White Privilege (& 9 steps you can take to dismantle it)
Quarantine has been hard for so many reasons. To each person and family the lock down has different meaning. I read a quote that said we're not all in the same boat, we're all in the same storm with different boats. Nothing feels more true, the effects of quarantine feel different to everyone. Everyone has different living arrangements, family structures, relationships, levels of income, some are in complete solitary, some are in over crowded quarters, some can work comfortably from home, some lost everything they ever worked for, some are lonely, some would give anything for just a little break from their kids, some people's mental health is spiraling out of control, some people are feeling more relaxed than ever, some people love the extra time with their loved ones, some don't feel safe around the people they live with, some people don't have to worry about how they are gonna pay their bills, and some people are so stressed about how they are gonna make enough money to pay their rent. We're all weathering the same storm yet all of our boats look and feel very different. I think that's important to remember before judging the next persons situation.
But there is also an overlying factor that makes lock down exponentially harder & that is race. Yes race the topic on the forefront of everyone's minds right now as it has been shot to the top story of the media recently. The lock down has showcased even more the widening wage gap, the housing disparity, the majority of those who are actually able to work from home, the differences between salaried positions and hourly workers, whose small businesses are able to stay afloat and those who are not, who has access to fresh food and resources in their community, and kids who are most reliant on schools for getting their meals. As if quarantine wasn't enough to deal with there were factors in play already making life in America harder for some than others. If you are Black, America is already a very different reality from white counterparts.
White privilege and supremacy is seeped so deeply into every aspect of life in America that it is thought of as the norm and almost unrecognizable to those not feeling the effects of it. Police terrorism runs rampant and Black lives are being cut short daily with no regard for the family and trauma left behind and no accountability for the murderers. The media vilifies Black bodies before they are even laid to rest. In 2020 alone 83 Black men and boys have been brutally murdered at the hands of the police, 15 more Black women have been killed this year, totaling close to 100 and it's only early June. Systemic oppression includes every aspect of tangible life from redlining the housing market, gentrification, disproportionate lending practices, food deserts/access to healthy foods, liquor stores on every corner, toxic school systems: funding, to white teacher savior complex, to the ass backwards curriculum taught by the side of the oppressors that we have accepted as true, school to prison pipeline, free slave labor in jails, the injustice system, racist medical system where Black women are more likely to die of maternal complications, etc. I could go on and on for days about the daily discrimination people of color face, but I'll stop here for now, because this is not the point of this blog
I am not Black and should not be writing what it's like to be Black in America, because while I can empathize and visualize through the eyes of my husband and my daughters I do not LIVE it every day. I am not in fear of getting pulled over in the car unlawfully, I am not in fear of racism, getting shot by the police, getting the police called on me for ordinary activities, I do not face racial discrimination at work, at the hospitals, at banks, or when I am just trying to BE. The point of this blog post is more about helping mobilize white people. As white people we should take a good look in the mirror and ask, what can I do to help? If you are not outraged at this point, you are really just not paying attention at all. So here are my steps for my fellow white people on how to help dismantle white privilege...
Accept that you have white privilege: First we ALL need to look into the mirror and accept the fact that we are ALL benefiting on a daily basis from white privilege. I'm not saying your life is not hard, I'm not saying you've had a free ride, or you were born into money, or you haven't faced challenges, and overcame obstacles to get where you are in life. I am saying the challenges you have faced have not been based on your skin color. I am saying your obstacles have not come from prejudices. I am saying your skin color has given you a running head start. Accept it, own it, and now use it to change shit.
Do your own research: Do not rely on Black people to tell you what you should know and need to know about racism throughout history and how it is permeating every aspect of life in America. Do your own research, take it upon yourself to study it like you would any other topic you wanted to find out more about. It is not someone else's job to educate you, it is yours. At the bottom of this blog post I will share a suggested reading list that has helped me in my journey.
Mind ya business: White people MIND YOUR OWN BUSINESS! This is very important. STOP calling the police on Black people for just living their lives. Calling the police on Black people has very real implications that can not be reversed. Stop calling the cops on Black people for barbequing, exercising, doing yard work, doing their jobs, because they live in your neighborhood, eating at a restaurant, gathering for a party, fixing a phone wire, going to school, playing music loudly, etc. Yes every example I gave above has happened. White people: Black people have the right to just BE, just let them. When you call the police on Black people when they are just trying to live their daily lives, you call in a possibility that they will be met with police force, brutality, jail, or even death. Do you wanna be responsible for that?
Speak up: OK it seems counter-intuitive to say mind ya business and speak up. But when I say speak up, I mean it when it comes to other white people. When you see or perceive racism, or hear people of color saying they were discriminated against speak up! Speak up at your job, speak up to your family, speak up in the community. Do not just sit idly by when you see injustice happening. Do not be passive about it- use that white privilege for something and combat the racism constantly being hurled at people of color out in the open or behind closed doors. Confront that racist family member head on, go to H.R. if you witness discriminatory work practices, put your self and body in front of crazy white accusers, tell that person what they are saying is problematical, speak up, and speak out. Remember white silence is white consent.
