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How We Can Begin To Use Our White Woman Privilege to *Actually* Be The Change

NOTE: I posted this on Monday morning June 26. Monday afternoon I did a podcast interview where this came up and I said something that feels important to add to this post.

“I am willing to get this wrong on the way to getting it right.”

This is not a perfect post and that’s not what I’m striving for. The purpose is to begin somewhere.


For the last few years I’ve been working to “diversify” our community in various ways, starting with educating myself on the real issues so I can actually use my platform effectively to help, not just preach or unintentionally contribute to so much of the noise that is out there.

It’s felt like a slow process, because the volume of issues in just our country is high and at times can seem overwhelming like, “Can WE really make a dent?”

The answer is YES. We can and we will, because we have the willingness, the desire, and the humbleness to look at the places where we have been ignorant and do better. We can do this without blaming or shaming ourselves or others, and my intention with this post and future posts like it is to model how we can do that and invite you to join me if you would like to.

By WE here, I’m specifically talking about us white women, because truly, when white people start doing things differently (For example: Learning about privilege, the long standing systems that keep racism, prejudice and oppression alive, and other people’s cultures. Acknowledging and respecting these differences by way of our words, actions, and considerations. And there’s so much more, but again, we’re aiming for starting points here.) people of color have a much better chance of seeing the changes and receiving the treatment they honestly deserve as members of the human-freaking-race.

I’m open for input and feedback on my efforts because I am still navigating learning so much about so many things I really didn’t know. It’s painful and frustrating sometimes, but that’s no reason to let up because our brothers and sisters of color in this country in particular have had to endure WAY MORE pain and frustration than we can ever imagine.

I posted about Luvvie Ajayi’s book I’m Judging You the other day in my private Facebook group and I’m still finishing it. I have some blog post, articles, and videos to reflect and share the dots that her work has helped me to connect coming soon.

If you have any thoughts, ideas, reflection or questions about this, please comment below.

And if you’re looking to educate yourself as well, I highly recommend Luvvie’s book. She has a very unique way of blending depth, facts, AND humor to make very serious and pervasive issues understandable.

TO THE WOMEN OF COLOR IN MY COMMUNITY AND ALL PEOPLE OF COLOR WHOM I’VE INTERACTED WITH OVER THE YEARS

I personally am so sorry for all the ways that I just didn’t know better. For anything I’ve ever said, written or done to contribute to your marginalization, I apologize. This is my commitment to you to keep paying attention, to not be lazy about my efforts, and to use my big ass, loud mouth and platform to do whatever I can in a smart, effective way.

I’m probably gonna mess up some more along the way, feel free to let me know if or when I do. Thank you.

xo,
E

How We Can Begin To Use Our White Woman Privilege to *Actually* Be The Change
  • jess

    Thank you for posting this, Elizabeth. Curious if you feel called to share more about specific things that have come up / feedback you’ve gotten / examples of ways you weren’t aware in the past. I’ve been thinking about this topic a lot lately and also want to be more proactive in looking at what I’m doing/sharing and how it could be more inclusive and effective.

    • Elizabeth DiAlto

      Yes, where it says I have some blogs, articles and videos coming – that’s exactly the type of thing I’ll be covering 🙂

      • Audra Davidson

        Buggy before the horse.

      • jess

        Ahhh great 🙂 thank you

  • Audra Davidson

    ??? “By WE here, I’m specifically talking about us white women, because truly, unless white people start doing things differently, people of color have no chance of seeing the changes and receiving the treatment they honestly deserve as members of the human-freaking-race.” ???

    • Elizabeth DiAlto

      What’s thumbs down about this for you Audra?

      What I’m saying is, it’s our ancestors that created all the structures and systems that keep racism, prejudice and oppression going…so we have to be able to recognize it and do things differently to dismantle the whole thing. I am not saying other people’s efforts don’t make a difference, but essentially, we created this, we need to destroy it.

      • Audra Davidson

        ?The downward thumbs are for the title, and the fact that the post did not offer one, ‘how-to’.. It doesnt even deserve a forward to my sisters to discuss..

        • Elizabeth DiAlto

          this is a helpful point. Updated the title. Thanks!

      • Audra Davidson

        Change begins on the INSIDE should be your message.

        • Elizabeth DiAlto

          Change begins on the inside IS my message. More specifically that, “Everything you’ve ever needed has always been inside of you.” And I believe that to be true while also seeing plenty of evidence that it’s much easier for some people to experience than others within the current structures and systems in our culture. So we can agree to disagree on that aspect. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

    • Elizabeth DiAlto

      edited this paragraph, too. Hopefully the point I’m actually trying to make is more clear now. Thanks again for pointing out what was miscommunicated!

  • Audra Davidson

    Do my sisters a favor… Just stay white. As you must have learned by now, my sisters are much more stronger than you and your BIG MOUTH could ever be. I am appalled at the title of this post or how you could even begin to feel that being WHITE is a privilege. I Am one that sees not, color of skin, and, know for a fact that there is not one single thing you can do to change our victory… ?”I personally am so sorry”… ? truth.

