Things white anti-racist allies can do about racism now

Opinion: Columns

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By ShaRhonda Dawson

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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.

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Reader Comments

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Vikki Stefans from Little Rock AR  

Posted: August 24th, 2019 11:44 PM

Well... on a couple of FB posts I've agreed with the comment that sometimes even white people are sick and tired of white people. It is exhausting to keep trying to counter all the denials of the existence and the seriousness of ongoing racism, whether subtle or massive, annoying or deadly. The hard core haters who admit they are racist and take pride in it want nothing more than to convince as many people as possible that racism is not real - it's a "card" to be played or a "talking point," that white people or "conservatives" are the real victims now, and that white privilege is a myth. I've disputed with people who insist that President Trump is not racist and does not run a racist administration; that the leader of the Daily Wire is not racist; and better still, that racism is only a problem because people like us keep calling others racist and that's what's keeping it alive. Some people who don't deny it in general want to think that racism is only a problem in the South. Meanwhile, people who think "race mixing" is forbidden by the Bible get air time, though thank God it leads mostly to ridicule for them and their ideas. And those people claim they are not racist, of course. Slavery in America included quasi-religious justification of the world's arguably most unethical and deadly institution, with not only lifelong but hereditary bondage, by doctrines of racial inferiority that defy all logic and reason. Let me close by saying if I never see another post about Irish slavery in America used to prove Black slavery was not racist, it will be too soon. And if I could validly apologize for all of us, I would.

Ramona Lopez  

Posted: January 2nd, 2019 10:06 AM

"The worst enemy that the Negro have is this white man that runs around here drooling at the mouth professing to love Negros and calling himself a liberal, and it is following these white liberals that has perpetuated problems that Negros have. If the Negro wasn't taken, tricked or deceived by the white liberal, then Negros would get together and solve our own problems. I only cite these things to show you that in America, the history of the white liberal has been nothing but a series of trickery designed to make Negros think that the white liberal was going to solve our problems. Our problems will never be solved by the white man." Malcolm X

Ada Johnson Tikkanen  

Posted: December 29th, 2018 11:48 PM

let me tell you one of my deepest regrets Kofi and and Jeffrey and Bill and Sharonda and whoever is part and parcel of this debate. And I pray his parents don't mind that I'm sharing this story. When my son's best friend died this summer. Not only did we suffer his death. But every day that he was on life support. I was crumpled on the floor...with my son who was beyond consolable sorrow as he acknowledged the fact his friend was not going to make it. Let me rephrase that ( and I'm disgusted that I even have to point this out) a white boy was crumpled on the floor in agony over losing his best friend...a black boy. And at the repast his father asked me to play his son's favorite music which my son said "Mom we can listen to this kind of music in the locker room, but you can't get away with it." So I looked at the father and said " I can't play this music for you." and I regret it to this day. That child was eating a hamburger in my kitchen a couple of weeks before and I can't play his music when he's dead. Is this where we are in this world? So, once again, I'm not going to let anyone give me a punch list or make me feel a fool. Everyone just be the kindest and most understanding they can be. And love the people you love. And if you have a problem with my whiteness...then you just have problems. And thank you Mr. Gathings - for letting me breathe. I'd love to have you over when the weather clears up for some seriously good Memphis low and slow bbq.

Jeffrey Smith  

Posted: December 29th, 2018 8:48 PM

Folks who aren't black instructing black folks about racism. One can't laugh out loud enough.

Les Golden  

Posted: December 29th, 2018 9:54 AM

LeBron makes blatant anti-semitic statement and tweets it to 1/6 of the U.S. population but doesn't get fined, condemned. suspended. Sports tak radio won't even discuss it. If Ryan Braun or Julian Edelman said blacks are lazy there would be a national outrcry, editorials in every daily, and they'd be either fined, suspended, or cut. There's a double standard here. isn't it so? ShaRhonda, what have you done to work against the bigotry-right-below-the-surface of anti-semitism? Did you tweet out a condemnation of LeBron?

Ray Simpson  

Posted: December 28th, 2018 11:41 PM

@ Ms Lopez - I think we are trying to make the same point, just from different viewpoints.

