Donald Trump won the election, and people of color have been scared about their futures because the president-elect is literally a figurehead of white supremacy. If you are white and not marginalized in some way, chances are that you’re worried, but your future is pretty comfortable. If you want to be a good ally, then it’s time for you to get uncomfortable.
Even if you are somehow marginalized (for example, if you are a gay white person), there is still work that you can and should do, so don’t ignore this piece because you think that I’m not talking to you. Your marginalization does not excuse you from doing the work to help dismantle the toxic culture of racism that continues to overrun our country. We just watched white people elect an actual white supremacist figurehead, and in order to stop that march of hate, we need all hands on deck.
I’m seeing a lot of discussion about really comfortable ways for white people to stand up against racism recently. Going to protests, wearing safety pins, sending donations, etc. If you want to do something like this, here are some resources.
This website will give you direction on where to spend your time or money to support specific groups in these troubling times.
If you want to give, you can also locate underserviced community centers directly in communities of color to find out exactly what their needs are and help fill the gaps in their funding.
Most of these are really good, but they aren’t enough to really get the job done.
To really pull our country out of the racist tide that it seems to be drowning under, we need white allies to get uncomfortable. We need them to do the hard work, which isn’t always big, but it sure is unpleasant.
Think of it this way: changing a shitty diaper isn’t fun, but it’s not impossible. It’s necessary, and once you do it, it’s done until the next time. Eventually, that baby will be potty trained, but until then, it’s your job to keep them clean. America is our baby, and right now, the diaper is full of shit. Here’s how you can help change that.
1) Talk to Your Racist Aunts/Uncles/Grandparents
For too long, the elders have been sitting around spewing their causal hate around the family holiday table. Every time Grandpa Tom talks about how nice the colored people that moved in next door are, you just shrug it off because Grandpa Tom is old and comes from a different time.
That needs to stop. Every time an older person is allowed to just say some racist garbage and not be questioned, that reaffirms another younger person’s bias and promotes the idea that it’s okay to have those beliefs.
This doesn’t mean you have to call out your relatives and make a scene at dinner. It is possible to engage them and influence them to think critically about their views.
A good tool for this is the SURJ Thanksgiving Toolkit, a free Google Doc that outlines many strategies that you can employ to help you navigate conversations about race without them turning into huge battles.
There’s also a helpline you can text or call if you get stuck.
2) Stop Deleting People on Facebook
Or Twitter, or any other social media platform you use. Part of the reason that God Emperor Trump, as he’s affectionately referred to by his favorites on Stormfront, came into power is because of the echo chamber effect of social media.
None of us really want to deal with people who hold views we consider reprehensible, but blocking them on Facebook doesn’t solve the problem. It just means that you no longer have to deal with it.
Instead, you can employ some of the same discussion tactics as the ones that are suggested for use at the dinner table. Guide them in dissecting and questioning their own views.
Engage people on your friends’ timelines as well. Don’t just scroll by conversations that are happening. If your buddy posts an article about the rise of hate crimes and their backwards uncle jumps in with some nonsense, challenge him on it!
Understand that it’s hard for people to face the racists in their lives, and not having that connection means that you may be able to speak to them about things that their family members cannot.
3) Get Your Own Folx—Don’t Tag in a Person of Color
Seriously, don’t tag in your Black or brown friends to help you with your racist encounters. We do not need that extra work. If you have questions, PM them privately to ask them, but handle your own battles.
If you are overwhelmed, tag some white people to be your backup. If you don’t know any white people who can do this, the White Nonsense Roundup is there for you. Just tag them into your online battle. Also, you should probably consider why you don’t know any other anti-racist white folx and adjust accordingly.
4) Call Out the Racism in Marginalized Communities
As I touched on before, there’s this weird idea that being marginalized in one way erases your whiteness. It does not. What that means is that there will be some racism, even in the marginalized communities themselves!
There are LGBTQIA+ people who are still racist. There are disabled and chronically ill people that are still racist. There are religious people that are still racist. As an ally, you just can’t let that fly.
Challenge ideas such as racial dating preferences or the belief that the urban poor (code for Black) are keeping disabled people from receiving benefits.
Let people know that racism will not be tolerated, even from people who don’t have a full share of privilege.
5) Really Talk To Your Kids about Race
Education about race tends to be more focused on a colorblind narrative when it comes to younger children. Kids are being taught that all people are the same regardless of skin color and that to think otherwise is bad. This is not good enough.
You must really talk to your children about race and racism. Explain to them that it is still happening today and that it doesn’t always look like hate. Sometimes it looks like fear, such as when people are afraid of refugees because they fear terrorists.
You must explain that sometimes, people don’t even know that what they’re doing is racist or that though doing or saying something racist doesn’t make them a bad person, refusing to work on fixing it does make them a not-so-great person.
Obviously, you’re going to need to frame the conversation in ways that your child (or niece/nephew/grandchild/cousin) can understand. The time spent on these conversations and addressing the questions they have will go a long way toward helping our future.
6) Address Your Own Shit
If you’re white and you’re reading this, you have some racial bias lurking in you. It’s not your fault, we live in a white supremacist culture. It’s been sitting there for years feeding off (not so) subtle media imagery, casual remarks, and ignored microaggressions.
It’s not your fault, but it is still there.
If you haven’t read it yet, White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack is an excellent place to start in understanding all the ways that your whiteness protects you. It also provides a gateway to finding the key points in your life where you can make changes to disrupt your own comfort and be a better ally.
Read each of the points listed. Think about how these have benefitted you in your life and how your life would be different if you did not have those privileges. Think about how you would function in your community if you did not have these privileges. Use them as ways to identify what is lacking in your own community.
When a POC calls you out on your shit, don’t argue with them; listen and accept what they’ve said so that you can grow as an ally. Don’t try to tell them their perspective is wrong. You don’t get to decide what is and isn’t offensive to them.
When you’re ready for more information, here’s some solid resources to help you better understand POC and their concerns.
Did This Make You Uncomfortable? Good!
The comfort of whiteness is what protects toxic whiteness. In order to dismantle that culture, white people who are not ok with it need to be uncomfortable. They need to have tough conversations and place themselves in awkward positions.
None of this is difficult from an accessibility standpoint. They don’t call for money or mobility. They just call for you, as a white person, to move into a space that is uncomfortable. It calls for you to challenge people when it is easier to ignore or excuse their behavior. The time for comfort is over. It’s time to get in there and help clean this mess up with your own two hands.