I haven’t always considered myself a racist.
I thought it was enough to sit back and congratulate myself for being raised in an all-Black neighborhood in New Orleans, for having Black friends, not seeing color, voting for a Black President. I adamantly (but silently) denounced racism, shook my head (silently) when I saw a KKK demonstration, objected (silently) to racist comments made in my presence. Good thing I wasn’t like them, those racists.
Then I started reading about implicit bias, the concept that “we have attitudes towards people or associate stereotypes with them without our conscious knowledge” (Perception Institute). Ohhhhh, I thought. I have some work to do! I started working (silently) on identifying the ways I had internalized stereotypes. “Look out, Amy,” I would say (silently), “your implicit bias is showing!” I started working with my kids on the biases that society (not me!) was programming into them already at a young age. I was NOT going to let bias tarnish my otherwise spotless not-a-racist reputation. I was going to fix those biases right quick (silently), and go right back to being a righteous non-racist, thankyouverymuch.
This was not an effective methodology.
Even as I declared that *I* did not have white privilege, the deaths of Philando Castile, Eric Garner, Tamir Rice, and on and on, merely made me shake my head in disgust before I carried on with the regularly scheduled program of my white privileged life.
Even as I studied the affects of implicit bias, the idea that Black women are four times more likely to die in childbirth than white women was entirely academic to me. An astounding public health statistic, full stop.
Then I started reading anti-racist work.
I did not like it.
I did not like what they had to say about me.
They were wrong. I wasn’t like that. That was other people, not me. Other people needed to do that work. That work was for racists. I was not a racist.
But they *were* talking to me, about me. And how did I know that?
Because their words made me feel sick inside.
Because their words peeled back the sound-proofing I had enveloped myself in, to protect my silent, non-racist pride.
And underneath, I realized that I would never truly change myself, and also activate to change the system, until I got radical about how I viewed the racism inside me.
It wasn’t enough to declare myself “not a racist.”
It wasn’t enough to examine my implicit bias.
I had to confront the idea that I was a racist, raised in a racist society, surrounded by racist culture, and directly benefiting from the racism around me.
That, and only that, got my lily white ass moving.
If you are white and reading this, I know you are reticent to call yourself a racist. You don’t have to if you don’t want to. Society certainly never will. Society probably considers you “one of the good ones,” whatever that means.
But let me ask you this. What has considering yourself not-a-racist done for the cause of anti-racism? What has being “one of the good ones” done to advance the liberation, safety, health, and security of Black people in our country? Have you been an effective advocate? Or are you just sitting comfortably in your home right now, pleased with your non-racism?
What is it going to take to get you moving?
What do you need to believe in order to start doing something?