Are you a white european or american* person? Then this message is for you. I am one, by the way.
*or other white ‘westerner’, such as australian etc.
The other day I posted a black square with the hashtag blackouttuesday on instagram. By doing so I wanted to support the message that is currently going around the world.
By posting the black square, I did not change the world. I did not fight racism. I did not do an effort to contribute to equality and justice. I simply posted an IG post, it didn’t cost me anything.
If I take racism and injustice serious, I will have to do more. If I take the life of black people serious, I will have to do more. I will have to confront my own privilege, I will have to confront the racism in society and I will have to confront the internalised racism inside me. And that is a painful process. But you know what? I’ll have to do it. And you too. You’ll have to do it.
Eradicating racism is not the job of black people. It is the job of white people.
It’s a very inconvenient job. It’s a hard job. It’s a painful job. For example, I will feel white pain when I confront myself with the following truths about myself: “I am not a racist, I despise racism, yet I contribute to a racist society” and even more painful “I am not a racist, I despise racism, yet I have racist thoughts and reactions.”
One quote that I saw several times these last days is “it is not enough to not be racist. We have to be anti-racist.”
By being a bystander that does not intervene we become accomplice. If we do not intervene but just watch, the crime becomes a shared responsibility of the perpetrator and us. That is why we, white people, have to do the work. We have to take responsability for eradicating racism and healing the collective trauma.
Wow I feel the white pain already. Why are you telling me that I am responsible for that? Are you calling me a racist? You are upsetting me! I have never done anything bad to a black person!
No, take a deep breath. I am not calling you a racist. And I totally believe you when you say that you never intentionally did something bad against black people. But the truth is that as soon as you benefit from your white privilege, you are contributing to racism in society. Still, that doesn’t make you a racist. Even in case you did a racist thing at some moment in your life, it doesn’t make you a racist. Just like doing a stupid thing at some moment in your life doesn’t mean that you are stupid.
You and I, we have great intentions, right? But… our intentions are irrelevant. The only thing that counts is what happens in reality.
It is not enough to not be racist. We have to be actively anti-racist.
A great first step is HOLD SPACE. Listen to the stories of black people. Listen to what they have to say. Don’t defend yourself, don’t downplay their statements, don’t say that there are others (other people of colour for example) that are also being discriminated, don’t say that you are against racism, don’t say that there is no racism in your country or in your bubble.
JUST LISTEN. You will probably feel as if you are being attacked. You will probably feel as if you are being held responsible for something that you have nothing to do with. You will feel the white pain. Take a deep breath, and LISTEN, nothing else.
Are you with me? Imagine sitting with your (grand)children two decades from now, watching a documentary about society in 2020. About how black people were being discriminated and even killed, just because of their skin tone. Now imagine telling your (grand)children that you were one of those people that have actively engaged themselves in eradicating that racism, that you were not just a bystander. Imagine how you will feel telling that to your (grand)children!
And engaging actively in eradicating racism does not have to come with participating in manifestations or riots. The first step is a very zen one: Listen.
Are you with me? Let’s do it. I will post more about this subject in the coming days. About, for example, “all lives matter”. And about “but my family suffered a lot in WWII”. About the riots and the looting. About our good intentions. About “they should not complain, they have a good life here”. About “there is racism against white people too”. About many very plausible sounding reasons why we should not engage in actively being anti-racist.
Please read part two of this message: Privilege makes blind