Part 6:
Still have some objections, nagging doubts, or points of confusion?

Here are some common objections and questions I've heard from well-meaning people at anti-racism workshops and in other group educational settings.

These are not at all meant to be judgmental. They came from people who are truly kind, empathetic, and interested in doing the right thing.

They're also not meant to be exaggerations or caricatures. It’s actually very easy for me to write these because many of them were me—some a year or two ago and some even several months ago.

This was also one of the trickiest sections to write because a lot of this is highly nuanced and, like I said, I myself have  been grappling with some of these subjects in the recent past. I'm continuing my own learning, and I will likely get some of this wrong.

Bottom line: This stuff isn't easy, but this is my attempt to address some of the concerns you might have at this point (especially if you're a white man and/or you work in the corporate world).

Lastly, thank you for reading this far, and thank you for trying your best. And, please realize that—if you're doing it right—this work can't help but be uncomfortable. It's not always going to feel good. You're probably going to feel at times like turning your back on anti-racism work because it feels like people are being hard on you. Please stick with it.

Note: I've switched the format a bit on the rest of this page so that the first pink box (on the left on desktop and on the top on mobile) contains the objection that you might have, and the second box contains my response.

"It's nice for us to learn all this, but we need to be more focused on how to get this message out to the people who really need it (i.e., the people who are 'really racist' or who 'don't get it')."


"This stuff makes sense to me, but I'm especially open-minded / progressive / mature. These concepts are too radical or confusing for people who are more conservative / less self-aware / less open-minded."

  • Let's begin by separating three things:
    • (1) One part of anti-racism work is personal growth. It's focused on educating yourself, learning the history, understanding how the past impacts the world today, and learning how you can become a better ally
    • (2) Another part of the work is structural change. It involves doing your part to effect change in the organizations and systems you're part of (more on this in part 6).
    • (3) A third part is spreading the word about these concepts and recruiting others. This involves communication, marketing, persuasion, and figuring out the best way to present all this information so that it will resonate with a wide range of people
  • Please don't worry about #3 until you're further along with #1. You might be able to work on #2 as well alongside #1, but there's a lot of work to be done with those two before you should be worrying about #3
  • I know it's easy to tell yourself, "Sure, if it were up to me, I'd be fully on board and willing to champion this cause; but other people won't be so willing, so this isn't going to work unless we get through to them." That might lead you to think you need to work on #3 right away, but doing so can be problematic for several reasons: 
    • You only have so much energy and mental bandwidth, so you're better off focusing first on deeply learning all these concepts rather than thinking about how to sell them to others (note that I said deeply learning, which takes a while)
    • You might not quite get the message right if you're still new to the work or have only read about anti-racism and haven't had the experience yet of speaking about it with other white people doing this work. The question for now should not be whether this stuff will make sense to others but whether it truly makes sense to you
    • White fragility can show up in some non-obvious ways, so you've likely experienced it (or continue to experience it) without fully realizing it. For example, if you keep finding yourself thinking something like, "All this makes perfect sense to me, but other people won't get it," I encourage you to slow down and really take some time to examine what's happening for you
      • Yes, it's possible that you're just excited about spreading the word and you want to figure out the best way to get other people on board
      • Or, there might be a part of you under the surface that already feels defeated. That part might feel like all this is too hard so we might as well give up now. So, your unconscious mind is supplying the excuse that other people just aren't ready for this
      • There might also be a part of you that unconsciously feels defensive and is dealing with that feeling by refocusing your attention on other people instead of yourself
  • Once you're educated and grounded enough, then please do devote yourself to figuring out how best to spread the word. But if you still find yourself experiencing much white fragility, then it's probably not yet time (and that's ok!)
    • Honestly, for most people, it takes a fair amount of time after learning all these facts for things to feel settled. It's very natural to feel defensiveness, questioning, and other feelings for weeks or months after learning about the history and effects of race in America
    • If you're like me, you might even experience multiple waves of feeling like you get it then realizing you don't then feeling like you do again
    • Bottom line: If you want to convince others to take on this work, you'll likely be more successful if you wait until you can do so from a  more emotionally grounded, resilient place

"The country is so divided right now, so we have to be careful to avoid making this message too challenging or controversial.

