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For White People Asking, “What can I do?” after Charlottesville

“To opt out of the conversation because you can’t do it perfectly is the definition of privilege.” – Brené Brown

I did this for a really long time, because I didn’t know any better. That is not an excuse, it’s evidence of my own unearned privilege.

A lot of white people are asking right now, “What can I do?” One answer is, take the 32 mins and watch this Facebook Live video by Brené Brown.

A few more answers: Really listen to what she’s saying. Take notes. Learn something. Take action based on what you learn. Talk to your white friends about this. Share it with your white families and co-workers.

She is talking about owning our stories so they don’t own us anymore, so we can write the endings.

She is talking about foundational knowledge and awareness so that we can work towards solutions.

Not wanting to look, thinking it’s not your problem because you’re not a racist or white supremacist, and other such faulty logic is not excusable when those who are blatant racists and white supremacists feel emboldened to march on any street of the country we live in AT ALL, let alone, without even covering their faces.

White supremacy is woven into the collective story of the US. In the video Brené likens this to shame. It is uncomfortable to talk about, people would rather not, “go there,” and not going there is what feeds it and keeps it alive.

IT’S WAY PAST TIME TO GO THERE

All white people benefit from white supremacy – as do those of us who may be of mixed heritage but “look white” – I’m 25% Puerto Rican, my last name is Italian. The most irritating thing I’ve ever had to deal with is constantly being asked, “What are you?” Which is not even mildly irritating by comparison to what people of color face every friggin’ day living in this country.

This is not a time for fragility, guilt, justification of past oversights, denial, martyrdom, saviorism, or keeping tabs on who is making what efforts.

More effort is needed, we just need to get to work.

It’s a time for commitment to the long-haul, to listening, learning, and consistent, corrective, supportive action.

It’s a time for using the words that people don’t want to use like privilege and white supremacy, and calling it out when we see it.

And listen, I am into metaphysics, I know that words have power, that what we focus on expands and etc. But that goes both ways – the words we use and the words we don’t use.

What we’re thinking and doing when we don’t say certain words out loud because we’re afraid of “negative energy” is not always helpful or “high vibe” either. Not acknowledging what’s really happening around us and within us can be far more problematic than calling something what it is, because either way, it’s in our consciousness.

Not addressing these things is like putting a bandaid on a cut that still has dirt in it without washing it off first…it’s going to fester.

YOU CAN’T BE SELECTIVELY CONSCIOUS

I heard Marianne Williamson say that at a gathering in 2014 when she was running for Congress.

We can make our efforts with and from love. We do not have to be assholes with each other, demanding perfection, policing how timely people’s posts and responses are to current events, or evaluating how well we all grasp the complexities of systems that have been embedded for centuries.

Our efforts are required here, white folks. This is about equity and justice, so we get to place our egos aside and take responsibility for what is ours to undo.

I know it may feel inconvenient and we didn’t ask for this responsibility – but we also didn’t earn all of the advantages that come with being white in a country that is built on it’s supremacy. And since we can’t forego the benefits, we don’t get to forego this responsibility either.

For White People Asking, “What can I do?” after Charlottesville