Confronting my white silence

This is a post written by a white lady for a white audience– especially those well-intentioned whites who believe that if they vote the correct way and don’t wave confederate flags then they have done their part and are not racist. We need to talk about that.

I went back and forth on posting –I do not want to add to the trauma or grief that black and brown folks are experiencing, and I don’t want to center discussions on white people whom frankly we hear enough from thank you very much–but I also firmly believe that white people have not stepped up and had these discussions for like, forever, and the burden of this work cannot remain on the shoulders of people of color to fix or solve a problem THEY DID NOT CREATE. So – if this is not your cup of tea, feel free to go “Thank you, next” on this piece. If you are still here, let’s carry on!

White people, we need to get our collective sh%t together! Doesn’t matter if your people didn’t own slaves, doesn’t matter if you have suffered your own life trauma’s that made life hard. The bottom line is that if you are white you benefit day in and out, since the moment of your birth (even the manner of your birth or the fact you or your mother survived birth), from a system of white supremacy. We are fish swimming in a sea of supremacy. We live it, we breathe it, we benefit from it. And it’s time we end it.

If there’s one thing I hope to be true during the past few weeks in America it’s that well-intentioned white people like myself maybe, just maybe, are finally starting to truly see the truth in themselves–that good intentions are not enough. It is your ACTIONS that matter, even when difficult, hard, uncomfortable and foreign to your way of being.

This isn’t my first rodeo in addressing my white privilege and the ways I maintain racism, but damn if I’m not seeing a whole new host of issues in myself that I JUST TRULY DID NOT SEE, and they just keep popping up like whack a mole game. I address one within myself, I face the shame and guilt, I move the energy, and the next ignorant belief I didn’t see comes rising up. In the beginning of all this I was feeling raw, ashamed, like I wanted to hide. But I stuck with the discomfort. I don’t say this asking for pity, but just to encourage you to sit in the discomfort and keep going. Too much depends on it!

I won’t bore you with the details of all the realizations I’ve had, but I will share that the biggest of them is finally seeing with wide open eyes the ways that I’ve maintained white silence.

I’ve seen how I’ve subconsciously maintained white allegiance rather than stir the pot. I’ve chosen to be “nice” and “comfortable” rather than make waves. What I’ve come to realize is that my silence in the face of every small micro-aggression toward minorities was me going “Nah this system is cool, I’m just gonna sit back and let it be.” In those moments of silence I acquiesced and aligned with an energy that sought to demean another human. Damn if that isn’t dark.

Why do we continue to do it, even when we know it’s wrong? Even when the racist uncle or colleague says something that makes our stomach churn, why do we carry on like we didn’t hear it, or laugh uncomfortably?

I think many white people — myself included –we have thought, what’s the point of speaking up? Me pointing out my uncle’s racist view will do nothing to change his mind. But that logic can no longer stand. It is time we take responsibility, reclaim our honor and dignity and use our power for good.

What I’ve learned, especially in the course of my spiritual work, is that if I am love itself, why would I stand for any action, words or thoughts that don’t align with that love. My actions on the outside my align with my heart– no more disconnection, no more indignity.

It means reclaiming my power and my responsibility. Confronting the part of myself stuck in shame and guilt and healing it. Addressing the parts of me that feel dis-empowered and moving it.

Imagine that the world we live in in the United States is setup like a large white supremacy system Jenga game. When you see something racist but let it stand, you allow that Jenga piece to stay solidly in the system, propping up the whole. You tell yourself that your one piece seems meaningless, but if every single person decided to make choices aligned with their humanity, and called out every racist act, or chose to align with efforts to dismantle racist systems–basically chose to use their power for the highest good of EVERYONE–well, eventually that entire stack of bricks would fall. You can’t see it when you are only thinking about yourself. It requires you to be an active, diligent, engaged, and dedicated human being who minute by minute, day by day, chooses over and over again to align with humanity. It requires you to be conscious.

Sound exhausting? It is–but in my experience only at first. The reason for that is because you are overcoming a resistance that lies within yourself, and there is a tension there. An energy that you must overcome. (Of course, imagine the flip side of this….feeling that pressure against you all day everyday, aimed at destroying your spirit, your livelihood, your existence. I don’t know what that feels like, I haven’t lived it, and I don’t think most whites have the resilience or grit to get through even a day of it.)

White people, it’s time we choose the kind of world we want to be a part of. Do we want to keep swimming in that nasty water of white supremacy, swimming along like everything is cool when our brothers and sisters of different races aren’t able to breathe (literally and metaphorically?) Or will we choose as to realign with our humanity and stand united with the dignity of all human beings, in words, in actions, in thoughts?

I hope you’ll roll up the sleeves and commit to doing the work. What do you think? I’d love to hear your thoughts. Like I said, we haven’t spoken about this enough. It’s time we break that silence.

with love,

Sarah

I want to share Andréa Ranae’s perspective on silence and the consequences of silence. WOW. Checkout her instagram post and follow her at @andrearanaej:
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View this post on Instagram

Silence is not violence. Silence is a decision. Every decision comes with consequences. Consequence: the effect, result, or outcome of something occurring earlier Consequences are not inherently bad or good, they just are. A consequence of silence might be that you get to rest or reconnect with what’s true for you. A consequence of silence might be that violence continues on without intervention. A consequence of silence might be that you’ve made space to listen to the unheard. A consequence of silence might be that other people assume you’re doing nothing. A consequence of silence might be that the rest of us may never get to experience what you have to contribute to the world. Whatever decision you make in any moment comes with consequences and you are responsible for those. Meaning you are able to respond as you see fit. If the consequences you’re experiencing are not getting you what you want, you can always make a different decision. “Silence is violence” often comes with a binary of right and wrong and an accusation of “if you’re silent, you are wrong.” White supremacy thrives off these rigid binaries and absolute truths without space for complexity. Silence is a decision. You get to decide when and how you use silence. Only you can discern whether that decision is aligned with your integrity. Only you can discern whether the consequences you’re seeing/experiencing from that decision is what you want or if you need to pivot.

A post shared by Andréa Ranae | she/they (@andrearanaej) on

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This excellent piece about being an anti-racist white educator has some great tips for everyone, not just those in teaching professions.

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