Otherwise, people on the other side won’t be willing to listen. We don't want to divide people even further."

  • First, absolutely yes: The country is divided right now, and that's a major problem
  • Now, ask yourself what's causing the polarization and who's creating it
    • Again, my aim is not to be political, so think more broadly than a specific leader, political party, or administration—think about the larger forces at work across administrations (as well as the historical forces and precedents still impacting this country today)
  • Certainly we don't want to create divisiveness without good reason. But ask yourself what a good reason would look like. Some causes should be worth fighting for even if they make some people uncomfortable, right?
    • For example, with a wage gap of nearly 28% between black and white men in 2018 for the same job, if black men are demanding equal pay, would you consider that a worthwile cause for them to create divisiveness over?
    • Imagine you made a quarter less than your colleagues because of something totally outside your control. Would you stop fighting for it because it was creating divisiveness?
    • What about the fact that the life expectancy of black men is still 5 years less than that of white men? Is that a cause worth creating divisiveness over?
  • Also, be on the lookout for the tactic that created white supremacy culture in the first place back in early America. It's still active even today. Let's review:
    • Back in the 1600s, the lower class (including people of European, African, and Native origin) were banding together to rebel against the rich
    • Because the rich were afraid of losing their power, they created a scheme to turn the poor against each other by assigning a certain group (the people of color) to be vilified by everyone
    • The rich told the poor white people that this other group (the POC) were not like them. In fact, they were fundamentally different—closer to animals.  They weren't humans who deserved respect and rights
    • Furthermore, the rich told the poor white people that if they kept working hard then they too could become rich and powerful—just keep following our rules, they said, and then you too will benefit from all this
    • This tactic has been used multiple times in our history. It's being used again today, and it's more effective than ever thanks to 24/7 news media
  • Warning: I'm going to get just a bit political for a moment here.  I've tried very hard throughout this website to avoid doing that, but I'm going to do so here in this one section for a very specific reason: To illustrate how this "othering" tactic (i.e., they're not like us, they're part of an "other, less important group") is at play today in case it's not clear to you:
    • Think about the Central American people at the Southern border of the United States trying to seek asylum. I know there are many complexities at play here, but please try to focus on the big picture rather than nitpicking the details
      • If you feel like we should turn them away, can you imagine whether or not your reaction would be any different if they were white native English speakers?
      • You might say that these people should just follow the formal immigration process like Canadians and Europeans do. But if you slow down for a moment here, are you able to look at this issue through a viewpoint informed by everything you've learned on this website?
      • For example, if you feel like they should just put more effort into following our procedures, could that be similar to thinking that black Americans should just work harder if they're not being promoted at work? Remember everything we've explored around how many black people have far less access to healthcare, education, nutrition, etc. because of matters outside their control. Getting a promotion for them is often not nearly as straightforward as it is for a white person
      • So, it's easy as a white person to say that the asylum-seekers should just follow procedures, but the reality is that those procedures are incredibly difficult and confusing. Take a look at the website to apply for asylum and try to actually go through some of it (the application form alone is 12 pages long and largely written in legalese). I'm a college-educated native English speaker with experience working professionally with the Federal government, and I find it quite intimidating. Now imagine telling these people fleeing war with their children that they should just get on a computer and fill that out
      • Yes, it's important to follow the law. But, given everything you've read on this website about structural and institutional racism (e.g., how the education system is stacked against POC, how the prison system is stacked against POC, etc.), do you imagine that our asylum-seeking system is different? Or, is it more likely that it was designed largely by white people and without a careful eye toward what would be most equitable?
    • Another example: Think about how some people who identify as conservatives talk about Barack Obama, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and Ilhan Omar
        • Would they use the same words to describe these people if they were white men?
        • Would people question whether or not Obama is Christian if he were white?
    • Now, if you identify as conservative, I want to encourage you to notice what happened for you as you read all that
      • By this point, you've stuck with me reading through many pages on this website already—thank you. But did you respond differently to those political points versus all the rest of the material?
      • It's natural if you felt yourself switching to a kind of "battle mode" in your mind and you found yourself bristling and becoming more defensive. Maybe you felt more personally attacked than in other sections
      • Please know that I'm not attacking you. I don't think you're a bad person. I'm not calling you a bigot
      • What I want to point out here is how easily our political brains (i.e., "us vs. them") can take over
      • You might find yourself saying that your dislike of Obama or AOC has nothing to do with race—that it's purely about their economic policies. I just want to invite you to examine that. Is that truly all it is?
      • Try to take your mind out of the usual 24/7 back-and-forth news cycle that politicizes everything. Instead, try to think about this through the lens of structural racism you've been learning on this website. Does it seem reasonable that there might be more to your feelings about those people than just a disagreement over economics?
      • Please take a moment now to think back: Can you remember a time when you've had a negative thought about Obama, AOC, or Omar? Can you really examine it to see if it was truly 100% about their political ideologies and 0% about their races? Even more broadly, can you think of a time when race might have crept into your negative perception of someone, especially in the realm of politics or leadership? Really check in, and if your first answer is no, check in some more. I created this whole anti-racism website and my personal answer is, "yes, I absolutely can"
      • So, based on everything else you've read on this website, what seems true—does it seem reasonable to say that racism might creep into political discourse more than you might like to think? It's tricky, but this is exactly the kind of thing we need to be watching out for—when the people in power are making decisions in a way that might negatively impact people of color and thus perpetuate the oppression that's been happening for hundreds of years
      • It can be easy to excuse racist statements and behaviors by imagining that you're just defending your political party. And it's not your fault. The system is designed this way—to herd us into only one of two political camps. It pits us against each other and vilifies each side, so we have to do the hard work of noticing the effect on us and pushing back
      • I'm not telling you to switch your political party, but simply to notice. All the better if you remain a conservative and are able to teach other people who identify with that worldview about anti-racism work
  • Look around to see which groups are being "othered" by the rich people in power today (e.g., the handful of billionaires who own most news sources). This is no accident. It's a very intentional, time-honored strategy. Don't fall for it
    • Now, ask yourself again what's causing the polarization, who's behind it, and why

