“In speaking as a white person to a primarily white audience, I am yet again centering white people and the white voice. I have not found a way around this dilemma, for as an insider I can speak to the white experience in ways that may be harder to deny. So, though I am centering the white voice, I am also using my insider status to challenge racism. To not use my position this way is to uphold racism, and the is unacceptable. It is a “both/and” that I must live with. I would never suggest that mine is the only voice that should be heard, only that it is one of the many pieces needed to solve the overall puzzle.” – Robin DiAngelo, White Fragility
This may be silly to share for the world to see, but for a good percentage of my life I believed that Nazis, white supremacists, and hate-fueled racists were nothing but a history lesson. I would look at their old pictures in my textbooks and view them as something long extinct, nothing but another dodo bird or dinosaur stuck in time.
I never admitted this to anybody out loud, but for some reason I always assumed that the moment Germany surrendered during WWII the Nazi’s hearts grew three sizes like The Grinch on Christmas Day and all their hate spontaneosuly disappeared. I thought following MLK’s “I Have A Dream” speech and the end of segregation, everybody joined hands and sang “Kumbaya” and decided to live in equality and peace.
I know what you are thinking, what an extremely childish and ignorant way to perceive things. I agree.
But the reality is that my unspoken idea of America’s racial climate was never really challenged for many, many years. I grew up in a very sheltered, VERY white, small town with limited diversity and hardships. Although my mother was half-Japanese and my father was Jewish, we never did much to discuss racial tensions in the world. They focused more heavily on teaching me to treat everybody I met with respect – that we are all equal. The people I personally surrounded myself with never spoke with hate. And while social media and online platforms were gaining popularity back when I was in high school, I much preferred busying myself by watching Smosh videos on YouTube and posting silly stickers on my friend’s Facebook feeds over exploring outside of my little bubble of comfort.
Based on what I was exposed to and how I saw the world, it was easy to wholeheartedly believe whatever those right-leaning news anchors on my TV told me… because in comparison to my everyday life, this genuinely appeared to be the truth. I had no reason to question it.
But imagine how surprising it was to move away from my town, become more educated and cultured, and discover that these problematic people from my history books not only still existed, but were actually all around me.
It was eye-opening to realize that these monsters who I had studied so intently in my history classes didn’t always hold themselves in such a obvious, loud, gaped-mouth manner as those old pictures in my textbooks; sometimes their acts of hate were more subtle or whispered behind closed doors. Sometimes that hate was never expressed passionately, but was made clear via a snide status on social media or a backhanded comment that had gone right over my head.
Perhaps this shock was all just due to me actively choosing to stay ignorant because I was young, naive, in denial, and never felt pressured to look at things through a clearer lens. Nonetheless, after leaving my town I discovered that, contrary to what I had believed, those hateful faces were not extinct… instead they could be anyone… your neighbors, classmates, teachers, elders, preachers, coaches, bosses, coworkers, and sometimes even your own family.
Can you believe how severe my amount of privilege had been? To be so sheltered that I was not only able to disassociate myself from the topic of racism for so long, but that I had the audacity to ignorantly believe Black inequality in America was nothing but a dusty, outdated history lesson solved long ago?
Regardless, I quickly discovered that racism is absolutely real and still thriving.
But I was still ok, right? I always treated Black people and POC as my equals. I never treated somebody as a lesser being based on the color of their skin. I had POC friends and family members. I judged people who hung Confederate flags on their lifted trucks. There was no way I was a racist.
But here’s the thing I have learned from the countless educational resources that the Black community has provided me with – racism is not one size fits all. It comes in all shapes and forms.
Imagine how much more surprised I was to discover that very contrary to the “morally good” person I thought I was, I have actually expressed several racist tendencies and behaviors throughout my life. That even though I always believed that I checked out as an ally, my own racial microagressions and implicit biases have actually played a role in harming Black people and other POC just as much as blatant, outward racists. I have done more harm than good.