Ramona Lopez  

Posted: December 28th, 2018 10:45 PM

What's your point Mr. Simpson?

Wes Gathings  

Posted: December 28th, 2018 7:19 PM

And here we have it people. Kofi Porter doesn't know what world I live in and tells me I don't speak for all black people. That is clear to me, just not sure if Kofi understands that a. I did not attempt to speak for all black people and b. Kofi doesn't speak for all black people any more or less than me. I am being real. I don't need white people to show and express to me they are not racist. If they are..they are. If they're not, they're not. It's great that you know a whole bunch of black people that think like you Kofi. You might find this surprising but I know a bunch that disagree with you...a bunch that are educated, accomplished and degreed professionals who navigate between formal attire for professional and social events and hole in the wall joints from the south and west side neighborhoods we grew up in. This is exactly why I don't take these topics seriously. You seem to think you have an idea of where I'm from or where I am now because I disagree with you...and you're completely off. I'm from the that we got that out of the way I find it a waste of time asking for other people to prove anything about themselves to me. My great black heroes performed great exploits without such affirmations. They just performed themselves. I'm okay on the racism background checks. Have fun putting every white person you meet on trial. Shame on them who feel the need to prove themselves to you. I'm not hating on Sharhonda at all but I know good and well nobody died for my "freedom" to be limited to thinking one way because of my skin color. Sometimes I vote Republican, get salt and pepper on Harold's Chicken though I shouldn't eat it all, and sneak and listen to music with profanity so my children don't hear it. I'm still in the "hood" hours a week, my white friends think my neighborhood is sketchy and my black friends think it's nice. You're my problem if my blackness means I have to think and sound like you. Don't sound like Malcolm or Martin to me.

Ray Simpson  

Posted: December 28th, 2018 6:58 PM

@ Ramona Lopez - isn't judging peoples abilities and skills by the color of their skin inherently "RACIST?" Just wondering

Ramona Lopez  

Posted: December 28th, 2018 3:12 PM

Dear Ignorant Mr. Shipley: Most people in Oak Park don't need social justice warriors like yourself and Ms. Dawson to tell us how to treat our fellow humans. We embrace respect and value it highly. We understand all people have intrinsic value regardless of any victim bucket you and your fellow mightier than though self appointed wannabe intellectuals want to place people in. By the way, I would like to introduce you to ignorant Mr. Porter. He believes you are a white supremacist and racist because of the color of your skin. You 2 should get along just fine.

Bill Shipley from Chicago  

Posted: December 28th, 2018 2:30 AM

Dear Ignorant People of Oak Park: Please note, that this article is addressed to "anti-racist white allies" so that is certainly NOT addressed to you!! Thus you should not take offense at its suggestion that you actually call out racism and talk to others about racism. She is not calling you "racist" by suggesting that you do so, so you may now safely return to thinking about yourself as not racist, because, as all people not doing anything to end racism know, thinking of yourselves and your friends and family as not being racist is really the most important thing! Enjoy life in your self-contained snow globe. It sure is pretty! Ignorance is bliss. Dear Non-Ignorant People of Oak Park: keep doing your thing! Haters gonna hate... Thank you for your voice and your light Sharhonda Knott-Dawson. Keep shining it bright.

Ramona Lopez  

Posted: December 27th, 2018 1:30 PM

Kofi, We all know what happens when people ASSUME!

Kofi Porter  

Posted: December 26th, 2018 12:04 PM

Wes, I don't know what world you live in, but most black people I know assume that white people are white supremacist or racist (rather implicitly or explicitly). Let us be real. Yes, white people do need to show and express they are not racists. Black people didn't create racism or the social construction of race. So white people must conquer it amongst themselves. Black people are the victims of white supremacy and racism. When a patient is hurt doesn't doctor ask where are you receiving pain and listen to where the person is receiving the pain. You don't speak for most black people at all. Sharonda's article was excellent and solution-based.

Ray Simpson  

Posted: December 25th, 2018 2:53 PM

Sorry folks! I tried.

