Part 7:
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 attributes 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)

Find your "why"
(a personal note about my own journey—June 22, 2020)

It's easy to get burnt out on this work. I've spent hundreds of hours on this website, reading books, listening to podcasts, and talking to people, and I still feel like I have so much to learn.

I've found that two things are important to keeping myself going.

The first big thing is relationships.

Don't do this work alone. Find a buddy. Find an affinity group. This isn't about accountability but about support. It's about having someone to talk with who understands.

Even more so, find your community of people. This work represents a cultural shift, so this isn't about just having your one "anti-racism friend," but about surrounding yourself as much as possible by other people doing this work. That also means sharing resources like this website with people you care about who aren't already on board with this cause.

And please remember that anti-racism can take many forms, as I outlined in the section above. It's not just about the highly-visible actions like marching in protests but also about smaller but equally-important acts like raising your child to be anti-racist, or doing the hard work of dismantling your own internalized whiteness. 

Remember too that all forms of authentic relating and vulnerability are small acts of dismantling whiteness. If you skip the small talk at a party and instead ask someone a deep question about their feelings, that's a step toward dismantling whiteness. And if you facilitate or lead any type of group—whether it's managing teams at work or leading a yoga class—think about small adjustments you could make to increase inclusivity and bring a lens of dismantling whiteness to that group.

The second big thing is tying this work to your life purpose.

I've spent a lot of time defining my purpose (and I'd be happy to help you with yours). But here's the interesting thing: On the surface, mine has nothing to do with racism. In fact, I came up with my purpose statement a couple of years before anti-racism work was really in my awareness.

The purpose I came up with back then is, simply put, about helping others with personal growth, feeling alive, and finding their life purposes. To be honest, I was mostly imagining working with highly-analytical types to help them connect with their feelings and become less jaded (i.e., my own journey).

But despite that seemingly unrelated mission, I found that something kept drawing me toward anti-racism work.

It felt critically important to me, but I couldn't name exactly what it was that was leading me to spend so much time on that cause. It's of course enough to just say that people of color have been horribly oppressed for hundreds of years and that needs to stop, but I still felt like there was another reason that made this work resonate so deeply with me.

Only recently (June, 2020, a couple of years into my work in this space) was I able to truly name it for myself.

I could write quite a bit about this, but I'll briefly summarize here:

It goes back to whiteness and white supremacy culture. My insight here came to me when I took the day off and was sitting out in the sun meditating. Not being at work, I felt a sense of spaciousness. A sense of possibility and of being in control of my time. No one was holding me to a deadline. No one was going to ask me to justify how I was spending my day.

In those moments with the warmth of the sun on my face and the leaves rustling nearby, I felt so connected and at peace, like I was making the best use of my limited time on this Earth.

It became clear to me that there are five things that are important for me to cultivate to be able to sink into that state of mind that was so delicious and comforting:

  1. Quality relationships, support in processing my feelings, and a deep sense of community where I can show up as my authentic, vulnerable self
  2. Spaciousness to explore myself, be introspective, feel my body, examine where I am,  consider the history of this land, and connect to something greater than myself
  3. Being able to sit in uncertainty and complexity without having to come up with one clear answer, "best practice," or #1 best solution
  4. Feeling my own agency and sense of being in control of my day. Not thinking in terms of hierarchy, power dynamics, politics, competition, scarcity, or having to justify myself and how I'm spending my time
  5. A sense of being driven not by artificial deadlines and rhythms (e.g., scheduled work meetings and "time-sensitive" emails), but rather by the natural rhythms of the seasons, the day-night cycle, and my own energy, curiosity, and intuition

What struck me about that list is that all those things I found myself pushing against are attributes of white supremacy culture. They're key parts of whiteness.

I realized that dismantling whiteness is the core cause driving me in my anti-racism work. Of course I care about eliminating racism and oppression for the benefit of people of color specifically. But the part of all this that I've realized is most dear to my core is the desire to dismantle white supremacy culture for the benefit of all of us.

That's what keeps the fire burning inside me. Of course we all care about supporting people of color specifically, but it's also ok to work toward dismantling whiteness for your own benefit too—if one of your reasons for continuing this work is a bit selfish, that will be more likely to keep you going over time.

So, I'm passionate about anti-racism work because: I value authentic relationship and community; I want all people to feel a sense of agency, control, and belonging; and, I appreciate the permission to sink into the natural, spacious rhythms of life without always needing to provide a "correct" answer to every question.

What's your why?

Where do you go from here?

First off, thank you so much for reading this far.

I can appreciate that a lot of this information might have made you deeply uncomfortable, so I commend you for getting through it all.

What should you do next? Here are some places to start:

Please feel free to contact me at michael at (written that way to reduce bot spam, so please replace with @ before sending).

Thanks again for reading, and good luck on your journey,