Hi, Yury. This is such an important Step 2 question for us to ask ourselves. Raising awareness is one thing, but what matters more is “now what?” Here is my work-in-progress list.
- Shaking off the defensiveness when I get a question like yours. It’s a good one and it’s important to ask ourselves “and what are you going to do about it?” so thank you.
- I try to read a lot of POC writers instead of speculating what their lives might be like from the comfort of my own. I try to do the things they suggest like not constantly centering ourselves in their conversations. Reading is an important form of listening.
- I swallow the defensive reflex when I get corrected. I’ve said/done things I didn’t know were racially motivated or even outright racist. Making mistakes like that feels super shitty and my compulsion is to defend myself and proclaim that I don’t hate anyone, blah blah. But instead, I remind myself to say, I didn’t know, I’m sorry. Thank you for letting me know. We have to be willing to be uncomfortable.
- I finally realized that you don’t have to grow up wealthy to be privileged. So I stopped denying that I have a lot of privilege. And I stopped feeling guilty for that. I’m trying to find ways to leverage it. Suggestions welcome!
- When I was in my 20s an older white man asked me if racism was really “that bad”. I was naive enough to answer. As though I had anything empirical to contribute to that topic. So I stopped treating my sideline observations like relevant insight. What I should’ve said: I’m not Black. And even if I were, Black isn’t a monolith. And even if it were Black is not the only disenfranchised minority. We’d have to listen to lots of minorities or read their writings to learn more about that.
We cannot overestimate the ubiquity of our own personal experiences. It seems so obvious now but let people speak for themselves. I don’t want men mansplaining what it’s like to be a woman in this world. So I’m damn sure not going to come from a majority population and think that I can speak with authority about what it’s like to be a minority in this world.
- Even when it’s awkward, especially when it’s awkward, I try to have conversations with other white people about microagressions we might not be aware of even though we are so sure we are “not racist”. Sam McKenzie Jr. wrote about the importance of directing our “not all white people” claims at each other. You don’t have to hate minorities to accidentally say/do racially motivated things that amount to racism. White people can correct each other on these missteps when they catch them.
- I’m from a very white majority community. But when I do have conversations with minorities I don’t pigeonhole them as race/racism “experts” or assume that that’s the only topic they want to talk about. If the topic comes up, great. But I don’t force it.
- I roll my eyes when I get accused of “performative wokeness” and “virtue signaling”. Some “libtards” and “snowflakes” are just trying to do the right thing and respond compassionately when we hear that other people are suffering. If some people are going to derisively label “what can I do to help?” as virtue-signaling I’m not going to let that stop me from trying.
- I’m the development director for a nonprofit that provides comprehensive scholarships for primary to university students in several rural villages and one migrant camp. I’m a Rotarian and my fellow Rotarians provide much of our support. So I travel throughout the US and Canada trying to raise more money so more kids can get high school diplomas and university degrees instead of harvesting blackberries, cutting sugarcane or working in the banana plantation — all very hard and noble work that their parents do but it does not pay well. They want their kids to be able to pursue their dream careers.
- I donate when I can to my friends who run a similar nonprofit in several rural communities throughout Kenya. Except their program also raises money for massive infrastructure projects like building schools, libraries, dispensaries, bathrooms and a brand new slaughterhouse, as well as putting in water systems, wells and boreholes. They’re awesome. They partner with a Kenyan nonprofit so that all of their work is advised by Kenyans for Kenyans and run by Kenyans. I volunteer for them when I can and help with graphic design and fundraising through our Rotary club.
- I volunteer with a refugee resettlement program that also helps asylum-seekers. When I wasn’t so busy with work I was helping with English homework, translation at ICE appointments and transportation to other appointments. I was also doing their social media on IG and FB but don’t have time anymore.
- I just joined the advisory committee for an attorney who runs this really cool program at a local high school. Bilingual and, in some cases, bicultural high school students help asylum seekers with their paperwork and making sense of their appointments and required steps in the whole process so they can make the best use of their attorneys’ time. Pro bono or low-bono attorneys do this incredibly important work and the students help with the low-hanging fruit. It’s also super cool that they are able to help kids their age and younger who are probably so scared and overwhelmed.
Thank you for the question. I think it’s important we do self-analysis like this on a lot of topics/issues.