"Ok, fine. I'm convinced that this might be a cause worth making people uncomfortable over. But still: This isn't an effective way to go about it. This message would resonate with other white people more if you were kinder to them and didn't make them feel bad. Can't we just be allies to people of color without having to hurt white people?"


"It seems like there are two ways of doing this work: you can either cut down the white people currently in power or you can boost up the people of color who have been marginalized. Why not just do the second one? Why do you have to bring people down?"

  • First of all, be careful if you find yourself saying something that starts with, "there are two ways of doing..." That's tripped me up too because my brain likes to find patterns and groupings of information. But watch out for it, because that "either/or" type of thinking is an aspect of white supremacy culture
    • The truth is that there are probably more than two ways of doing this work. And remember that you're new to this. Others have been doing this work for a very long time, and there have been a lot of different approaches to anti-racism over the years
  • Now,  like I said at the top of this page, I very much agree that it's generally better to err on the side of kindness and empathy rather than shaming white people or purposefully making them feel bad
  • That said, the fact of the matter is that we white people have the power, and we've had the power for hundreds of years. It's probably not possible for us to transition to a country that's more equitable toward people of color without white people having to feel uncomfortable
    • We're used to a wide variety of systems that favor us. We're used to feeling comfortable in places full of people that look like us. We're used to thinking that the "good part of town" is where the white people live and the "bad part of town" is where the people of color live
    • In one study, white people said their ideal neighborhood would be around 46% white. Where they actually ended up living was 74% white
    • A lot of white people say they support diversity, but living around too many people of color still makes them uncomfortable. So, if we want more people of color to be able to live in highly-desirable areas (e.g., with well-funded schools and nice grocery stores with fresh vegetables), it's unfortunately going to mean that white people get a bit uncomfortable
    • As those things begin to change, it's only natural for the people who have enjoyed their privilege to feel challenged when it's spread out more evenly
    • But remember that we didn't actually earn that privilege in the first place—we were simply lucky to be born white and to be given access and opportunities in a way that others born into other bodies were not
  • It's not a question of bringing anyone down per se (i.e., the goal is not to negatively impact anyone). But, if a company or school is heavily skewed white today, then it might feel to some of those white people that they're losing something as more people of color are given the opportunity to work or study there
  • So yes, I'm all for trying to support everyone as we do this work. Let's try to avoid making anyone feel bad if we can. And, the reality is that change in general is hard

