Reading the news has become terrifying, devastating, and heartbreaking in recent days. That is saying something compounded over the terrifying, devastating, and heartbreaking news in recent years, whether it’s children in cages at the border, mass shootings, or of course, this year’s outbreak of COVID. I am not going to do what I normally do in this space which is to share my feelings and experiences on this matter. A major problem with white women in this country is an obsession with our own feelings.
Instead, I want to point to a recent Chairman Mom thread about this topic, in which two of our community members who have decades of working in this field—@femily and @criticalracefeminist—have once again provided invaluable voices on precisely what the problems are when it comes to white reaction to times like these.
From Breeze’s—aka @criticalracefeminist—post on that thread: “Does anyone remember South Park? About fifteen years ago there was an episode about one of the dads who mistakenly said the n-word on a TV game show. After it happened, he shifted the focus on the fact that he was implicitly racist to focusing on his feelings, feeling embarrassed as being called ‘the n-word guy.’ He focused on his pain and feelings and not the fact that that was the WORST outcome for his white male privilege identity when the racialized consequences for Black people are DEADLY.
At the end, there was a policy or law passed that guaranteed you can’t call white people out for using the n-word or being racist by using the ‘insulting’ phrases of things like ‘hey, that’s the n-word guy’ (referring to the father who used the n-word). It was basically showing how White people are more worried about being mistaken for being called a racist versus actually worried about the violence of racism on minorities during racial communities like Black people…
I bring up South Park because if you use books like Layla Saad’s book and the toolkit link I provided, in tandem with fun entertainment like South Park, Get Out, or even Disney movies (old ones) about white female innocence, it’s a rich way to explore these concepts with white women. It’s important to not focus on ‘you as an individual white woman are bad and that is it, period’ to understanding the systems, institutions, and process that have made you a white woman (historically, politically, economically, legally) and how that has been normalized to the point that it’s ‘naturalized.’
So, approach your peers of white women with the understanding that they won’t be shamed, but they need to be accountable. That this was a 500-year-long process as the USA as a white settler nation, and that they may not solve this in one week, one month, or one lifetime, but it’s an ONGOING process. It’s a discipline like any other. You learn ballet, piano, opera, dance, you are going to constantly make mistakes but you can’t learn and become better unless you make these mistakes and the consequences maybe for a ballerina is they don’t get the role they wanted, or maybe they break an ankle, and then maybe they are fine enough to move on and become better…while it may look different in the process of ‘making mistakes’ as a white woman trying to figure this out who anti-racist ally thing out.
And please if you have white kids YOU NEED TO START WITH THEM because they grow up to become adults who maybe don’t understand this or DO understand how to manipulate the history of whiteness and privilege to their favor in the way that Amy Cooper had done and was well versed in by the way she acted in the video. Just do it!!!! You’ll screw up and that’s okay… Amy Cooper started off as a baby/kid, remember. We aren’t born this way in our thinking as humans when it comes to strategic bias and innocence.
It’s supposed to be scary. Remind your peers this. If it weren’t scary or challenging, then you are not growing in the discipline of an evolving human being.”
Breeze had already signed up to lead a virtual Chairman Mom event on raising anti-racist kids (please share and sign up here) this month. She and Femily are on board with doing another virtual event on how to go beyond “ally” to anti-racist. The event is titled “More than just words: How to take action to become better allies” and will take place on Friday, June 19th at 9pm EST/6pm PST.
But, while we typically pride ourselves on telling you to come to Chairman Mom events with no obligation exactly as you are, we have a requirement for these events: You need to do an hour or so of homework first. For the anti-racist group, Femily asks that you watch this video on the 101s of true allyship. Here’s a full list of Breeze’s recommendations on both topics from that thead:
- Me and White Supremacy: Combat Racism, Change the World, and Become a Good Ancestor by Layla F. Saad
- Dismantling Anti-Black Biases in Democratic Workplaces: A Toolkit
- They Were Her Property: White Women as Slave Owners in the American South by Stephanie E. Jones-Rogers
- Breeze’s Facebook post about white terrorism
- Breeze’s blog post titled “One White Man Did Not Single-Handedly ‘Free the Slaves’ (Talking to My Kids About Histories of Racism and Anti-Blackness
As @Femily said on that recent thread: “Can we require folks watch this talk before coming to the discussion? It comes from 25 years of me working with good-hearted white women who want to be allies – and raise kids who aren’t racist.
It’s a lot of labor to start at square one – especially for BREEZE – who I am sure is writing article-length responses on at least 15 message boards this week.”
Yes, she has been writing article-length responses on at least 15 message boards, while working and parenting four children in lockdown. A toddler was crawling on her as she contributed to this thread. This is normally work that Breeze gets paid to do. (Chairman Mom has paid her to help us understand this a few times in the past—her keynote at last year’s Chairman Mom Flee was life altering for many of us.) It’s incredibly generous that she and Femily offered to do this for our audience in this time.
Let’s respect their time by showing up and pushing ourselves to do more, and by not making either of them start from square one. And if your organization needs help on this, hire one or both of these women. You can message them through the site, or come to their talk for more information.
(I was already scheduled to lead part two of my “Home Schooling Angst” virtual Chairman Mom hang tonight. The conversation was supposed to be about summer camps in particular, but I’d love for people to also share how we are educating our kids about these times. For those who have put off talking to your non-Black children about this, know that Black mothers do not have that option. Again, lots of resources on this in the thread, and Breeze’s event explicitly on this topic will go far deeper; I just know this is top of mind for so many right now.)
I am seeing a lot on social media of white people pledging to do more. Here is a way to start.
Today’s new questions on Chairman Mom:
- How to help toddler adjust to new baby
- My in-laws are driving me extra crazy with their expectations right now!
- How do you get motivated on a job search?
- Is anyone buying or selling a home right now?