I have made a joke based on racial stereotypes. I have silently judged a POC friend when they acted different than me because they were embracing their culture. I have stayed silent when I heard somebody else say something critical behind closed doors. I have caught myself holding the strap of my purse even just a SMIDGE tighter when I passed a Black man on the street. I have been more likely to gravitate towards “white-washed” Black women on social media. I have used the term “African American” over “Black” because I thought it was “offensive”. I have avoided unfollowing celebrities/influencers who were exposed to be problematic purely out of entertainment and curiosity over what they will say/do next. Hell, I have even written what I am sharing with you now 4 different times, constantly re-reading and editing in fear that I may have said something wrong or that I will be called out – focusing more on coming across as a “perfect re-educated ally” than the issue I am trying to convey itself.
As a white person, I have always been so scared to be told something I have done or said is racist, or that I need to check my privilege, or that I have implicit bias. But after TRULY educating myself, I genuinely believe that I and fellow non-Black people need to start holding ourselves more accountable and take off our blinders.
Just because you aren’t running around screaming slurs with a MAGA hat on, doesn’t mean you are in the clear. Being called out or admitting to your own implicit biases will not forever brand you as a horrible person (*of course, it definitely will if you are blatantly being an unequivocally horrendous racist person). It is a NECESSARY first step in combating and eliminating racism in our country today. We as non-Black people need to stop all this rainbows and butterflies and Kumbaya bullshit. Posting a black square and saying you are “so heartbroken” doesn’t make you an activist or ally. You know what does? Not being too proud or stubborn to realize and admit that by simply being raised in our society WE are a massive part of the problem. Not being too uncomfortable to address it head-on and/or in open discussion. If we want to truly do good and help as a non-POC ally it is absolutely necessary for us to recognize the implicit bias that WE ALL have and ensure you are ACTIVELY addressing it.
My name is Emily, and I recognize that I have expressed problematic implicit biases and racial apathy/denial in the past. But no more. This is something I am dedicated to fixing NOW. No more ignorance. No more living in LaLa Land. No more looking the other way. No more crappy excuses.
This growth won’t be put on hold until the next innocent person is dead. It won’t be hidden behind lazy messages expressing “prayers and heartbreak”. It won’t die down once talking about racial equality stops being “trendy”. My implicit bias is going to be fixed NOW. TODAY. NOT A SECOND LATER. I refuse to sit in silence and try to justify my ignorance and bias any longer. I’m truly ashamed that I waited this long to get to this point, but I genuinely hope that it’s never too late.
I have realized my bias, and I am going to dismantle it piece by piece until nothing is left.
Finally, I just want to say that I in no way intended to write this to try to speak for or shift the focus or narrative away from Black voices onto myself. I am not writing this to be praised. In fact, it is more of the opposite. I am writing this because I am HORRIFIED at how I, a non-POC woman, have managed to live this long and just now realize how problematic my behaviors have been over the years. This is important to share, because I know I am not the only white, small town raised person in America who was not recognizing the truth or taking responsibility for my actions. Most importantly, I could never in good conscience continue to post about racial injustice and support the cause when I am holding in the completely hypocritical fact that I, myself, have played a direct role in instigating pain in my Black and POC friends, family, coworkers, and community.
I urge all other non-POC to do the same. Look into the resources and education opportunities so many wonderful Black activists and educators have very tirelessly and selflessly taken the time to create for us and use them to look into yourself, your past behaviors, and how you plan on confronting your implicit bias in the future. You may not like what you find, but this is your opportunity to evolve and grow.
Racism still exists today, but if we ALL do our part in taking accountability and doing what is right, then it’s a very real possibility that someday racists WILL be nothing but a memory in our children’s history books.
Anti-Racist Educational Resources For White People
Reliable News & Current Event Updates
- Twitter & TikTok
DO NOT purely rely on mainstream media/news channels to properly educate or inform you. It has been proven that the mainstream news is heavily editing video content and twisting the truth over the peaceful protests. Twitter and TikTok users are providing first-hand video accounts and countless testimonials showing the real truth over what is going on in our country and have done the best job educating me.