"I like this vision, but it feels a bit like a fantasy or unrealistic utopia. Given where we are now in the world, this seems nice but impossible."


"I believe in this, but we need to take it slow. If we push this too hard it will backfire."

  • People of color have been waiting a long time. They've been told for hundreds of years to keep waiting and maybe things will get better for them in the future
    • True, everything won't change overnight, but with today's communication technologies and upswelling of energy around anti-oppression work, we shouldn't just settle for taking timid baby steps when we can do so much more here
  • Yes, we have to be careful with messaging, and we have to use care especially when pointing out racism, whiteness, or white fragility in others
    • That's where it becomes important to not publicly shame people, for example. Instead, let's try to approach them lovingly and speak to them one-on-one
    • If you're careful and take the time to hear someone first and then personalize the message for them, it's a lot less likely to backfire
    • Here's an example of a technique called deep canvassing that's useful for persuading someone by listening to them first and then helping them come to the conclusion you're interested in on their own
      • Be careful here: Yes, truly listening to someone first can be an effective way of persuading them. And, just because we're advocating that here doesn't mean that a person of color has to fully listen to everything that you the white person wants to say to them around race. They're allowed to draw a clear boundary and ask you to stop talking to them about that (why is that fair? because of the power differential and the trauma and oppression they've had to deal with around race their whole lives)
  • Yes, this is hard work and people might tell you that you're trying to push too hard too fast. But, we white people have the power to really make a difference in this fight for equity
    • We can't just keep making the excuse that things will change someday. You don't have to march in the streets, but you can start by attending anti-racism workshops and telling your leaders at work that diversity & inclusion are important to you

"Aren't we simply making a new hierarchy here where white men are at the bottom and marginalized people are at the top?"


"I hear you telling me to treat people of color differently. Isn't the whole point to treat them equally? Why shouldn’t I just treat them as a friend like I do my white friends?"


"If this is supposed to be about all of us improving and developing resilience, shouldn’t we expect people of color to do the same? Shouldn't they be displaying resilience and not being so offended if I say the wrong thing? Why should I have to walk on eggshells around them?"

