These are the actions white people should be taking right now, according to the director of an organization that teaches white people how to engage with race
White Americansare waking up to the systemic racism that has long been well known by Black Americans, but many of them may just be realizing how pervasive it is, and the role their whiteness plays in it.
- Eleanor Hancock, the executive director of nonprofit educational organization White Awake, said that white people need to grapple with their privilege and not give in to inaction.
- Instead, they should check out actions for themselves, take on the burden of learning more, and use their power and privilege to create a more equitable workplace.
June 2020 was the month white Americans woke up to the systemic racism that was no secret to Black Americans, as evidenced by the massive George Floyd protests around the country and the world, and the opinion polls showing a massive swing in public opinion. But many white Americans may also be learning more about the extent to which inequity persists.
The white community has been inactive in listening to Black voices, and it's on white people to do the
Here's how white people can take action, she said.
Confront your own privilege, and don't get caught up in inaction
While reckoning with the privilege you've been afforded due simply to your whiteness is a necessary task, it can bring its own challenges.
Hancock told Business Insider that it's natural for white people to feel extreme guilt or shame as they confront their own privilege.
"It's pretty hard to know that you are in this privileged position, and maybe, somehow, you are implicated in this terrible violence that's going on," Hancock said. "And so it's hard to untangle that without taking it personally and feeling a lot of shame or guilt."
But it's imperative for white people not to give in to inaction, and instead move on from those feelings productively.
"The helpful thing is when you can start to separate yourself from it and understand that, within the system, you do have some agency, and you have the ability also to educate yourself and align yourself differently," Hancock said.
When it comes to next steps, there's not a one size fits all solution for the personal work you should be doing
If this is all "brand new" and "shocking" to someone, Hancock advised going to a protest or similar actions nearby, and checking out it for yourself.
"Hopefully, people are looking at this as an opportunity to kind of think through what social change work is part of their life long-term," Hancock said.
On a more national level, that could come in the form of regular donations to different organizations. On a local level, Hancock recommended seeking out people in your community who have already been doing the work, and supporting those initiatives. That involves bringing in others who may be interested, and participating in whatever way you may be valuable — but always prioritizing the leadership of those on the front lines.
White people should educate themselves — and not turn to Black colleagues for information
Business Insider's Marguerite Ward and Mr. Tatyana Bellamy Walker interviewed multiple Black psychologists and doctors to learn how white and non-Black workers can support their Black coworkers.
You shouldn't ask Black colleagues to explain complex issues of race; instead, the burden of education should fall on you.
Hancock echoed this sentiment, and said that books written for people working in public education can be a good place to start.
She recommended Gary Howard's "We Can't Teach What We Don't Know: White Teachers, Multiracial Schools," Beverly Tatum's "Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria: And Other Conversations About Race," Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz's "An Indigenous Peoples' History of the United States," and Michelle Alexander's "The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness."
White people can use their power and privilege to advocate for a better workplace
As Ward and Bellamy Walker reported, white workers can actively work for inclusion in the workplace. They can push for more diversity programs in the office, and call out microaggressions or racist comments from white colleagues.
And, as Business Insider's Mariette Williams reported, being transparent about your salary and advocating for your coworkers — whether through nominating them for awards or putting them forward for promotions — are two very tangible ways to become an ally in the workplace.
Getting into debates on social media shouldn't be the extent of your activism
The usefulness of getting into arguments on Facebook or other social media platforms depends on the situation, according to Hancock.
Basic community organizing often consists of having individual conversations with people in your community about what matters to them, and then inviting them into something that addresses those concerns, Hancock said. You need to get their buy-in.
"For the most part arguing on social media is like the opposite of that," Hancock said. "You know, a lot of times people just get more polarized."
Social media is not necessarily a lost cause, but it's generally not productive when it comes to actually furthering a mission.
"Meaningful changes can happen there," Hancock said. "But our job is not to go out and argue with people — our job is to go out and win their hearts and minds by demonstrating how the world we want would be better for them."
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