. Terrorists perpetrated more terror in Spain yesterday, specifically in Barcelona; these constant assaults on our consciousness make it difficult to find the psychological space and energy to do the internal work necessary to dismantle white supremacy. To that end, I want to create a space for you, and for me, to understand ourselves better. We cannot expect the world to change if we do not first change ourselves. So, I have created an extensive (but by no means comprehensive) list of articles, essays, and videos that have helped me face my own racism and work to destroy it. The process of delving into our internalized white supremacy is painful but necessary, and, when done right, ultimately fulfilling.
I have organized the resources in rough order from least to most challenging, so that you can ease into the process if you wish. Each item is accompanied by an excerpted quote to give you a basic understanding of the message. Use these to select which resources you want to watch/read, not as a substitute summary to skim through. Trust me - this reflection requires slow, thoughtful, and thorough education. Remember that by investing in this process, you are investing in our collective liberation. None of us is free until we're all free.
And finally, I encourage you to seek support from other white people as you engage in this work. Whiteness as an identity and a system is profoundly isolating, and white supremacy requires us to reject community and interdependence in order to maintain our dominance. The best way to combat that is to seek out safe spaces and conversations with white people in your life or other white folks near you who are also showing up for racial justice. I believe in you, and I say this with the utmost sincerity. We can do it, because we have to.
Books: Killing Rage by bell hooks, Black Girl Dangerous by Mia McKenzie, The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander, The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas, You Can't Touch My Hair by Phoebe Robinson, Citizen by Claudia Rankine
Films: 13th directed by Ava DuVernay and I Am Not Your Negro directed by Raoul Peck
Podcasts: By Any Means Necessary (hosted by DC-area organizer Eugene Puryear!), Another Round, Codeswitch, Identity Politics, See Something Say Something, Still Processing, Politically Re-Active, Sooo Many White Guys
YouTubers: Sensei Aishitemasu, Kat Blaque, Chescaleigh Ramsey, A Privileged Vegan
Now, ready for the resources you can start reading/watching right now? Let's go.
ARTICLES AND VIDEOS
Most white folks aren't ready to organize by Erynn Brook: "It didn’t take long to discover that a lot of white folks just aren’t ready to show up. They’re missing some really basic listening and communication skills that are essential to solidarity. They’re missing the critical analytical skills to see systemic racism, micro-aggressions or switches in coded speech. In short: white folks need a lot of education when it comes to racial justice."
Self defense is not violence by @williamcson: "Ask yourself if or when white supremacists decide to attack you, are you prepared to stop them or are you ready to let them kill you."
White Supremacy and Islamophobia Live Everywhere, Including Liberal Communities by Aja Barber: "When will white liberals take the reigns in the fight against white supremacy? When will they stop looking the other way? When will they realize it’s up to them to dismantle white supremacy and not the burden for people of color to bear?"
PSA: It's Everywhere (video) by Sensei Aishitemasu: "The funny thing is once you start removing some of this stuff you realize how PERVASIVE it really is. And now you have people stepping back and seeing the bigger picture of the fact that this is literally what our country is, and what it was founded on. It's racism. It's white supremacy. It's bone deep. All of what we've honored has been some racist shit."
Hey, White Allies? It's Game Time. by Clarkisha Kent: "Look, y’all, if you are about this life and are ready to take down white supremacy, the first step to doing that is decentering yourself. You and your fee-fees should not outweigh the plights of marginalized peoples. And it does not matter how shocked you are at something like #Charlottesville or how it makes you 'very, very sad' — what matters are the lives that are at stake and that need to be protected."
How to Tell the Difference Between Real Solidarity and 'Ally Theater' by Mia McKenzie: "If you’re a white and/or straight and/or cis and/or abled, etc. person trying to be in solidarity with oppressed people: before you jump up to perform 'allyship' ask yourself, 'is what I’m about to say or do in any way beneficial to the person I’m about to say or do it to? If so, how?' If you can’t come up with a good answer, it’s likely just ally theater. Please back away from the stage.”
Is it white shame? by Alexis Shotwell: "White shame is realizing that we are implicated in and benefit from the harm being done to other people, right now."
For White Friends Using Social Media and Not Responding to Charlottesville by Beth Godbee: "As I’ve watched white friends posting updates of cute animals and kids, of beautiful sunsets and delicious food, I’ve felt disconnected. I’ve felt betrayed."
White Supremacy Culture by Kenneth Jones and Tema Okun: "This is a list of characteristics of white supremacy culture which show up in our organizations. Culture is powerful precisely because it is so present and at the same time so very difficult to name or identify. The characteristics listed below are damaging because they are used as norms and standards without being pro-actively named or chosen by the group."
PSA: #YesAllWhitePeople (video) by Sensei Aishitemasu: "Yes, all white people are racist."
How white people can stop Black death #StopKillingForUs by Taj James: "White friends and family, I think we are better off without the police. I think we might be safer, happier, healthier if there were no police."
What To Do Instead of Calling the Police, collective resource: "We start by shifting our perspective. We start by learning about the racist history of the police. We start by saying, an alternative to this system should exist. We start by pausing before we dial 911. We start by making different choices where we can. We start by getting to know our neighbors and asking them to be a part of this process."
Heather Heyer and the white "allies" who have "done more" than us for our own liberation by Hari Ziyad: "My grandmother did not get her life immortalized in The New York Times. My grandmother’s final battlefield wasn’t one fateful day on a road in Virginia, but 81 fateful years in Alabama, Texas, Ohio—ain’t that the most spectacular death? Ain’t that a death that is unimaginable?"
White People Have No Place in Black Liberation by Kevin Rigby Jr. and Hari Ziyad: "The dilemma of what white people should do to address racism has the same exhausting function of racism, because this dilemma is racism. Because for white people “to do” anything means that whiteness must be centered in a way that would perpetuate its oppressive essentiality."
If you've made it this far, thank you. That last piece was a tough one, wasn't it? Let it percolate for a while. I got in my feelings real quick the first time I read it, but it's so important. I'll leave you with something uplifting that one of my clients said to me this week. We were chatting as I helped him complete an application, and he asked about my astrological sign (Pisces). Being an astrology junkie, I got excited and told him that I love anything to do with the stars. He said,
"Me too. The stars remind us we can dream."
I'm dreaming of collective liberation. Let's make it happen.