Guides, Programs & Online Resources
- Dismantling Racism: A Workbook for Social Change Groups
- White Racial Justice Organizations
- CrossRoads Anti-Racism Training
- Guidelines For Being Strong White Allies
- Core Concepts of Whiteness and White Privilege
- The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration by Isabel Wilkerson
- A Spectacular Secret: Lynching in American Life and Literature by Jacqueline Goldsby
- The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander
- So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo
- Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood by Trevor Noah
- How To Be An Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi
- White Fragility by Robin DiAngelo
- Biased by Dr. Jennifer Eberhardt
- Wilmington’s Lie: The Murderous Coup of 1898 and the Rise of White Supremacy by David Zucchino
- Raising White Kids: Bringing Up Children In A Racially Unjust America by Jennifer Harvey
- Waking Up White by Debby Irving
- Citizen: An American Lyric by Claudia Rankine
- Brutal Imagination by Cornelius Eady
- Race Against Time: A Reporter Reopens The Unsolved Murder Cases of the Civil Rights Era by Jerry Mitchell
- They Were Her Property by Stephanie E. Jones-Rogers
- I’m Still Here: Black Dignity in a World Made for Whiteness by
Austin Channing Brown
- Me and White Supremacy by Layla F. Saad
- Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates
- “The Death of George Floyd, In Context,” by Jelani Cobb of The New Yorker
- “Of Course There Are Protests. The State Is Failing Black People,” by Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor for the New York Times
- “This Is How Loved Ones Want Us To Remember George Floyd,” by Alisha Ebrahimji for CNN.
- The New York Times Magazine’s award-winning The 1619 Project is as important as ever. Take some time to read (or re-read) the entire thing, particularly this essay by Nikole Hannah-Jones
- “You shouldn’t need a Harvard degree to survive birdwatching while black,” by Samuel Getachew, a 17-year-old and the 2019 Oakland youth poet laureate, for the Washington Post
- “It’s exhausting. How many hashtags will it take for all of America to see Black people as more than their skin color?” by Rita Omokha for Elle
- “The Case for Reparations,” by Ta-Nehisi Coates for The Atlantic
- “How to Make This Moment the Turning Point for Real Change,” by Barack Obama in Medium
- “Black Male Writers For Our Time,” by Ayana Mathis in New York Times, T
- “I Was The Mayor Of Minneapolis And I Know Our Cops Have A Problem,” by R.T. Rybak
- “Don’t understand the protests? What you’re seeing is people pushed to the edge,” by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in Los Angeles Times
Movies, Shows & Documentaries
- The Hate U Give, a film based on the YA novel offering an intimate portrait of race in America
- Just Mercy, a film based on civil rights lawyer Bryan Stevenson’s work on death row in Alabama (Streaming for free throughout June)
- The 1965 debate between James Baldwin and William F. Buckley
- Becoming, a Netflix documentary following Michelle Obama on her book tour
- Let It Fall, a documentary looking at racial tensions in Los Angeles and the 1992 riots over LAPD officers’ brutal assault on Rodney King
- When They See Us, a Netflix miniseries from Ava DuVernay about the Central Park Five
- 13th, a Netflix documentary exposing racial inequality within the criminal justice system
- I Am Not Your Negro, a documentary envisioning the book James Baldwin was never able to finish
- Selma, a film that chronicles the marches of the Civil Rights Movement
- Whose Streets?, a documentary about the uprising in Ferguson
Organizations To Support
- The Bail Project works with public defenders and community organizations to provide assistance paying bail, court date reminders, transportation, and other support to low-income individuals.
- The Black Alliance for Just Immigration works toward racial, social, and economic justice locally and regionally by engaging with community partners to boost awareness about race, racism, identities, migration, and globalization.
- Black Visions Collective is a Minnesota-based organization dedicated to dismantling systems of oppression and violence by fostering black leadership.
- The UndocuBlack Network provides resources and community, along with advancing policy, immigrant rights, and racial justice to benefit black undocumented individuals.
- African Communities Together is “an organization of African immigrants fighting for civil rights, opportunity, and a better life for our families here in the U.S. and worldwide.”
- My Block, My Hood, My City is a Chicago nonprofit at the forefront of getting aid to businesses in majority-minority neighborhoods.
- The Black Emotional and Mental Health Collective is a nonprofit “collective of advocates, yoga teachers, artists, therapists, lawyers, religious leaders, teachers, psychologists, and activists.”
- Know Your Rights Camp: A campaign and series of camps held in various U.S. cities to empower black youth and instruct them on how to interact with law enforcement, founded by professional football player Colin Kaepernick.
- National Black Arts’ Forward Artist Project Relief Fund: A fund to support black artists in need, enabling them to continue creating and featuring their art during the COVID-19 pandemic.