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What's been holding you back? It's white supremacy.

Updated: Jun 21, 2020

It is evidently, painfully clear that critical, vulnerable, and significant conversations about race, racism, and how to be anti-racist are needed. This has been true for generations, literally since 1492. With all the post-racial fantasies of America ablaze, one of the questions we should each be asking ourselves is: what am I doing to eliminate racism?

The answers to this question will be different for people depending on their positionality within the hierarchical system of oppression we need to dismantle, but there is something we all can be doing. Here are some suggestions for beginning to answer the question of our lifetime:

If you are white:

  • Read & learn about the history of race, racism, white supremacy and dominance, and the insidious institutionalization of oppression into our governing systems and social norms.

  • Talk to your friends and family about what you are learning and invite them to learn and grow in anti-racism with you. This is a profoundly important way for you to call family IN (not call out), and grow closer-to each other, and the people of color in your life.

  • Leverage your agency at work to integrate anti-racist dialogue into your team, department, and broader organization. Challenge your organization to hold safe spaces for critical anti-racist dialogue, professional development, policy and practice analysis and change, and accountability.

If you are BIPOC:

  • Take care of yourself. That is so hard, but so incredibly important. As we endure and fight for space, humanity, justice, and equity, we carry the intergenerational trauma that manifests as the very health disparities we advocate against. Here are some strategies for self-care:

  • Let white people educate themselves. If you don't have the bandwidth, language, or interest, you don't have to. You have permission to say "no", and to set boundaries. (If you're feeling generous, you can refer them to the list above.)

  • Call in your friends and family members for their anti-Black racism, internalized racism and horizontal oppression, particularly for non-Black, non-Indigenous POCs.

  • Use your voice to ask for support. I know this requires (1) gathering the energy to acknowledge your pain and abundance of other overwhelming feelings you may be numbing yourself from, (2) overcoming stereotype threat, imposter syndrome, and other experiences that show you that speaking your truth is not safe, and (3) you run the risk of the added trauma of not being supported. I get it. Despite these risks and challenges, the potential benefits of being able to delegate, take the day off without using PTO, gaining access to mental health services, or some other form of support are worth it, especially right now.

It is important to recognize that when we don't take action to dismantle racism within ourselves, our families, and the institutions in which we have agency, we are complicit in it. Those who have the most privilege in this system of oppression, whose ancestors created institutional practices to drive racial group inequities for their gains, we are looking to you to do the individual, collective, institutional, and societal work to step down from unearned positions of advantage. Those of us whose ancestors have fought for our humanity, voices, lives, and liberty, keep in mind that taking care of ourselves is a necessary revolutionary act, so that we may (1) be present for our children and loved ones, (2) live long enough to experience and enjoy equity, and (3) continue our legacies of shining in the midst of struggle.

BIPOC fam: What self-care and balancing practices are you engaging in these days? Share in the comments!

Sharon Washington Consulting provides safe and brave space dialogues, white racial literacy and allyship development, and organizational assessment and transformation.

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