Resources for Your Antiracism Practice
Updated: Mar 1
Racist: A person who is supporting racist policy through their actions or inaction or expressing a racist idea. A racist idea is any idea that suggests that one racial group is inferior or superior to another racial group, and that those inferiorities and superiorities of racial groups explain the racial inequities in society. Antiracist: A person who is supporting antiracist policy through their actions or expressing an antiracist idea. An antiracist idea is any idea that suggests the racial groups are equal in all their apparent differences. Antiracist ideas argue that racist policies are the cause of racial inequities. – Dr. Ibram X. Kendi | How to Be an Antiracist
First, let's set expectations.
This is going to be a long read. I invite you to read and explore everything here, and I invite you to intentionally set the time and space in your life to do that in the way that best suits you.
This work is uncomfortable. If you are never uncomfortable, you are not doing it right. Befriend the discomfort, it's telling you where to grow.
Next, I'll introduce myself and state my intentions.
My name is Desirée, and I'm trained as a licensed professional counselor and yoga teacher. I call myself a Soul Worker because I specialize in integrating all aspects of our experience and being into becoming who we truly are. My intersectional social identity is an adult, Anglo-American, racialized White, able-bodied, cisgendered woman, who is heterosexually married, highly educated, economically middle classed. Those are all the major signals of my identity to the other people in our society. They all intersect to form an idea for others about the kind of person I am and thereby also to form the kind of experience I am likely to have in our society. It affords certain privileges and access that I might not have otherwise as well as limitations on privilege and access that I might have otherwise. This is the place from which I am speaking. I am speaking primarily to other folx who experience white privilege in our culture and who are interested in learning more about how antiracism is a non-negotiable part of their soul work.
Primary Sources are immediate, first-hand accounts of a topic, from people who had a direct connection with it.
Secondary Sources are one step removed from primary sources, though they often quote or otherwise use primary sources. They can cover the same topic, but add a layer of interpretation and analysis. (https://umb.libguides.com/PrimarySources/secondary)
I am a secondary source. I urge you to fill your social media feeds, book shelves, podcast feeds, news feeds, etc. with primary sources. I will be recommending many to you in this article.
Here are some terms that will be helpful to know as you read through this and seek out other resources.
Whiteness or White Culture: When people talking about whiteness or white culture, they are not talking about having white skin. Whiteness is specifically about centering the idea or belief that "white people and the ideas, thoughts, beliefs, and actions of white people are superior to BIPOC and their ideas, thoughts, beliefs, and actions." – The Conscious Kid This does not have to be a belief that you actively hold, but is often one held passively in the idea that whiteness is the norm against which all else is measured. For example, take a look at the books, movies, TV shows, billboards, etc. you see and watch. Non-white people are often on the periphery if they are there at all. Naming and calling out whiteness are an integral part of antiracism work. If you feel the warm wash of shame when you read about whiteness being called out, then that's a good place for you to seek out how you identify with what's being confronted. You do not need to feel shame for having white skin, but feeling guilt for engaging in passively or actively racist thoughts, beliefs, and actions (yes, even if you didn't realize it was racist) will lead you to growth.
BIPOC: This stands for Black, Indigenous, and People of Color
NBPOC: This stands for Non-Black People of Color
ABAR: This stands for Anti-Bias Antiracism and refers to a specific area of social justice work and activism
Centering Whiteness: This is taking a conversation about the experience of BIPOC and making it about the discomfort or experience of a white person in that situation or in response to what that person is sharing. It is putting yourself, as a white person, as the "main character" of a conversation rather than remaining on the periphery.
White Fragility: This is the discomfort and defensiveness on the part of a white person when confronted by information about racial inequality and injustice (dictionary.com)
Intellectualizing Racism: In its most neutral meaning, intellectualizing racism is simply thinking about racism. By nature, this is the default for those of us with white privilege. Thinking about racism as a philosophical, political, or mental exercise is usually the first and primary way we engage with racism. Often, it's the only way we engage with racism. When weaponized, however, intellectualizing racism is used to argue with a person's experience of racism by picking over semantics and engaging in rhetorical debate. See Teach and Transform for more on this.
Tone Policing: This is the classic, "You could've said this a different way", often said by a white person in response to not feeling coddled by someone's means of expression, and almost always done in response to frank or blunt communication (which is different from rude, aggressive, or shaming communication). Again, uncomfortable does not equal bad.
Emotional Labor: Originally, this term was meant to describe the emotional components of a person's job, like a desk clerk needing to be friendly, hospitable, and engaging, despite whatever may actually be going on. In common parlance nowadays, it's used to mean the emotional effort, work, and energy that is required of a person when engaged in an interaction, conversation, or endeavor. Just like when you sit down to do math, it requires intellectual labor, having a conversation about race, equity, and justice requires emotional labor.
Privilege: Privilege is unearned power and access (Brené Brown). The simplest and quickest way to test for privilege is to ask yourself about any situation or topic, "Do I HAVE to care (respond, react) about this?" If the answer is no, then that means you have privilege. In that situation, you have the privilege of not thinking about it. If you don't have to think about how racial discrimination will impact you today or this week, then you have racial privilege (which in the United States, is white privilege).
White Saviorism: This is the idea that BIPOC need white people to save them, to solve their problems for them. For a very deep and uncomfortable confrontation with this, I recommend following No White Saviors. This is often the thought that, "I need to fix YOUR problem FOR YOU." That is not giving care, that is not within your response-ability, and that is not practicing healthy boundaries. That usually quickly results in white-centering ("Look at me and what an awesome person I am, helping all these unfortunate people out," which is itself dehumanizing others and placing yourself in a position of superiority). It is a misplaced acceptance of responsibility. Instead of acknowledging how we need to change OUR actions, we end up further taking power away from people by stepping in and telling them what they need to do in order to "be better."
