White privilege is something I’ve had since I took my first breath. It has paved a road for me that has made my life easier than my black and brown sisters (and brothers) around the world. We’re ALL in this racist system. That’s why I’m calling on white people to actively work to end racism now. In this post I share 3 first steps for you to begin your journey as an antiracist.
We live in a world that has built systems of oppression and privilege that I benefit from. My white privilege has made it easier for me to get a job offer and the internship I wanted. In Sweden (where I’m from and live today), I have an easier time entering a room as the majority looks like me.
My white privilege has allowed me to be worry-free in many instances when my black peers would be bottled up with anxiety.
It’s really important to understand this: privilege is not a right. Privilege is an advantage over other people.
I have been granted this privilege only because I am white. As a white person I can speak and live more freely. I don’t have to live with the fear of prejudice, discrimination, persecution or death because of the color of my skin. I can choose to ignore injustice because its uncomfortable and resort to Netflix instead.
Ava Duvernay shared this text by writer Scott Woods, which I think sums this whole system up really well.
The trouble is that my “freedom” is not real freedom when it oppresses others.
The words of Martin Luther King Jr. “no one is free until we are all free,” ring so true today. It’s about time we get REALLY uncomfortable with the white supremacist system that we are a part of!
The world has witnessed the horrendous abuse by police on black lives in America. This is only the tip of the iceberg of the racism that black people and people of color experience every day. Yes, this applies to Sweden and other places around the world too.
Artist Beth Suzanna illustrates and describes this pain for us.
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The tip of the iceberg- Feeling disgusted, angry, fearful, and exhausted. Racism is happening all around us, on SO many levels and if you’re only just seeing it now, that’s privilege. This is not an isolated incident. Be an ally, listen, learn, share, donate and amplify. Confront racial injustices outside of your echo chamber, even and especially when it’s uncomfortable (offline AS WELL as online.) Use your privilege. Take action. #justiceforgeorgefloyd #blacklivesmatter
As we’ve seen the protests sparked after the brutal murder of George Floyd, many of us have been wondering, “what can I do?”.
Now, we can’t reach gender equality without involving men and boys, right? Neither can we reach racial equality and justice without taking real action as a privileged group.
So, the question – “what can I do” – is one we need to discuss with each other as white people. Our black and brown brothers and sisters are doing so much every single day and are trying to cope right now. This is a question I know that I’m guilty of asking black peers in the past.
It is our responsibility, as white people, to end racism. Just like it is men’s responsibility to stop raping women.
Black people and people of color have struggled, fought, overcome and survived for centuries. There’s so much that white people need to do now.
The work is long and hard and it is about internal growth, institutional change and love for others. There are things we can do now, but there are also things we must keep doing once protesters have returned home.
Here are 3 things to begin your journey as an antiracist.
1. Educate yourself about racism and antiracism
Learn more. Listen more.
I ordered these books this week, who wants to read them with me?
- Black Feminist Thought, by Patricia Hill Collins
- Eloquent Rage: A Black Feminist Discovers Her Superpower, by Brittney Cooper
- Raising Our Hands: How White Women Can Stop Avoiding Hard Conversations, Start Accepting Responsibility, and Find Our Place on the New Frontlines, by Jenna Arnold
I also recommend these podcast episodes:
- How to Be Antiracist with Ibram X. Kendi on Unlocking Us
- The Big Question on About Race with Reni Eddo-Lodge
There are so many resoureces out there. Just google how to be antiracist and you’ll get lots of help. You can also read more here.
2. Examine yourself
Take time to understand your privilege and in what ways you may have acted racist.
This is not the time to be ashamed, but a crucial time for growth. Once you’re aware of what has been wrong in your life, be conscious of your steps to change into a better human.
Check yourself. Take out a journal and answer the following questions:
- What prejudices do you hold to be true about people who are not white? What do you think about them? Why do you think that way?
- What does your community look like? Do you surround yourself with a diverse group of people? Why or why not? How can you expand your circle of friends and peers?
- Where do you hold power in your life? What is your job, what is your income level, what connections and skills do you have? Who listens to you? What are your strengths?
- How can you use your power, money, skills and strengths to combat racism? Write down 3 things you can do now. Next, write down how and when you will get them done.
Dedicate time to really reflect on yourself in this world. Write down what you need to actively change in your life to be a real ally. Commit to real change.
I hope you will get to the point that your heart breaks because of the injustice happening in front of your eyes. I hope you dare to get really uncomfortable. It is only when we step out of our comfort zones that real change is going to happen.
3. Talk about it
In the past few days I’ve talked about racism with my husband. We’ve discussed how harmful our silence is. Our silence gives power to the system that is oppressing and killing people in our world. South African Anglican cleric and anti-apartheid and human rights activist, Desmond Tutu, said:
“If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.”
Writer, activist, Nobel laureate and Holocaust survivor, Elie Wiesel, said,
“We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented. The opposite of love is not hate, it’s indifference.”
When it comes to talking, here are a few ideas to get you started.
- Talk to someone you trust about your own racism or things you’ve recently learned about yourself. In conversations with my husband, I’ve talked about things that have arisen to my attention of how I’ve acted and prejudices I didn’t think I had.
- Talk to family members and friends about what we can do. This morning I talked to my father about what we can do in Sweden and shared a podcast episode with him. Spark others to continue talking and learning. Talk to white people in your close circles about how to end racism.
- Talk to your children about their role. Raise your children to understand their privilege and their responsibilty to stand up for others. Teach them about equality and how we are a part in creating an equal and just society for all.
- Talk to your elected leaders and ask them what they are doing to combat racism at all levels of society. Hold them accountable.
- Talk to you black friends and hear how they’re doing. IMPORTANT: This is way more about listening than talking! Listen and learn.
- Talk to antiracist activists and extend a helping hand. You can volunteer your time, donate to their work, or give of your services or products if they need them.
- Talk and OBJECT to racist comments, racial jokes and racist behavior. It is the one’s who quietly stand and watch who are complicit in these crimes. Racism is never funny or even tolerable – so don’t let it be. Call people out on it.
“The most common way people give up their power is by thinking they don’t have any.” – Alice Walker
We all live in this system and we have the power to change it. Let’s not continue to be complacent and complicit in this injust, intolerable, heart-wrenching system.
In the comments below share what you will do to take action against racism.
I urge you to take on the challenge and get uncomfortable. As white people, let’s actively work to end racism in our home countries and in the world.