Part 6:
Mapping out this work (or, a playbook for dismantling white supremacy culture)

In this section, I'll lay out what I see as the big picture for this work based on what I've read and what I've observed first-hand by regularly participating in workshops and affinity groups both with people brand new to this world and those who have been doing this work for a long time.

Overall, I divide the work of anti-racism into two tracks: the one focused on your own personal growth and the one focused on transforming the world around you.

In each part, I lay out what I perceive as typically happening earlier on one's journey versus later. In other words, some things tend to happen when someone is first learning all this about the nuances of racism in this country, and other things tend to occur once someone has invested more time and attention to deepen their learning and commitment to this work.

It's not to say that one is better than the other or that someone is smarter or kinder if they're doing the work in the "Later" column. It's just that there's a whole lot to learn here (and a lot of it requires deeply internalizing the concepts and slowly building one's own resiliency); so, it takes time.

Part of my goal with this section is to map out where it's possible to go if you're just starting to learn about this. Another goal is to help you feel better by seeing that some of the "Later" concepts (like dismantling internalized whiteness) can be really hard to fully understand and believe, so it's perfectly normal and reasonable to take a while to get fully on board.

It took me many months of work to be able to truly believe some of these things, and I certainly won't claim that this is anywhere close to the whole story. There's so much to do here, and there are a lot of steps that I haven't even realized yet.

But this is a start.

Track A: Internal / Personal

What you're doing as a white person:

Earlier (on the spectrum of change and complexity):

Noticing your unconscious bias and dealing with white fragility

Later (on the spectrum of change and complexity):

Dismantling your internalized whiteness and the attribute of white supremacy culture you were unwittingly socialized into

What that looks like:

Earlier (on the spectrum of change and complexity):

  • Learning about racism, accepting that you're racist (via unconscious biases you were raised with), and beginning to slow down to regularly examine your thinking
  • Learning about white fragility and noticing it in yourself (e.g., defensiveness, wanting to be seen as a good white person)
  • Beginning to process your white fragility (e.g., by noticing how your unconscious biases are affecting your behaviors and beginning to attempt to shift those)

Later (on the spectrum of change and complexity):

  • Learning about whiteness and white supremacy culture (e.g., perfectionism, sense of urgency, either/or thinking, individualism)
  • Noticing how whiteness manifests in yourself (e.g., thinking in terms of hierarchies, wanting to reach perfect solutions), and beginning to dismantle your internalized attributes of whiteness
  • Becoming more comfortable around POC again (because, as they learn about anti-racism work, white people tend to distance themselves from POC out of fear of making a mistake)

How it helps you the white person:

Earlier (on the spectrum of change and complexity):

  • Personal growth and emotional maturation
  • Increasing your self-awareness (bringing unconscious bias to light)
  • Becoming a kinder and more empathetic person

Later (on the spectrum of change and complexity):

  • Reduction in the effects of white supremacy (e.g., stress, overwhelm, pressure, body rigidity)
  • Getting more in touch with parts of you that have been suppressed (e.g., dancing, singing, comfortability with physical touch outside romantic relationships)
  • Ability to begin to help other white people reach this place

How it helps people of color when white people do this work:

Earlier (on the spectrum of change and complexity):

  • Experiencing fewer microaggressions (small acts of discrimination) and less harm due to your increased knowledge of your unconscious bias and common mistakes
  • Experiencing you as more of an ally in terms of showing you care (i.e., even if you don't always get it right, showing you're trying)
  • Seeing you as more able to be a close friend or partner

Later (on the spectrum of change and complexity):

  • Feeling less of a sense of hierarchy from you (i.e., if you're less focused on status, they'll likely enjoy being around you more)
  • Feeling a greater sense of ease from you (i.e., if you're less stressed and rigid then it will feel better to be around you)
  • Dismantling internalized feelings of white supremacy can lead to a greater sense of self-worth for both white people and people of color

Track B: External / Structural

What you're doing as a white person:

Earlier (on the spectrum of change and complexity):