Now, let's talk boundaries.
You have gotten things wrong and you will get things wrong (yes, even when you're trying to get it right. This is why it's called an antiracism practice). You will miss the mark, misunderstand sometimes. You will get called out on it directly or indirectly. It will be uncomfortable. You might cry. You might feel really awful. When this happens, this is usually a signal for you to sit, listen, and then go churn it over. You do not need to respond immediately, and many times you don't need to respond at all. You certainly do not need to defend yourself. If you feel the need to write out a whole thing about, "Well actually," or, "What about," or, "That's not a fair comment," then that is a big red flag telling you that you've got some work to do. So go write that whole response down in a journal somewhere and then keep journaling until you can get underneath the defensiveness, shame, anger, feelings of unfairness, etc. until you can recognize where you need to grow and do that thing from a place of self-love and love for others.
Don't comment if not invited. Many times, BIPOC activists will host conversations on their social media platforms specifically for other Black people, BIPOC people, or NBPOC, and they will request explicitly that white people not comment. They will sometimes say, "You may like and share, but do not comment." Here's what that means: If you are racially white, do not comment. It doesn't mean, "No white people except you." It doesn't mean, "No white people, except the good ones" (we'll get to that in a minute). It doesn't mean, "No comments, but emojis of affirmation are okay" (again, thinking that I need to expressly affirm or agree with someone is white centering). Your emoji does not further legitimize what someone else is saying. No, when someone says "do not comment," it means what it means. If someone is clearly stating a boundary, honor it. NOT honoring that boundary is an example of centering whiteness and an abuse of privilege. Often times, even if the comments are left open to all, it's best not to comment. You have more to learn than you have to say, so simply read and listen and learn. A lot of times, we feel the need to comment to prove ourselves in some way, or to offer a confession and express our earnestness, which is again, about us. Unless you truly have something to add to the conversation, unless you are truly using your voice and privilege for good, then you probably don't need to say anything. You probably just need to keep digging into your own work.
"One of the good ones". When doing this work, it can be tempting to try and become "one of the good ones," to try and prove ourselves as "one of the good ones." But again, that is centering whiteness. It's saying, "Yeah, yeah. I hear your experience. That's rough that those other white people have been so terrible. But I'm not that way. I'm not that bad." It's dismissing, it's defensive and making the conversation about yourself, and it's entirely, completely, 100% missing the mark of doing your own soul work in this area. Trying to be "one of the good ones" is a non-goal. It's a red herring. It's a symptom of our culture's dichotomous, "either good or bad" thinking. We will never be done doing this work in our lifetime, so get the idea of being done or being "one of the good ones" out of your mind. Instead, ask yourself, "how can I go deeper into this work?"
Your emotions are your responsibility. Many times I see white people who are new anti-racism work say things like, "Go easy on us, we're doing our best!" or who will express feelings of victimization at having their intentions misunderstood. Say it with me: this work is uncomfortable. You're going to get it wrong, and you're going to get called out. It doesn't feel good. Here is what you do. Say, "Thank you for that feedback. I'm so sorry I got it wrong. I value your labor in holding me accountable, and I'm going to honor that by doing some work around this." And then you go and take care of your own self. Your emotions, your feelings of embarrassment, humiliation, shame, guilt, or whatever you are feeling, are not the responsibility of anyone else, most certainly a BIPOC activist who is already actively, daily doing their work under a system of oppression. Do not contribute your emotions to that oppression. You go journal about your feelings AND do the anti-racism work that you got feedback about. See this post from Rachel Cargle for an example.
Sharing violent images on social media. As you talk and share on social media about injustice, inequity, and the murder of Black people who have died at the hands of modern day lynching, ask yourself the question, “Do I need to see it or hear it in order to believe it?” This question comes from Britt Hawthorne, an Anti-Bias Antiracism educator. This is an important question to ask, because media fetishizes violence, especially the violence committed against black bodies. Do you need to see the photo of George Floyd being suffocated, do you need to hear the video of him saying he can’t breathe in order to believe it happened? This speaks to two issues:
Believing people’s experiences as they tell them to you. This is basic empathy and compassion. We do not need to examine proof to determine whether or not someone’s suffering is deserving of our empathy, compassion, care, or support. We simply need to listen.
Trauma. What happens to Black people on a daily basis here in the United States is traumatic, and it is re-traumatizing to see these images and videos over and over. Don’t become desensitized to seeing violence against black bodies; it’s not something we should be used to. Do not use violence against black bodies for your message or your agenda. Respect the Black people who have died by respecting their bodies in death.
Now, let's talk about showing up.
This is an excerpt from my work on Community:
Showing up and participating is how we influence community and intentionally work together for change. This can look lots of different ways for lots of different people and that's good. You don't need to participate in everything; the world doesn't need you to. We need you to show up and participate in the ways and with the gifts that are authentic to you.
This includes our participation in collective learning.
DO: Search out the people and public figures who have chosen their work to be educating, informing, and empowering others to have the knowledge necessary to make impactful and informed changes.
Follow them on Instagram and Twitter
Buy their books
Join their Patreon
Attend their webinars
Listen to their podcasts
Amplify their work and recommend them to others
Pay them and financially support their work