Fellow white people: this is on us

I regret I don’t know who should get the credit for this powerful photo. The quote is by Archbishop Desmond Tutu.

Like many of you, I’ve been deeply shaken by the events of the last few days. The murders. The videos. The soul-deep anger and despair my black friends describe. The dread they feel when they watch their children walk out the front door.

Fellow white people, this is on us.

I’m not saying you and I are personally responsible. I’m saying white people have the power to change this.

The police who are murdering black men and women with such impunity are not Ku Klux Klansmen riding by night, faces hidden beneath hoods their wives sewed from the family pillowcases. They are public servants – hired, trained, armed and authorized by the citizenry. And we can stop them.

The writer Ijeoma Oluo explained some ways white people can do this, in an article she published last year on the feminist website Ravishly.com. And here are some more actions white people can take against police brutality, courtesy of Showing Up for Racial Justice, or SURJ. This is a national network that organizes white people for social justice. I’ve never joined, because who wants to belong to a group for white people? But maybe it’s time now.

Goodbye to an ally

I have been, I hope, a good ally. I’ve marched, I’ve chanted, I’ve lain down in the street. I donate every month to Black Lives Matter.

It’s not enough. I’m beginning to realize it has never been enough.

It’s as if all along I’ve been saying “Hey, black people. I will come to the events you organize. I’ll read the books you write. I’ll like your posts. I’ll hold hands for a moment of silence, time after time after time. I’ll continue to be a supporter, as long as you continue to do all the work.”

But no matter how helpfully we white folks trail behind them, people of color cannot change this country by themselves – particularly while they struggle for their own survival. The crucial work of dismantling racism must be done by white people.

It’s time to stop being an ally and start being proactive. It’s time for white people to realize this is our fight too.

Only white people can end racism

The most urgent task is to stop police violence against black people. But racist police are not the problem. They are only one manifestation of the problem, one eruption from the poisonous ecosystem called white supremacy. Everyone who lives in this country is a part of that system, whether you’re a winner or a loser or someone who has never given it a thought.

(By the way, if you’ve never had to give race a thought, you’re already a winner in the white supremacy sweepstakes. It doesn’t matter that you didn’t enter the contest. We are all enrolled at birth, like it or not.)

Only white people can end racism. We have to confront it in ourselves, our friends, our culture, and in the ways our public institutions – still largely controlled by white people – operate. My Facebook feed is bristling with suggestions for what to do. This resource for white folks, for example, or this curriculum for white Americans.

White people have the power to end racism. But do we have the resolve? How loudly must the times cry out for change before we rise up?

3 thoughts on “Fellow white people: this is on us

  1. Profoundly and painfully felt; brilliantly and powerfully stated. We may not have intended or created this brutal system of institutional racism, but we continue to reap the benefits; we may not be to blame, but we certainly are responsible.

    Liked by 1 person

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