Talking to white friends about everyday racism

Q: What are useful guidelines for talking to white friends about everyday racism, when their first reaction is to shut me down for even suggesting that I and they might have said or done something racist?

A: I am sorry to say that there are no set “guidelines.” The key is to keep standing up. Everyday racism is often seen in microaggressions. Microaggressions are little pervasive things in our society that show that whiteness, christianity, able bodies, etc. are valued more than other identities.

The University of California describes microaggressions as, “the everyday verbal, nonverbal, and environmental slights, snubs, or insults, whether intentional or unintentional, that communicate hostile, derogatory, or negative messages to target persons based solely upon their marginalized group membership (from Diversity in the Classroom, UCLA Diversity & Faculty Development, 2014). The first step in addressing microaggressions is to recognize when a microaggression has occurred and what message it may be sending.”

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Struggling to find a place to speak out, because you don’t want to be speaking for POC

Posted with permission from Chris Crass

Notes to a white anti-racist on struggling to find her place to speak out, because she doesn’t want to be speaking for POC:

For me it’s not about speaking for POC communities, but when it comes to racism, I’m speaking primarily for white communities, for white kids who I don’t want to see grow up in this evil white supremacist system, for white people, many of us working class who have been screwed over generationally by ruling classes who have stoked the flames and encouraged white hatred, fear, resentment of POC communities and mobilized white racism to both keep POC communities down as well as white working class and poor communities down. Speaking out for white communities robbed of the humanity of POC, while having our own humanity twisted and distorted in the service of mobilizing wealth and power to the 1%.

So I bring in the leadership, voices, experiences of POC, not to speak for them, but to bring lessons, vision, insight, and history from POC (as well as white anti-racist history and insight) into white society, with the goal of freeing white people from the death grip of supremacy systems, and joining as many white people as possible to multiracial movements for collective liberation (which includes all or mostly white groups/institutions/communities doing justice work with a racial justice vision/culture in alliance/solidarity with POC efforts). We need tens of thousands of white people, courageously and passionately, winning over the hearts and minds of white people, so we can all get free. Continue reading

How do I explain that it’s important to me to speak up for something that can’t speak for itself?

Q: I got into an argument with a friend of mine who is a person of color. They were mad at me because I feel very passionately about protecting the ocean and they said that made me a bad person because I should only care about is social justice. I do care about social justice and I stand up to racism where I can, but how do I reply to that? How do I explain that it’s important to me to speak up for something that can’t speak for itself?

So, I’ve been thinking about this a lot since your question was submitted. I’m not sure that this is the complete, or the best answer but Ill take a go at it. I encourage others to join in the discussion through the comment section.

I just posted an article that I found on about white people respecting what black people in america are feeling right now. This is very important!

It sounds like your friend is expressing their pain right now. Hearing their pain is important. Listen to what your friend is saying. Are they saying that the ocean isn’t important? I kinda doubt it. It sounds to me like they are saying that right now they are suffering (undergoing pain, distress, or hardship) and that they don’t feel that you are hearing them.

The best thing to do right now is to listen.

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