I keep wanting to write a long post about how I treat my whiteness as an addiction. By that I mean I am impacted by something beyond my control (systemic racism) and I have lived in denial for most of my life — even as an anti-racism activist. I was sick and suffering but I didn’t realize it until I started recovering.
But I haven’t taken the time to write it all up and it keeps bursting out at times when I’m not near a keyboard. So I’m going to at least put down on paper (keyboard/screen) a few highlights of what I’ve learned:
- Making mistakes while learning about racism will happen, it is unavoidable;
- Fear of making mistakes will prevent me from making any changes;
- Asking people of color to help me understand racism will almost always be a mistake (unless they are being paid specifically to answer questions/provide advice), it’s not their job to help me and asking them to do the emotional labor of educating for free would be an example of being part of the problem;
- In my innermost thoughts, down even below thoughts about which I am aware, I held really gross and discriminatory thoughts about people of color (I still do!), we call this implicit bias and it’s unavoidable. Let me repeat that: implicit bias is unavoidable;
- It’s been my experience that fear of those implicit biases was blocking me from being fully human;
- I didn’t realize I was lacking in humanity until I looked really really really deeply into my racist beliefs (message me privately if you’d like to talk more about this);
- Examining my own implicit biases required a spiritual solution (this is where I get into connecting it with my recovery from substance use disorders) because it was terrifying. I had to know that it wasn’t all up to me, that my higher power (who I choose to call god) would carry me through it;
- It turned out my implicit biases were much, much louder and more problematic when I was trying not to have them;
- Keeping on myself on the path of full humanity, rejecting white supremacy and the benefits it affords me, requires daily practice, enlarging my spiritual life, and examining almost everything I do (good news! it becomes an almost imperceptible habit much of the time);
- The freedom I have experienced after facing my ugliest underlying racism (implicit biases held by people holding power is related to racism) is, as we might hear in recovery circles, “indescribably wonderful.” I want to share this with white people wherever I go. I didn’t realize how much humanity was missing until I started recovering it!
Because I want to be a part of changing our racist systems, I need to work on myself as an individual and this involves my feelings and my whiteness. I do this work with and around other white people. Sometimes I do this work with people of color if they are really good friends (like, we share meals together) or if we are in a situation where the point of the interaction is to deal with racism. Mostly, though, I do my offline racism work with other white people. Online, I write about it a lot. Writing as I have on blackgirlinmaine.com has helped me try to learn how to write about racism without centering on whiteness. But, I’ll admit freely that I really don’t get it. How can I write about racism as a white person without centering on whiteness (my experience?). I’ll keep trying, though.
And that brings me back to #1. Making mistakes in anti-racism work is unavoidable. I’m not sure who said this, but in the handouts for a “Racial Dialogue Capacity-Building Workshop” put on by the New England Yearly Meeting (Quakers) Challenging White Supremacy Working Group I read a quote I like as it sets a good tone, rather than judging ourselves harshly for how we are living within white supremacy, we must face where we white people are and change: “Wherever you are is fine and Beloved—But it’s not okay to stay there!”
PS Look at that, I did write a relatively long post afterall. :-)