Offering access and opportunities to people of color via DEI (Diversity, Equity, Inclusion) and other initiatives

Later (on the spectrum of change and complexity):

Dismantling major systems of oppression (i.e., reshaping the dominant culture and giving up our white privilege)

What that looks like:

Earlier (on the spectrum of change and complexity):

  • Using your power, privilege, and access to give POC voice (e.g., speaking less yourself and handing them the microphone)
  • Participating in DEI (Diversity, Equity, Inclusion) efforts in the workplace
  • Supporting policies around reparations and affirmative action, and electing leaders of color (starting in local-level elections)

Later (on the spectrum of change and complexity):

  • Working to dramatically change late-stage capitalism to be less focused on growth forever and at any cost
    • A first step could be supporting B Corporations (like Patagonia) that are willing to prove their commitment to achieving other metrics beyond just profit and growth (such as environmental and social standards)
  • Working to revamp our education and law systems, etc. to be significantly more equitable
    • A first step could be supporting political candidates who champion free college education for all US citizens, or supporting free school lunch programs
    • If you've typically been against the idea of free college—maybe because you feel it would be unfair since you had to pay—I encourage you to try to take a step back and look at this issue with fresh eyes after having learned all this information
      • Is it possible to see this from a different perspective by looking at some of the ways free college would benefit students of color? For example: creating role models for kids of color to look up to, helping people take a step forward from generations of poverty caused by white people taking away their power, etc.
  • Working to shift away from a patriarchy (or kyriarchy) and toward more representative leadership models
    • To be clear, the goal of moving away from the patriarchy (a society where privileged men have the power) wouldn't be to take power away from men and put only women in charge
    • Rather, the idea would be to do away with the concept that a single group of similar people should be in charge at all. The hope would be to change the structure of society and move away from our hierarchical system where those at the top have so much power over those below
    • I won't claim to have the answer here in terms of the ideal structure of society. But, here's a very general path at least: If we were able to reduce some of the effects of white supremacy culture (such as constantly needing to pursue increased revenue and rise up the hierarchy) and instead refocus around different values (such as sustainability, inclusion, and equitable representation), it should be possible for people to work fewer hours and thus have more opportunities to get more involved in their communities and local governments

How it helps you the white person:

Earlier (on the spectrum of change and complexity):

  • Maintaining your humanity by not blissfully living in a privileged state while others suffer
  • Acting with kindness and morality by beginning to make amends for the ethically-horrible actions taken by your ancestors
  • Your organization might reach better, more innovative business outcomes given more diversity of thought, life experience, and perspective
  • Your organization might increase retention of skilled employees, both in terms of people of color as well as white allies who care about social justice

Later (on the spectrum of change and complexity):

  • Reduction in stress from no longer having to work as a cog in the machine of a capitalist system that doesn't care about your happiness and security
  • Freedom from having to live in a dominant culture where you're told you're never enough (e.g., the vast number of ads that tell you you're not skinny enough, not pretty enough, not rich enough, etc.)
    • It's worth stopping to really make this point clear: Dismantling white supremacy culture doesn't just help people of color. It helps all of us who have been indoctrinated into a system that's so deeply based on hierarchies and always having to prove that we're better than other people in some way
  • More access to healthcare, education and other quality of life services for lower-income white people (as well as streamlined access to those services for everyone if those systems were redesigned to be easy to use rather than intentionally complicated)
  • More access to better career opportunities and equal pay for female, non-binary, and other marginalized groups of white people

How it helps people of color when white people do this work:

Earlier (on the spectrum of change and complexity):

  • Access to opportunities they've never had before (e.g., types of careers)
  • More resources (e.g., money) and thereby access to better healthcare, housing, etc.
  • Ability for young POC to see role models in positions of power and success

Later (on the spectrum of change and complexity):

  • Major reduction in stress, a calming of the nervous system, and thereby improved quality of life and likely health outcomes
  • Feelings of humanity, dignity, respect, and freedom
  • A chance to finally live under the original promises of America (e.g., that all people are equal and entitled to happiness)