Bill Dwyer  

Posted: December 25th, 2018 10:06 AM

I agree with everything you say, Wes. I wasn't saying I agreed with everything Ms. Dawson said, because I don't. I was responding to Simpson's chronic need to deny that there's anything wrong with the status quo in America unless it involves liberals and the left. His "why are you all so upset" stance to other people's concerns is sophomoric. This country has racism in its amniotic fluid- it was built and sustained for many decades with racism and there are many who continue to do all that they can to protect its rancid vestiges. If you are not racist, good for you- I take you at your word. But racism is alive and active in this country, and you don't have to "go out of your way" to find it. That's all I was saying.

Ramona Lopez  

Posted: December 24th, 2018 9:45 PM

Thank you for bringing reason and common sense to the conversation Mr. Gathings. .

Neal Buer  

Posted: December 24th, 2018 8:45 PM

Wes, thank you for your comments.

Wes Gathings  

Posted: December 24th, 2018 8:37 PM

Mr. Dwyer I have no gripes with you or bones to pick. Your comment "Secondly, for all the people who actually ARE the victims of racism, it' most certainly is NOT a waste of time" doesn't apply to me because I do think it's a waste of time. I'm just as black as ShaRhonda, maybe just as long or longer, and I find her opinions here irritating and futile. I don't take it seriously when a black person writes to white people and tells them what they need to do anymore than when white people have told us what we need to do to get ourselves "straight." To be honest I have little stomach for relationships with people, black or white, that would read this stuff and accept it. In fact, it has been easier for me to have conversations with people that didn't realize their implicit biases and prejudices that were willing to listen than people who would call themselves white anti-racists. If you feel the need to label yourself I'm already losing interest in conversing. Prime example, I'm black and I'm against rape. I feel no need to classify myself as a black anti-rapist. I think people should just assume I'm against rape and if they find out I am not STAY AWAY FROM ME since I'm a scumbag.

Ada Johnson Tikkanen  

Posted: December 22nd, 2018 6:08 PM

Alice - to be clear - racism is very much alive in this world.

Alice Wellington  

Posted: December 22nd, 2018 1:38 PM

Liz Thompson - but of course. Is there anything that's not racist these days?

Ada Johnson Tikkanen  

Posted: December 22nd, 2018 11:52 AM

and furthermore Liz I have actually done every single thing on Ms. Knott Dawson's checklist without even being aware that I was doing it. Why? B/c it's my nature, it's part of who I am. It's a part of a lot of people.

Kline Maureen  

Posted: December 22nd, 2018 11:37 AM

and I will try harder just to get through each day with at least a little bit of humor and a smile on my face more than a frown

Ada Johnson Tikkanen  

Posted: December 22nd, 2018 11:09 AM

Further Liz - you forgot to add Jim and Ray in your grouping - so that's sexist.

Ada Johnson Tikkanen  

Posted: December 22nd, 2018 11:03 AM

Liz - It's my understanding, according to many past articles I've read, that since I am white I am inherently racist - so that would make sense. Still going to live my life to be the best person I can be every day.

Liz Thompson  

Posted: December 22nd, 2018 9:59 AM

Ada, Ramona, and Alice. Your responses, and the philosophies behind them, are racist. ShaRhonda, thank you for this piece. I will try harder to be a better ally, to speak up and to educate myself.

Bruce Kline  

Posted: December 22nd, 2018 6:35 AM

Ada if you are referring to Bill's response to Ray - specifically: "May they all be White" as the reason "...apparently I was wrong...", recall that his response is nothing more than a line from the most popular Christmas song of all time: Irving Berlin's "White Christmas" ("... may all your Christmas' be white.") Peace. Merry Christmas. Happy holidays to all.

Ada Johnson Tikkanen  

Posted: December 21st, 2018 6:48 PM

well apparently I was wrong - nonetheless - peace and joy.

Bruce Kline  

Posted: December 21st, 2018 6:29 PM

Wow. Simpson ... you're such a mensch.

Bill Dwyer  

Posted: December 21st, 2018 6:09 PM

Merry Christmas to you too, Simpson. May they all be White.

