When white allies are asked to stop putting themselves, their feelings, and their experiences in the center of conversations about race, too often they respond with something along the lines of, “What, so you’re saying we shouldn’t do anything?”
Early on, it’s easy to believe discomfort is a sign that you are “in trouble” or someone else is wrong. As time passes, you will learn that discomfort is really a sign that reads, “Welcome to the thing you need to change. Here it is. You found it.”
“You’re saying we shouldn’t do ANYTHING?”
No, I’m not saying do nothing.
I’m saying white people must stop putting white feelings, white fears, and white perspective in the center of conversations about race. It’s telling that so many people hear “get out of the center” and interpret it as “get out of the conversation.” How many people interpret “It’s not about you” as “You’re not welcome here.” It’s telling about what we were raised to believe we were entitled to — not just an invitation to the meal but a seat at the head of the table. …
“I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in the stride toward freedom is…the white moderate who is more devoted to “order” than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice.”
~Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., 16 April 1963, Letter from Birmingham Jail
Fellow white women, we need to talk about our devotion to the inoffensive. Our culturally-ingrained pull towards all things moderate. Our desire to be Switzerland. The United Nations of “the benefit of the doubt,” and the gatekeepers of respectability. So accustomed are we to negotiating and moderating our way through life’s more unpleasant moments, we’ve taken these familiar, rusty tools and barreled headlong into anti-racist work, firmly believing that the uniform spreading of benevolence across the land will cure all that ails us. …
We are a group of seven white women (WW) from all over the continental United States. We self-selected into a group called Real Talk that centers women of color (WOC) with the goal of dismantling the system of white supremacy. As part of our commitment to the group, we were given the task of answering and unpacking the following questions: How many friends of color do you really have? How close are you really? Answering these questions honestly and discussing the dynamics of friendships that cross racial lines yielded some enlightening conversations, and some deeper underlying themes emerged.
The seven of us come from varying communities across the country. Some live in large, diverse cities and some live in small towns. The majority of us have met WOC through work or have families of color in our children’s schools. Some of us have actively sought out groups and organizations that welcome and center women of color. …