  • First of all, I don't want you to intentionally oppress anyone, including white men
  • We should not be trying to make anyone feel bad, including white men. But, there are two nuances worth mentioning:
    • First, if a white man isn't expressing empathy for the plight of people of color, then we're in a tricky spot because white men are the ones with the power, so we need them on board
      • We can't really just back off and leave things be because that would preserve the status quo. So, it might be necessary to try different ways of getting the message across such as pointing out the person's privilege and pushing them to dig deeper to look at their place in the world and face some harsh realities that they've been hiding from. As they do that, they might very well feel bad
      • I'm definitely not advocating for any kind of "eye for an eye" attitude here. Just because white people have caused POC a lot of pain over the years does not mean that we should try to intentionally make white people feel pain. But as we educate them and try to get them to understand the pain that POC experience, the end result might be that they feel bad, even if that wasn't our goal
    • Second, it's very reasonable for POC to feel angry and frustrated. They've had to put up with a lot. And because of that, sometimes they (or white allies who have put a lot of effort into anti-racism work) might get emotional sometimes
      • Everyone doing anti-racism work is aiming to improve things for others. But the work is not easy, and it's hard to remain calm and collected all the time, especially if you're dealing with yet another white guy who claims to be experiencing reverse racism (remember the TV reporter example from earlier)
      • So, this is another way that white people might feel bad from anti-racism work: not because we're intentionally trying to hurt them, but because POC and activists are human too and they lose patience. So sometimes that means they let it out on a white man, especially if he's acting smug or calling them crazy or delusional
      • No, you might not deserve that anger being directed at you if you were genuinely trying your best to be open-minded. But please just try to see that anger as part of a much bigger picture of systemic racism that people of color are experiencing every day. And, please also really check in with yourself afterward (or ask a white friend who understands this stuff) to figure out if you might have unintentionally said something that provoked that anger
    • One more note about that: Telling an oppressed person to calm down, stop yelling, and discuss things in a civilized way is called tone policing
      • It's another attribute of whiteness because it implies that being calm and rational and well-spoken is the reasonable way to behave and being emotional is unreasonable
      • Of course, it's easy to have that attitude if you're the one just reading about racism and not experiencing it every day
      • Here's an excellent comic explaining this concept (seriously, if this stuff doesn't make perfect sense to you—which is ok, since it's not what we're taught in this society—please read it)
  • Again, we're not trying to intentionally take anything away from white people
    • However, if we white men are used to having most of the power and always being allowed to be the loudest voice in the room, then yes, moving to a more equitable culture might mean that some of that changes
    • It's like if you were to switch from a monarchy to a democracy, the king would necessarily have less power. But, in this analogy, we're not advocating for the "king" to be thrown in prison or beaten. We're simply advocating for a peaceful transition to a "democracy," because that's a more fair way to run a country than a "monarchy"—it allows more voices to be heard
  • So yes, we're aiming for a society here where no one is oppressed. And, we also have to recognize that we're all starting from different places (that's the difference between "equity" and "equality" that I wrote about in part 3.2 here)
    • Because white men are starting at the top, it might feel like we're losing some of our power as we welcome in more people who have traditionally not had a voice
    • And, because marginalized people are starting below, it's also reasonable that part of doing this work of anti-racism means giving them a little more leeway to be offended. It means that yes, we have more of a responsibility to be careful of what we say to them than they do to be careful not to offend us
    • This isn't to say that we should be willing to be abused. If a person of color is yelling at you because they're angry about white people in general and not about you specifically, that's probably not fair. You're allowed to set a boundary and leave that conversation
    • Or, you could try to hold space for them and support them if you feel willing to stand in your resilience and recognize that there's real trauma here and that we as the people with more structural power have a wider support network (and thus potentially more energy to offer support) than do many marginalized people
  • I want to be realistic though that this isn't and won't be easy
    • It will take courage for you as a more privileged white person to talk less in meetings at work so that others have the opportunity to speak up more. It will take courage as a leader to invite an employee of color with a less-traditional background to lead an important project rather than the white person with the fancy MBA (and, by the way, many POC have fancy MBAs too!)
  • It's also not easy to navigate how all this new information might impact your relationships with people of color
    • Maybe before you didn't think much about the race dynamics at play in your relationships with POC and you (consciously at least) just treated them like any of your white friends. But now you might feel a bit more like you're waking on eggshells and worried that you might accidentally say something offensive or hurtful
    • The good news is that there's light on the other side of that tunnel. In my experience, the journey goes roughly like this:
    • (1) I'm friends or colleagues with people of color but ignorant of how race really works in modern America. I treat them well most of the time, but every now and then I probably make a small racist mistake that I don't realize (and they probably don't say anything because they don't want to make things awkward)
    • (2) I learn about the history and impacts of racism in this country and about some of the challenges of being a person of color in America today. I start to feel increasingly afraid of saying or doing the wrong thing, so I start to keep my distance from people of color
    • (3) As I keep learning, I start to feel more comfortable with the common mistakes that white people make, and I start to notice my own biases and mistakes that I've made in the past
    • (4) Now I start feeling more comfortable again seeing people of color as normal people rather than as a special type of person I have to be super careful around. I'm still conscious of the racial dynamics at play between us, but I feel more comfortable naming those out loud, apologizing if I mess up (without being defensive), and continuing to learn. They might also start to see me as someone they can talk with if they need support
    • (5) It's probably not a fairy tale ending. I still make mistakes and I keep learning, and sometimes I learn something new that makes me a little wary again. But then the cycle repeats and I sink back into more ease after a while as I keep going