Ada Johnson Tikkanen  

Posted: December 21st, 2018 5:32 PM

Ray I am so sorry to hear about your wife. I know that has to be devastating. And I've also thought that as much as you and Bill Dwyer go back and forth that both of you would probably be one of the first people to step up if the other was in need. So I wish you both peace and joy this season.

Ramona Lopez  

Posted: December 21st, 2018 12:58 PM

Sara, Perhaps you should take your own advice "Take a play out out the rugged individualism and do something". The article pits black vs white and places people in a separate and distinct buckets based on the color of their skin. I see no problem with treating people as individuals. In fact, I stated just that in a previous post. Why is the onus always on white people? Why is there no middle ground?

Sarah Adeyinka-Skold  

Posted: December 21st, 2018 12:03 PM

There is a lot of anger in these comments. Dear White people, if you are tired of getting being told about racism, imagine what it must be like to live with it everyday? If you won't do it for the black and brown people, do it for yourself so that you don't have to hear us complain all the time. Isn't that how things work in America--we address problems so they don't bother us anymore? Take a play out out the rugged individualism and do something. That's all this post is asking you to do. Honestly, a world without racism is a good world for white people too. And if action is too much, pick up a book: I recommend anything by Ibrahim Kendi.

Alice Wellington  

Posted: December 21st, 2018 11:38 AM

Sorry, don't know where the extra question marks are coming from. But you get the idea.

Jim Frenkel  

Posted: December 21st, 2018 11:38 AM

Sorry meant to write "is racism unique to only ONE race?"

Alice Wellington  

Posted: December 21st, 2018 11:37 AM

"Racism is not dead, but it is on life support??"?kept alive by politicians, race hustlers and people who get a sense of superiority by denouncing others as 'racists'" ?" Thomas Sowell (look him up)

Alice Wellington  

Posted: December 21st, 2018 11:36 AM

"Racism is not dead, but it is on life support??"?kept alive by politicians, race hustlers and people who get a sense of superiority by denouncing others as 'racists'" ?" Thomas Sowell (look him up)

Jim Frenkel  

Posted: December 21st, 2018 11:35 AM

As I read this and try to be intellectually, and emotionally open to its message, it occurs to me to ask this question which can go a long way to either supporting or refuting this op-ed writer's point: "is racism something that is unique to only race?" Or are other races capable of this despicable thing. The dictionary has 2 definitions: 1. "prejudice, discrimination, or antagonism directed against someone of a different race based on the belief that one's own race is superior" and 2. "the belief that all members of each race possess characteristics or abilities specific to that race, especially so as to distinguish it as inferior or superior to another race or races." Understanding which one the op-ed writer is using would help me understand her piece even more.

Ray Simpson  

Posted: December 21st, 2018 11:34 AM

@ Bill Dwyer - Tis the season and I will miss your contributions here. I must thank you for your back and forth with me during a time my wife was losing her battle with Alzheimer's. The distraction kept my feet on the ground and gave me different things to think about - Thanks again and Merry Christmas. I hope you find satisfaction in what ever new journeys you take.

Ada Johnson Tikkanen  

Posted: December 21st, 2018 10:50 AM

And I don't spite her for that Ramona. We do have a way to go - I am quite congnizant. But I'm not drinking this kool-aid.

Ramona Lopez  

Posted: December 21st, 2018 10:41 AM

I agree Ada. EVERYTHING Ms. Dawson writes is about race. Her voice is relevant, valued and should be heard, but her trying to tell white people how to act, how to speak, and what events to have, is not a very productive position. If I wrote a similar piece and replaced the word white with black, well I would be labeled a racist. My previous post was done to simply point out the hypocrisy of her piece.

Ada Johnson Tikkanen  

Posted: December 21st, 2018 10:27 AM

Ramona - I think we're all really tired. And I think we're all right. And I also think if we just allow people space to realize they're not the enemy then we'll get a lot further than breaking people down and trying to rebuild them in a way which we deem they should be.

Ramona Lopez  

Posted: December 21st, 2018 9:50 AM

Very well said Ada. Wish I could be as eloquent as you.

