Let me start by saying that I don’t consider myself an expert in anything related to race or class issues. I’m just a white straight cis able-bodied woman, raised in an upper-middle class highly educated family. I mention those “labels” because each of those labels gives me access to power in the USA. What I say on this blog has not been vetted by anyone but me. Take everything I say with a grain of salt, and look to the real experts (Black, Indigenous, and other people of color who are invested in systems change) for your guidance. Most of what I share is repeating what I’ve learned from them, what they’ve been telling us since forever.
All that said, I feel called to share with other white people things I’ve been learning along this journey toward collective liberation, while I continue learning from others (of all races) who are on a similar journey.
Recently I began participating in a program for “embodied social justice.” It’s quite intense both in time required and in the emotional/spiritual/intellectual challenge of it. I realized in these first few sessions that we white people put our feet in our mouth all the time and have no idea we’re doing it.
I feel like I’m straddling this space where I put my foot in my mouth (and by that I mean do something stupid or hurtful in relation to a Black, Latinx, or Indigenous person, or other people of color too, probably) a little less often but also I definitely keep doing it. Over and over again. But, with practice, I’ve been doing it less.
What is the “it” I’m talking about?
There are a whole bunch of ways people from my background interact with the world that come across to people from different backgrounds as harmful, oppressive, obnoxious, clueless, rude, and exhausting. I’ve learned a lot about this mostly from people who are Black and Latinx, but on twitter I’ve also learned from Indigenous people and other people of color, too. There are even a couple white people I’ve been learning from!
When I saw my fellow white people behaving in these exhausting ways — and I know they have NO idea, because I’ve been that person (and definitely am still that person at times!) — I thought about sharing on this blog some of the things I do to help myself do those things a little bit less. My goal is to be someone who lives in solidarity with all people, working together (as I said above) for collective liberation. Another goal is to help my fellow white people do less harm. To do this, I know I need to change my behaviors and learn from people who are farther along the path than I am.
I don’t want to make this post too long for Internet reading. I want this to serve as an introduction to other relatively short posts I’ll make about examples of the exhausting-harmful (there’s a range) behaviors people like me have and how I practice doing it differently.
There’s lots of self-talk involved. Lots of emotional work, and lots of practice. I’m going to post tidbits of examples as I think of them, and I will take those posts “shedding whiteness practice” if you are interested in reading them.
posts also will be linked here: