If you’ve missed the recent _ROTB Saturday spiritualigious service gatherings_, we’ve been talking a bit about being an anti-racist.
Catch up by reading this.
“It is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society.”
Impact and intent are different.
Your understanding of my communication might not be what I meant to communicate.
Guilt and shame are different.
Guilt is me feeling that I did not live up to my own moral code. Shame is you telling me that I’m doing wrong by the group.
Not being racist and being actively anti-racist are different.
And that’s what we are going to talk about.
The well-intentioned commitment in a friendship, a marriage, or a workplace to “not mess up” is a set up for failure.
Because no matter our intention to not mess up, we do.
We are all going to miss the mark from time to time.
My friend Afia talks instead about committing to “fucking up less.”
That goes like this:
If you tell me that I fucked up, I’m going to listen; I’m not going to dismiss you out of hand.
If I have committed to you and you tell me that my actions have caused you harm, I’m not going to simply defend my actions.
It might be uncomfortable to do so, but I’m going to take some time to do a deep look into what I did to miss the mark and what I could have done differently.
I’m going to come back, make needed amends, and commit to fucking up less in the future.
(Of course, exceptions must be made for those who gaslight us into thinking that we have done something wrong when we have not. Those people are best avoided.)
“Power takes as ingratitude the writhing of its victims.”
A simple example: When either child (over whom I am a source of power) complains about the internet in the house being slow, I think they are ungrateful.
If you are white, even if you pretend otherwise, you are in a position of privilege (power).
Be mindful if you notice thoughts of “those whiny people of color.”
Just because white (or white-passing) folk don’t think they are racist (or have participated in racism), it doesn’t mean they aren’t (or haven’t).
After all, they aren’t the ones to judge.
BIPOC folk—pronounced “bye-pock,” and stands for Black Indigenous People Of Color—are.
BIPOC folk continue to say they are being discriminated against.
As I have made a commitment to fucking up less with regard to racism—as I hope you have—I’m going to listen.
Dear white, want-to-be ally,
I doubt very much that you recently (if ever) set fire to a cross or beat someone based on the color of their skin.
You aren’t actively racist.
And that’s good.
But, as comedian Chris Rock says about the man bragging that he’s a good man because he’s never been put in prison, “You don’t get credit for not doing something you aren’t supposed to do.”
You’ve never been overtly racist.
You aren’t supposed to be racist.
But, do you, without fail, stand up to your family member, friend, co-worker, or boss who has made a racist slur?
How active are you in your attempts to be an anti-racist?
I get it.
There’s often a lot at stake that makes it uncomfortable or even dangerous to stand up to a family member, friend, co-worker, or boss who has made a racist slur.
You’ve probably, at times, made a mental, projected cost-based analysis to not say something when you’ve heard a racist slur.
Difficult follow-up question number one coming up:
(There will be another difficult follow-up question later.)
Have you considered what is at stake when you don’t say something?
Here’s a best practice on how to call out someone saying something racist: “Hey, if you had broccoli in your teeth, I’d tell you. Similarly, the thing you just said was a bit racist.”
The point of the above two sentences, based on the advice of rapper J Smooth, is not to accuse a person of _being_ racist (fostering “I’m not racist” defensiveness), but, instead telling them they have _done_ something racist.
Here are some racist things that people of color hear:
* “They need to act more white, stop showing up late, and stop being so angry.”
* “They are doing so much better than they were fifty years ago. They should stop complaining.”
* “I’ve earned what I’ve gotten. They need to work harder if they want to succeed.”
* “I don’t see color.”
How to respond when you hear any?
“Hey, the thing you just said—I’m not certain if you realize it, but it was a bit racist.”
About these bits of racism.
The little things.
Ibram X. Kendi, author of *How to Be an Antiracist*, writes, “I do not use ‘microaggression’ anymore… I detest its component parts, ‘micro’ and ‘aggression’…I use the term ‘abuse.’ because aggression is not as exacting a term.”
Jane Elliott, anti-racist and creator of the blue eyes/brown eyes experiment, asks groups of white audiences to stand up if they would be happy to be treated as this society in general treats our black citizens.
“If you as a white person would be happy to receive the same treatment that our black citizens do in this society, please stand.”
She continues, “That says very plainly that you know what’s happening. You know you don’t want it for you. I want to know why you are so willing to accept it or to allow it to happen for others?”
Martin Luther King, Jr.
“In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.”
It’s uncomfortable to sit in the knowledge that we are complicit.
For years I would purposely think of myself as off-white because I am Jewish.
It was comforting to distance myself from those with ties to the slave trade or the Klan.
It was/is comforting to think that “I’m not really racist. Those people are the ones who are really racists.”
But I am afforded by this society the status of being white.
That makes me white.
It is uncomfortable to sit in knowing I, too, benefit from the racism built into our culture.
It is uncomfortable to sit in knowing there is more I must do.
It is uncomfortable to sit in knowing I wouldn’t choose to receive the same treatment as black citizens.
Remember I told you there would be another difficult follow-up question?
Difficult follow-up question number two coming up:
Have you considered what is at stake when you aren’t willing to sit through the discomfort of realizing you aren’t anti-racist enough? That you are culpable?
Rabbi Tarfon—whose race, ethnicity, or color is not recorded in the documents from two millennia ago, tells us: “You are not required to finish the work before you, but neither are you permitted to desist from trying to.”
You aren’t required to solve racism, but please speak up, read a book, watch some videos, listen to some podcasts. Get uncomfortable.
Jiddu Krishnamurti: “It is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society.”