Ada Johnson Tikkanen  

Posted: December 20th, 2018 11:13 PM

I am a white woman who has been transformed throughout my life by strong black women. Women who have been mentors, co-workers and ARE deep in my soul friends. I have cried till I could cry no more for the loss of a child of one of these friends...a pain that will live with me until God takes me home. And I understand. I do truly understand why your angry. But divisiveness will get us nowhere. I will admit I get irritated when I read editorials like this b/c you aren't trusting that people are capable of being kind without direction. That people aren't worthy unless they're angry and fighting and against people - and if they're not calling out some 80-year old on death's door step for being derogatory - then you are racist. Yeah it makes me flinch but I'm not a revisionist. I'm going to focus on the people I CAN change, That's the difference I'm going to make. Please quit making people feel small. Let people just be. And let people learn through life experiences. We will all get there. I for one am not going to any classes, or symposiums or read any books that tell me how to be a better white person. If I need to be an advocate or am insensitive my beautiful strong black women friends will tell me. I'm not going to let you shame me because I'm white. I know my heart is true, like many other people who are tired of this divisiveness. So fight your battles, as I know they are real, but may I suggest you channel your anger towards a more positive end - a little thing called common ground.

Andrea Kovach  

Posted: December 20th, 2018 10:41 PM

Thank you for taking the time to share your experiences ShaRhonda. Racism will never be eradicated or even reduced if we don't name it and then problem solve it, which, like you say, means that intentions of white people without action just reinforces the status quo. Let's get to work.

Ramona Lopez  

Posted: December 20th, 2018 10:07 AM

This is par for the course for Ms. Dawson. EVERY article she writes criticizes and condemns white people and their actions. "White etiquette dictates, "Don't make waves with friends and family." The same could be said when black people say NOTHING to police about crimes committed in their own backyards. "Create an Anti-Racism Event"....Maybe the black community should start creating events where they teach their kids the importance of education and having 2 parents in the household. "Support people of color without trying to lead". How about we just treat people as individuals instead of putting them in some victimhood bucket. This is just another leftist article placing all the blame of people of color on white people and completely removing any personal accountability. Being white is the new "original sin" for the new social justice warrior religion of the left.

Bill Dwyer  

Posted: December 20th, 2018 9:57 AM

Couple things here, Simpson, since you brought me up. First, it should be obvious to anyone who care to consider the issue that a "white anti-racist" is somewhat is, 1. white, and 2. against racism. Pretty simple for most people to grasp. Secondly, for all the people who actually ARE the victims of racism, it' most certainly is NOT a waste of time. Finally, since I'm permanently deleting my Facebook account within the next ten days, and this is a "Facebook verified" site, I won't be commenting on or replying to any more posts here. That should make people like you happy, Simpson. It will also make me happy, as whatever effort is required to pay attention to your brand of willful ignorance is definitely a waste of time.

Ray Simpson from Oak Park  

Posted: December 20th, 2018 8:00 AM

What the hell is a "White Anti-racist?" I am white, I am not a racist and I try to get along with everyone (except Dwyer I suppose) I certainly do NOT go out of my way to find people that I can label "Racist" - that is a monumental wast of time and energy. To be an "ANTI" anything you must live your life with your glass half empty and looking for the negative side of everything.

Alice Wellington  

Posted: December 19th, 2018 5:19 PM

I have a better idea. Ignore this woman's blatant race hustling, and go about your life like the nice, respectable person you are. P.S. I love the way Candace Owens thinks. Watch:

Donna Peel  

Posted: December 19th, 2018 3:15 PM

One of the best editorials in awhile. Thank you and yes, those of us who are white need to ensure that this is simply part of our lifestyle. I, for one, have appreciated the ongoing education. I'm sure that alone is exhausting.

Ray Simpson  

Posted: December 19th, 2018 8:38 AM

Interesting to note that this entire issue of the Wednesday Journal is composed of people who are "AGAINST"something. We are no longer "builders" who strive for better things by helping others and improving our neighborhoods. Solving problems by positive action has always been the tradition of Oak Park, recently we seem to be overwhelmed by attitudes of closed minded smallness.

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