    Namaste’
    Audra
    Black Woman
    Never Sorry

    • Elizabeth DiAlto

      Thanks for clarifying. I will too. I don’t think being white is a privilege. I am referring to the inherent privilege that comes with being white in this country. And I am addressing women specifically because that is my community.

      There are probably better explanations of white privilege but here’s an excerpt from the Wikipedia results…this is what I am talking about:

      “…According to Peggy McIntosh, whites in Western societies enjoy advantages that non-whites do not experience, as “an invisible package of unearned assets”.[1] White privilege denotes both obvious and less obvious passive advantages that white people may not recognize they have, which distinguishes it from overt bias or prejudice. These include cultural affirmations of one’s own worth; presumed greater social status; and freedom to move, buy, work, play, and speak freely. The effects can be seen in professional, educational, and personal contexts. The concept of white privilege also implies the right to assume the universality of one’s own experiences, marking others as different or exceptional while perceiving oneself as normal.[2][3]”

      To be clear, I think this sucks and that it’s unfair. I don’t want it, I didn’t ask for it, and since I have it, I plan to use it to help. Totally cool if you don’t believe I can. I’m still going to try.

      • Audra Davidson

        Ones OWN worth, and ‘presumed’ greater social status.. Honestly. You are buying into the whole skin thing.. Stick to teaching your sisters how to tap into their own bodies, feeling.. not so much the color of their skin, what has happened to us in tbe past. I can guarantee you, and you can TRY all you’d like.. I applaud your efforts, this post is just worded so wrong. Peace to you, SISTER, and wikipedia is not authoratative in my world, thanks for the quote. And, the vulnerability sharing your ignorance. ?

      • Audra Davidson

        ‘The concept of white privilege also implies the right to assume the universality of one’s own experiences, marking others as different or exceptional while perceiving oneself as normal.’

        The word, concept, is not a truth. . implies, is just that.. An implication. Right to ‘assume’.. Hahaha… While perceiving oneself as normal… Thankfully, the desire to be normal is the farthest desire of mine. No need to respond. This warrants no more of my energy. Again, peace to you. much Love and LIGHT from this Melanated sister to you. ? Namaste’ ?

  • http://www.amberrosethomas.com/ Amber-Rose Thomas

    I am so glad you posted this Elizabeth. I just ordered Luvvie’s book.

    I have also felt called to do something helpful with my white privilege but I must admit the route of educating myself on the issues out there has often felt overwhelming and left me wondering if I even have any right to want to help. Like is my response actually just another microagression because I’m assuming I can use my whiteness to ‘save’ people?

    I love being part of the conversation around equality and fairness to all women, and your post as really helped me recommit to keep on going with my own education and to commit to getting it wrong on the path to getting it right. <3

    • Elizabeth DiAlto

      Totally get this Amber-Rose. I don’t think we can (or need to) “save” anyone…but I think we can help people see what they’re not seeing and do better at acknowledging and considering all of the experiences that aren’t like our own.

  • Sofya Melkova

    My comment will be slightly out of topic. I just want to say that obviously the intention of this whole talk is clarity and the topic can’t be irrelevant to anyone. Honestly, I don’t care about the skin color, I care, for example, much about music. And I’ve been listening whole life to black big-mouths and white big-mouths and as long as they sound true in their singing – they sound great to me!! Change is always on the inside, it’s true, but when it’s happening – it’s obvious that it’s happening on the outside too. And it might look like lots of resistance and you will be called ignorant for bringing it up and arrogant for being silent about that. And that’s fine. I just wish for myself and others that we would listen to the message our heart wants to communicate, to the music of the intention behind all the concepts and beliefs we articulate… defending the later, however important they seem, will always be a cat fight. Good luck, Elizabeth!! love, Sofya

  • MollieCT

    Hey Elizabeth,

    I really appreciate your courage sharing on the sensitive topic of
    privilege. And your receptivity to dialogue about the language around it
    and its impact.

    I just saw a great documentary recently called “I Am Not Your Negro” By
    James Baldwin and Raoul Peck. Have you seen it? It’s a look at the civil
    rights movement that gives context to some of the struggles happening
    present day and it’s amazing, though it’s not so much from a feminist
    focus.

    Also I was at a book launch for Roxanne Gay’s new book Hunger, and a
    young woman in high school asked a question about how to make the
    feminism that has finally been taken up by her school mates- more
    intersectional. And Roxanne’s response was that ‘white women’ need to do
    something about ‘white woman feminism’ not being intersectional. That
    white women need to reframe their understanding of feminism through the
    lens of how their privilege can make them blind to the systemic power
    imbalances that exist. I am up for the challenge of deconstructing,
    learning and adapting through conversation and am excited to see that
    you are too.

    (I’ll check out Luvvie Ajayi’s book, thanks!)

    Mollie Coles Tonn