Buy Black: This is sooooo important. Buy Black, buy Brown, shop small, shop local. Support Black businesses. Stop investing in white companies that are carrying on legacies of biased racial practices within the work place. Ujamma is the swahili word for cooperative economics. That means put money into the hands of the community by spending within the community. Find your Black owned restaurants, banks, clothing companies, toy companies, book stores, authors, tattoo artists, bars, juicing companies, gyms, children's recreations, fitness coaches, doctors offices, hotels, farms, grocery stores, etc. This is one of the most tangible things you can get in the habit of to practice on a daily basis. If you are in the Bay Area and need guidance with this- ask me!
Change the narrative: Turn off your TV, throw out your history books, and let go of every preconceived notion you have about other races. "The media's the most powerful entity on earth. They have the power to make the innocent look guilty and to make the guilty innocent. They control the minds of the masses." "If you are not careful the newspapers will have you hating the people who are being oppressed, and loving the people who are doing the oppressing." Both of these are quotes from El Hajj Malik El Shabazz AKA Malcolm X. This is so true. Consider the fact that everything you have been taught or exposed to may be wrong. Turn off the narrative that the TV is spewing at you, throw away any history book or knowledge that doesn't give the complete story, open yourself up to new information. Remember history is told from the side of the oppressor. Learn REAL history.
Use your privilege for good: Use that white privilege for good. Call your local law makers, governors offices, mayors, police offices, whoever and put pressure on them to make lawful changes. Organize your white friends, family, coworkers, rich associates, etc. to put pressure on government entities to make policy change that will directly effect and benefit people of color. Defunding the police is a big start! If you don't know where to start, start there. End the terrorization of Black and Brown communities at the hands of the police.
Don't get offended: We do not have any more time to waste on white people being offended, getting their feelings hurt, white fragility- toughen up. Every complaint Black people have about white people is true & valid, don't get offended. Develop thick skin and take it. Black people have to endure waaay more than hurt feelings so don't take offense getting called a Karen or Becky or anything else. Accept it, own it, move on, and prove you can be an ally.
Let this moment move you: Let this moment move you, sit in this moment, be open to it, let this moment in history change you. Let it sink in. Own your whiteness, own your privilege, own the fact that you are benefiting from a system of oppression, and then dismantle this MF!!!! Get over your feelings of white fragility and awkwardness around the topic of race. Only we as white people can tear down the system that we have built. Take this moment in history for what it is and let it change you for the better. Let it make you become more aware, use this moment to educate yourself, use this momentum to speak up, use this power that you have to become a better person for yourself for your children and for people of color and their families everywhere. No more Black bodies need to die at the hands of white oppressors, there must be concrete consequences that will deter their actions in the first place. Let this right here, this very moment change you, rattle you awake, and change the very course of history.
Why do I care about this so deeply and am writing it in a family blog post you may be wondering? Well I'm a mom of bi-racial children, I am a wife of a Black Man, I am a teacher of children of color, and a business owner of a daycare that serves a diverse array of families. As if any of this wasn't enough I genuinely give a fuck about my fellow human being. If we are supposed to be One with ourselves and the planet, we can not be One and be silent in the face of injustice. An injustice anywhere is an injustice to us all. It is not enough to just teach our children to not be racist. They have to be taught to be actively anti-racist. I feel it is my job and my duty as a white mom, wife, teacher, person to use my privilege to speak on these things. Remember while your kids may have a choice not to think about racism every day, Black children and children of color in general have no choice but to confront racism daily because they live it! I do feel that every one of these things on the above list I practice daily as well as teaching my children and daycare through a social justice lens. It is our duty as white people to right the wrongs we've helped cosign in this society, dismantle white privilege, and speak up in the face of injustice.
Here is a suggested reading list that has helped me in my journey...
The Autobiography of Malcolm X
White Fragility by Robin DiAngelo
They Came Before Columbus by Ivan Van Sertima
Defining Moments in History by Dick Gregory
The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander
How to be an Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi
Parenting for Liberation by Trina Greene Brown
The Little Book of Racial Healing by Thomas Norman DeWolf
ALL Maya Angelou books
To Die For The People by Huey Newton
Live From Deathrow by Mumia Abu Jamal (or any book by him)
Soul on Ice by Eldridge Cleaver
Tears We Cannot Stop by Micahel Eric Dyson
Between the World and Me by Tanehisi Coates
The Color of Law by Richard Rothstein
The 400 Year Head Start by Nikki Ace
Sundown Towns by James Lowen
I Am Not Your Negro by James Baldwin
Medical Apartheid by Harriet Washington
1001 Things Everyone should know about African American History by Jeffery Stewart
Lies My Teacher Told Me by James Loewen
From Babylon to Timbuktu by Rudolph Windsor
You get the point, do your own research. This is not an all inclusive list, this is just a starting place. Marcus Books in North Oakland is a great resource for books and supports a Black owned book store- the only Black owned book store in the Bay Area.
Please let this very moment move you.