Dear White Anti-Racist Allies:
Let me start by telling you my truth: I am tired. Racism is exhausting! With Nazi signs painted on garages, racist graffiti at OPRF, and a banana, blackface, Bob-Marley Becky in our community, this black woman needs a break.
So I am asking white allies who are anti-racism, can I take a rest? Can you, my white allies, do the excruciatingly hard and frustrating job of working on and fixing white racists?
From my experiences with well-meaning, yet woefully-underprepared white allies, I’d like to offer my top three helpful anti-racist actions you can take to help stop racism. And the great thing is, if you don’t like my suggestions, there are literally hundreds of other suggestions out there!
Say something, and say it repeatedly
My first tip is simple but probably the most difficult: If you are anti-racist, you need to say you are anti-racist as much as possible. Every time something racist happens in our community and my white friends don’t publicly denounce that racism, it has the same effect as supporting racism.
This is the hardest one for many of my white friends. White etiquette dictates, “Don’t make waves with friends and family.” Saying something like “racism is wrong” or “you are a racist” is really uncomfortable and hard.
The other thing you will have to do is keep speaking out against racism repeatedly. I often hear from my white friends that once they confront someone’s racist speech or action, they think they are done, even if the racist person doesn’t respond. But confronting a racist once is not enough.
In fact, if you only write once and then let it go, you have actually made racism harder. That racist person (your friend or family member) is now angry, and guess who will take the brunt of that anger? Hint: Not you. Answer: Black people and People of color.
Create an anti-racism event
A lot of white people like doing service projects “to help those less fortunate.” Well, the folks who need a service project now are white people. Create an anti-racism event in your neighborhood with those you think most need the education. Have a party where you teach white people how not to be racist.
We need you to put your energy with those who most need your help: other white people. We don’t hear a lot about white anti-racist efforts but they exist. Check out Showing up for Racial Justice (SURJ) and the Catalyst Project.
Support people of color without trying to lead
This tip is a great practice for anti-racist white folks. White people need to humble themselves and allow themselves to participate in a group where they are not leading, their feelings are not centered, and where they take directions from people of color. I can’t even count how many times I’ve heard, “I don’t like it when people tell me what to do. I prefer doing anti-racist work my own way.” Yeah … that’s part of the problem. Follow the lead of black people or other people of color on dismantling racism. We have over 400 years in this anti-racism game.
Try one or all three of my tips! Or do something else. But for the love of God, do something! Racism needs to stop. I’m tired and so are the spirits of my ancestors. Black people have been working to end white racism for 400 freaking years! You can see for yourself how much progress has been made. This is a marathon, not a sprint.
And white allies, we need you to run with us for the long haul.
ShaRhonda Knott Dawson, formerly of Oak Park, is a Broadview resident and education blogger.