Janee Woods has an important message for people like me – white people. She has noticed a silence in the white population around her, and she wants to end it. She describes this silence’s roots not in ambivalence, but in discomfort and uncertainty:
A lot of white people aren’t speaking out publicly against the killing of Michael Brown because they don’t see a space for themselves to engage meaningfully in the conversation […] It’s not so much that they have nothing to say but rather they don’t see an opportunity being opened up for them to say something or to do something that matters. Or they might not be sure what to say or how to do it. […] they worry that talking about race and differences between cultures might make things worse, or they think they rarely see overt racism at play in their everyday lives. […] There’s a real fear of saying the wrong thing even if the intention is pure …
This is a very interesting (and in my case, accurate) description of the thinking of many white people. I personally haven’t said much because I am afraid of saying the wrong thing or seeming insensitive or otherwise ignorant to the issues faced by colored people all around the world. I also grew up with a tendency toward political correctness, and as a result it feels weird, even now, to use the terms “white,” “colored,” and “black”. Janee, I’m taking your lead on this one and using the skin color-based terms. I hope it’s OK.
Janee then goes on to lay out the 12 things we white people can – and must! – do in order to make a meaningful impact. Read them yourself – they’re all excellent and well within the grasp of the everyday citizen (no, she doesn’t suggest you take a month off from work and go join in the protests).
My favourite is #12, which is simply called “Don’t give up.”. She writes:
We’re 400 years into this racist system and it’s going to take a long, long, long time to dismantle these atrocities. The antiracism movement is a struggle for generations, not simply the hot button issue of the moment. Transformation of a broken system doesn’t happen quickly or easily. You may not see or feel the positive impact of your white allyship in the next month, the next year, the next decade or even your lifetime. But don’t ever stop. Being a white ally matters because your thoughts, deeds and actions will be part of what turns the tide someday. Change starts with the individual.
Absolutely brilliant article. I’m going to try to take this advice – all of it – to become a better ally to the racially oppressed in our society.