We white women shouldn’t ask “What can I do to fight white supremacy?”
Instead ask, “What am I WILLING to do to fight?”
Note: Real Talk is a group of WOC and allies. This article is written from the perspective of allies.
When white women first learn the truth about white supremacy — that it encompasses far more people than Nazis with tiki torches and is far more subtle and insidious than racist rants in online comment sections — we’re shocked and horrified.
We’ve been raised by a system that has time and again patted our heads and reassured us that all the atrocities our ancestors perpetrated against BIPOC are things of the past. We’ve been fed a constant diet of the biggest lie ever told. And now what used slide down our throats chokes us. So we cough and sputter and cry — oh goodness, do we ever cry. We wail out our guilt and grieve the loss of the world we thought we knew.
And then, hopefully, we realize it’s not about US. Because this new-to-us world built by and for white supremacy is the world Black and brown people have been existing in, fighting against, and telling us about this whole time.
We stop crying and start thinking.
This is the point where we ask, “What can I do to fight white supremacy?”
And it’s a good question. There are hundreds (if not thousands) of resources devoted to answering this one question, to providing lists of things to do.
But what we should be asking is: “What am I WILLING to do to fight white supremacy”? And more specifically: “What am I willing to GIVE UP to fight white supremacy?” Because the answer to this question tells us far more about ourselves and the depth of our newfound dedication than any list ever could.
Are we willing to give up our voices? As women we struggle to find them, to speak our truth. But can we admit we have said more than enough? That our voices are part of what led to and still uphold white supremacy? Are we willing to silence our whiteness and dedicate our voices solely to amplifying and supporting Black and brown people, so that their voices can be heard and believed?
Are we willing to give up our old selves? We’re wrapped in the comfortable old coat of white privilege. It protects us from the harsh weather of reality; it soothes us, makes us feel like we matter. Are we willing to shed that venomous warmth and not run back to it when we get our feelings hurt or the work gets tough with a seemingly cyclical regularity? Are we willing to set that coat on fire, watching it burn as we freeze in the unending discomfort of dismantling the white supremacy deeply rooted within ourselves and in this society?
Are we willing to give up our wealth? Are we willing to recognize that every dime we think we’ve solely “earned” is filtered through a history and system of oppression? The whole American ethos of “work hard and be rewarded” is a lie. History shows us that the rights and privileges we have were created at the cost of POC’s same rights and privileges. Are we willing to make that right? To offer and support reparations? To put our money where our social media posts are? Even if it means denying ourselves and our loved ones — including our kids — the frivolities and unnecessary excesses white supremacy has coddled us with?
Are we willing to move beyond our “safe” anti-racism? Are we willing to do more than write “fierce” Facebook posts, passively clicking love on WOC’s posts, and join ineffective (and inevitably white-centered) diversity committees? Are we willing to put our boots on the ground? To go out into our communities and fight along side POC — protecting them with our bodies and our privilege if necessary? Putting ourselves in the way of the harm that seems to stalk them every minute of every day?
Are we willing to do the work and give up on ever giving up doing that work? Because the work is WORK. Whether we’re at the beginning of our anti-racism careers or have been at it for 30 years, This. Is. Work. Hard work. Work that will not be finished in our lifetime. We will work until we die, and there will still be more work to do. We’re so used to having goals (and rewards for reaching them) that the concept of laboring for something we’ll never see is almost incomprehensible. But Black and brown people have been doing this sort of labor for generations while watching their brothers and sisters and friends and children die because of white supremacy. Are we willing to give up watching in cowardice from the sidelines and shoulder the burden we created?
We need to be. We need to be willing to give ALL of this up. Because we are living lives in which all of these things have been paid for — are still being paid for — by the lives of Black and brown men, women, and children. And if we’re not, then maybe the question we should be asking is, “How do we live with ourselves?”