Active Anti-Racism: Stepping It Up as a White Woman in America

I’m starting to write this post on May 27, 2020, right after there have been two viral racist events in the past two days. The first was when Amy Cooper, a white woman, called the police on Christian Cooper, a black man (not related), for asking her to leash her dog in Central Park, NYC (per the posted park rules). The second was the murder of George Floyd by police in Minneapolis after he was detained for a suspected crime. Both events have rightly resulted in outrage. Obviously, these are just two events in our long, long, long history of racist behavior.

I have been struggling with what to do as a white woman to combat racism for a long time. I’ve heard from many people, black and white, that it’s not enough to not be racist – we have to be actively anti-racist (update 6/4/2020 – I’ve learned that Angela Davis said this originally). White people need to examine our own internal biases, actively work against them, and work to make changes in our society, starting with our family, friends, and neighbors. But I have struggled with how to make that advice actionable.

Or rather, I’ve struggled with the action. In the past, I have made it a point to follow and read black authors and to try and elevate voices for myself that aren’t white. (As I was looking for those links, I realized I haven’t done as good of a job as I thought – most of my feeds are still predominantly white.)

But just by following a very few people of color (and a few actively anti-racist white folks too), I’ve found TONS – T O N S – of resources that have been made for white people to look at what we’re doing and how we’re advocating against racism. But I’ve sat on them. Saved them for later. Thought, oh, what a good idea and never looked at it again. I’ve let fear and apathy, afforded to me by my white privilege, keep me from doing the work.

After what happened in the past couple of days (and honestly, over the last several years that I have been paying attention), I am tired of seeing this and doing nothing. Because I’m a goal-oriented person (y’all know this), I created an actionable list of anti-racist goals for myself.

I’m sharing this because I’m sick of not talking about it, and sick of not doing anything, and because I hope it will create some accountability on my part to continue with this even when it gets difficult, and I know it will. I also hope that maybe by sharing this, my white readers will be prompted to do something similar too. I, and other white people, have an obligation to face our own faults and take on the discomfort that people of color in America live with every day. Because whether we like it or not, we are the ones that created the system and benefit from POC oppression. It’s time for us to take responsibility for fixing it.

My Anti-Racist To-Do List

  • Complete the Me and White Supremacy workbook by Layla Saad. This was made for white people, especially those of us who think we aren’t racist, to really take a hard look at our internal biases. Full disclosure: I downloaded this when it was free in December 2018. It is now being sold as an expanded book. I’m ashamed that I am just now doing it.
  • Pick 3 actions to take or start doing from 75 Things White People Can Do for Racial Justice by Corinne Shutack.
    • Finish the 1619 Project. I bought this pretty soon after it came out, started reading it, and got bored. Shame on me.
    • Buy from black-owned businesses.
    • Start donating regularly to anti-white supremacy work (preferably something local).
  • Make a shelf on Goodreads with books around racism in the US and actually start reading them. They’re no help if they just sit on my shelf! Obviously, I will be reviewing these and my plan is to make these reviews their own posts with more discussion. This issue deserves more than a quick paragraph.

So far, that’s what I have. I worry that this is not enough, but I would rather start maybe too small than not at all. I understand this isn’t something I can dismantle for myself in days or weeks or months or even years. This is something lifelong that white people need to do intentionally. And I will likely get this wrong and put my foot in my mouth. But I’m done sitting on my butt and being silent.

Also – for the love of God, if you do not vote, go register yourself right now and vote in the next election. Voting compassionate, anti-racist people into office at all levels of government is one of the very best things we can do to begin tackling institutionalized racism.

18 comments

  1. I write about social and racial justice and reform on my site (the most recent being unlearning and how it is an important part of anti-racism work). Sometimes I can’t find the words to express adequately how much needs to change but I feel as a White woman in America (but British) I need to help bring other White people into how to be an anti-racist as there is so much that we need to learn and do to change the part we play in perpetuating racism. Great post — thanks for sharing your thoughts!

  2. Like you, I’ve been struggling with what I can do right now. Thanks for the suggestions and good luck with your reading list! I’ve read some really great books on race, though not the ones that are most popular right now. Just Mercy is amazing and a must-read.

  3. I really appreciate your open and honest assessment. None of us are perfect, but this isn’t about perfection it’s about honestly assessing where we are and how we can bring about change. Thank you.

  4. Thank you. I was browsing the 75 things list the other day. I, of course, reviewed it for things I was already doing. It didn’t occur to me to challenge myself to establish some goals. A great idea, thanks.

Got thoughts?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.