Connect with Others

One of the great joys of getting involved in dismantling racism is all the relationships and friendships that you can develop over time, both with people of your own “race”* and people of other “races”.   It is part of our birthright that we get to be connected to other people – all kinds of people.

Racism thrives on separating us from each other – both from people of other “races” and from people of racial identities similar to our own.  Every step we take to connect is a step toward dismantling racism.

All across the country a multi-racial movement is growing, set on dismantling racism and white supremacy.  Locally we are building a movement – an expanding network of people of all races who want to see a genuinely inclusive, equitable community.  Find people of your own “race” and people of other “races” with whom you can build trust and back each other to be part of the work of dismantling racism.  Nurture these alliances and build them over time.

Too often, white people who feel guilty about racism, or feel bad about how little they’ve done or how white their friendship circles are approach relationships with people of color looking for the person of color to reassure them or make them feel better about themselves as white people.  Don’t do this.  Do some work with other white people first, so you can approach people of color cleanly – because you genuinely are interested in the other person and come ready for a mutually respectful relationship.

It’s not the job of people of color to teach white people about racism.  It is unfair and inappropriate for white people to expect or ask for this.  There are lots of other ways to learn about racism.   At the same time, when people of color do speak about their experiences of racism, that’s a time to listen.   White people must learn to listen to the pain, rage and grief people of color feel about racism and its effects without being defensive, dismissive, or trying to reinterpret the experience of the person of color.  It’s good to learn from people of color, but not to put on them the expectation that they teach you.

Movements for racial justice in this country have always been led by people of color, and they will continue to be.  White people are also essential to the movement, but they must support and back the leadership of people of color.  It is in everyone’s interest to work together for justice, and there are meaningful roles for everyone.

* The word “race” appears in quotes here and elsewhere because races don’t actually exist in any biological sense.  “Race” is a social construction – an illusion.  However, as a social construction, it has power and we must pay attention to it so we can dismantle it, even as we remember that we are all humans, with vastly more similarities than differences.