In June 2014, I formally began my training and work as an anti-racism advocate. It was also in June 2014 that I came very close to walking out on that formalized training because another White participant shamed me in front of the group.
Over the course of the six years since that moment, I have pushed through my own fears of public speaking, my own insecurities, my own self-awareness, and my own areas of growing in the work. I have been thinking about that moment quite a lot lately, but maybe not for some the obvious reasons that may come to mind. Yes, I have found a place in anti-racism work where I feel I am able to create an impact; yes, I recognize that if I had walked away from that process it is unlikely that I would be as well-positioned to fight against White Supremacy and White Supremacy culture in my communities; and yes, I know that if I had walked away I would not have the same level of deep relationships with so many folks I hold dear. With all that, the reason why I have been thinking on that moment so much lately is because I find myself asking, am I so different in my approach to calling out White folks than that fellow participant?
I am often impatient with helping fellow White folks come along in processing through their own White Fragility. I find myself thinking, that’s your work to do – come talk to me when you’re ready to embody your Whiteness and take action. A good friend of mine has called me out on this tendency, reminding me that it is my job as a White person to help other White folks come along. Because, y’all, if White folks aren’t doing this work, it will by default fall on the shoulders of our BIPOC communities, which is fundamentally unfair and harmful – physically and emotionally dangerous in fact. For us White folks who put ourselves on a “we are so woke” pedestal, forgetting the moments when we ourselves could have used a little grace, shame on us.
In my own journey in anti-racism work, it’s important for me to think about the impact that moment of shaming in June 2014 had on me. Additionally, it’s important for me to forgive that person and to move on. But, the biggest most glaring point that I can never forget, that I need to reflect on every day in this work, is that when people feel shamed instead of supported – progress often comes to a screeching halt. I am no better than that participant who shamed me for using uninformed language. However, I can do better than that person, holding myself accountable for my own vulnerabilities and stumbles as a White person engaging in anti-racism work, while offering space for grace for others.
I came across this article today, and it struck several chords for me. Have a read; we gotta do the hard emotional work, White friends. There is no option B.