Thoughts on the importance of racism self education for white people
by Treva Burger
I began my anti racism journey in 2013 when I was asked to attend trainings as a member of the USG Board. I have never been a social justice warrior, more a quiet suporter in the background. I have found my voice in encouraging others to educate themselves about their own racism. Things may be now shifting, but I have heard many times that the spiritual work of undoing racism: education, self reflection, discussion, feels inadequate because there is so much work to do in the world. And there is so much work to do in the world, but white people are going to do that work better if they come from a place of education and self reflection. It took four years after I started to educate myself for me to see my own racism and I am not rid of it. I found a section in the book Untamed by Glennon Doyle that I thought some might find helpful. This is from the chapter called “Racists” (I read on a reader, so I am not sure of the pages.) She’s talking about putting together a training for white women.
Glennon Doyle writes,
“…I would focus on my personal experience as a white woman waking up to her place inside of white supremacy. I thought if I explained to white women that the confusion, shame and fear they would experience in their early days of racial sobriety were predictable parts of the process of unbecoming, they would be more likely to remain in the anti-racism effort. Also, they’d be better equipped to confront their racism privately, instead of mistakenly believing that their feelings should be shared publicly. This felt important, because Black leaders were telling me that the ignorance and emotionality of well-intentioned white women was a major stumbling block toward justice.
“I knew what they meant. I’d seen it happen again and again. If white women don’t learn that our experiences in early racial sobriety are predictable, we think our reactions are unique. So we enter race conversations far too early and lead with our feelings and confusion and opinions. When we do this, we are centering ourselves, so we inevitably get put back where we belong, which is far from the center. This makes us even more agitated. We are used to people showing gratitude for our presence, so being unappreciated hurts our feelings. We say things like ‘At least I am trying. No one is even grateful. All I do is get attacked.’ People become upset, because ‘I am being attacked’ doesn’t accurately describe what is happening. People are just telling us the truth for the first time. That truth feels like an attack because we have been protected by comfortable lies for so long.
“We are dumbfounded. We feel like we are always saying the wrong things and that people are always getting upset about that. But I do not think people become upset just because we say the wrong things. I think people are upset-and we are defensive, hurt and frustrated-because we have fallen into the trap of believing that becoming racially sober is about saying the right thing instead of becoming the right thing; that showing up is based in performing instead of transforming. …We are not going to get the racism out of us until we start thinking about racism like misogyny. Until we consider racism as not a personal moral failing but as the air we have been breathing….We have been deluged by stories and images meant to convince us that Black men are dangerous, Black women are dispensable, and Black bodies are worth less than white bodies…We must decide that admitting to being poisoned by racism is not a moral failing-but denying we have poison in us certainly is.”