What Black people can tell their White friends: Some post election dialogue
Many of us are still reflecting on post presidential election results, asking ourselves, “What happened? What do we do now?” Yes, it was a shock to liberals, while others predicted the election results; Donald Trump is our new president.
Universities have declared themselves “safe zones” for undocumented students; some Muslim and Latino children head to school afraid of what could potentially happen to their families. These results only revealed the subconscious angst that lies beneath the fabric of our relationships in the United States.
The results of our recent presidential election revealed two warring sides of America; those who were triumphant on one side and those completely dismayed on the other side — people who have reaped or hope to reap the benefits of white privilege and people who recognize that they have been injured by white supremacy, by patriarchy, by heterosexism and by homophobia. Sadly, we have all been injured by racism and white supremacist ideology, including the 70% of white men and 53% of white women who voted for Trump. As women of color in academia, we have had several conversations with ourselves and others that suggest two things: 1) Black people in the United States have experienced race-related trauma for decades and, whether it was Hillary or Trump, these encounters remain pervasive; and 2) Black people DO NOT need white people to tell us how this election reinforces oppressive systems but rather we NEED white people to address white people.
After having extensive conversations with well-intentioned Whites people (You know, the ones who voted for Hillary), we wanted to offer some advice or some suggestions for post-election dialogue and action. We dedicate these points to the Black people who have to encounter their White friends and to those White people who are willing to roll up their sleeves and do the work it takes to begin healing our country. Here are a few suggestions:
1. Racism and white supremacist ideology is a problem created and therefore fixed by white people. Racism and white supremacist ideology, as demonstrated by the election, can lead folks to cast ballots for individuals who support and will engage in policies that reduce opportunities for women, the poor, and the working middle class to access health care, education, and employment. So, please let people know as long as we continue to uphold this ideology, it will reduce opportunities for everyone who does not represent the 1% (specifically those who control the wealth and how wealth is distributed in this country). Aligning with racism and white supremacy can provide people with a false sense of security and affirmation, but it does NOT bring jobs back to America.
2. We need well-intentioned White people to talk to those white folks neglected and referred to with dismissive language such as “trash” about the damage racism and white supremacy does to white people. We like the definition of racism promoted by the Racial Equity Institute that
“Racism is a complex system of beliefs and behaviors, grounded in a presumed superiority of the white race. These beliefs and behaviors are conscious and unconscious; personal and institutional; and result in the oppression of people of color and benefit the dominant group, whites.”
Discuss how racism benefits whites to some degree, clearly some whites were allowed to serve as overseers on plantations, attend public schools, and serve on the front line in the military, but if you were poor or a woman then these benefits often had limitations. If you are a woman, LGBTQ, poor, etc., feeling good about being white does not lead to adequate health care, education, and equal pay.
3. A collective identity for White people means saying to other White people who are intentionally and unintentionally committing and perpetuating racism that you refuse to allow them to perpetuate racism in the name of whiteness. A healthy white identity aims to engage in work that challenges the system that continues to pit one group of people against another — or uses physical and emotional violence to tear down one group in order to validate another.
Our suggestions are meant to promote honest self-reflection on the past, present and future to facilitate a healthy identity in order to dismantle oppressive systems and rebuild together a more just and sustainable United States. Clearly, our ideas are nothing new and there are numerous Black scholars that have been saying this for years and White ones too. For those interested in learning more, check out the following:
Racial Equity Institute www.racialequityinstitute.org
Dr. Frances Cress Welsing “The Isis Papers: The Keys to the Colors”
Derrick Bell “Faces at the Bottom of the Well: The Permanence of Racism”
Tim Wise “White Like Me: Reflections on Race from a Privileged Son”
Jane Elliot “Anti-Racism Experiment”
Peggy McIntosh “Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack”
Written by three sisters who sat around their office table, contemplating what the hell are we going to do now.