Here's Why White Allies Can Get So Overwhelmed and Confused About What To Do Next About Racism
Is this you?
The pain of witnessing racist violence has become too much for you to stand by and do nothing.
So you want to be a white ally for racial justice.
You get that racism exists - and you want it to end.
You get that white supremacy exists - and you want to dismantle it.
You get that you have white privilege - and you want to overturn the system that upholds it.
So you've tried to talk with other white folks about this.
And it has gone terribly.
Some common responses you get are:
- They believe that the person who names racism is the real racist - as opposed to the person who committed the racist act
- They get defensive and insist that they’re a good person and never meant to be racist - and so they could never have done anything racist
- They’re surprised at the racist impact of certain laws and think that isn’t American - despite the long history of racist laws as the foundation for this country
- They insist that the everyday racism around them isn’t really racism - but say they are against racism
So you usually end up mad at them and they end up mad at you.
You want to get better at talking about racism with them - but their responses just make you so angry.
How can they not see what you see?!?
But you also know that if you can’t even get other white people to acknowledge the existence of racism, how are you supposed to get them to do something to stop it?!?
I hear you. I get it.
A lot of white people waking up to the existence of white supremacy are in this situation.
You’re not alone in this.
But the roots of this struggle are much deeper than this.
What you need - to help them realize that racism is real - goes much deeper than getting better at arguing with them.
So Let’s Dig A Little Deeper
I invite you to shift your attention towards yourself for a minute - and consider the following questions:
1) Are you confused about what specifically you should do to address racism and white supremacy?
You may not trust what other white people think about racism and you want to follow the leadership of people of color.
But you also don’t want to expect people of color to teach you what to do.
You also don’t want to sit around waiting until a person of color is willing to educate you. Given how badly that tends to go for them, few usually want to.
Plus many leaders of color are more focused on supporting their own communities.
On top of that, there’s no consensus amongst people of color what should be done either. They're not a monolith!
So while you want to follow the leadership of people of color, it feels much more complicated and fraught than you’d like.
So you don’t do anything - or you do something, just to do something.
And it probably backfired on you.
2) Are you scared to say something to address the everyday racism happening round you?
When something racist happens in front of you, you may find yourself freezing, lashing out, and/or walking away.
You don't want to accidentally say something to make it worse. You also don't want to speak for or over people of color who are present.
So you may struggle to find the right words to say and end up saying nothing useful.
But at the same time, you can feel guilty because you know ‘white silence is white violence’.
Or you just say something - in order to just say something and it doesn't go well.
So you feel more stuck than before and feel like you can't do anything right.
3) Are you (un)consciously trying to prove that you’re not one of the ‘bad’ racist white people?
You may want to distance yourself as much as possible from ‘those ignorant white people,’ because you feel how much pain and violence they cause - even if they don’t mean to.
But that can sometimes mean you get upset when someone points out you’ve done something unintentionally racist.
You may want to immediately deny it and lash out, or you may freeze and not know how to respond.
Either way, it feels really emotionally charged to look deeply at yourself and unpack what was behind that racist action.
So you don’t.
4) Are you overwhelmed with painful feelings about white supremacy but don’t want to express ‘white tears’?
You may have a lot of feelings coming up as you learn more about the history and current-day impact of white supremacy on people of color, maybe even grief.
But you don’t know if it’s okay to even have those feelings in the first place. You're afraid it might be centering whiteness and be a sign of 'white tears'.
You don’t want to talk about these feelings with people of color you’re close with and potentially burden them with your feelings.
You know you may cause them pain from seeing you just beginning to understand something that they’ve had to live with their whole lives.
But you also don’t know who you can process with that actually gets it.
The other white people around you get upset when you talk about race with them and say you're being racist for talking about race.
So you don’t process your feelings - and you feel stuck and don't know what to do about it.
If this is you, then you’re not alone.
These are common situations for white people who want to do anti-racism work.
For so long, the main focus in anti-racism work has been to just get more white people to acknowledge that racism is real.
And now that more and more white people like yourself are seeing that, our movement is not quite sure how to emotionally support white allies in moving to the next phase.
That's real - and something more and more people, like myself, are working on.
But here's the thing.
If you personally haven't been able to navigate these struggles yourself, how can you realistically expect your more unconscious white family and friends to be able to?
Moreover, why would they want to join you in anti-racism work when it looks pretty painful and scary from the outside?
So it's no surprise that you’re not able to talk to them about racism - in a way that helps them open up their minds and hearts.
You're struggling to do the same for yourself...
But thankfully, you don't have to remain stuck here.
Let me tell you why.
Here's What They Don't
Want You To Realize
Let me tell you something that's important but not as commonly understood as it should be.
All this painful disorientation, destabilization, and confusion is actually a normal part of the healing journey of becoming socially conscious.
We live in a society built on a foundation of systemic oppression, particularly white supremacy, patriarchy, and exploitative capitalism.
In order to keep us in the system - enduring and perpetuating it even when it hurts us, we’ve been unconsciously conditioned to believe that the world it created is the only world we can live in.
So we feel like we have to play the game by its rules - or else we won't survive.
Sounds a bit dramatic? Well let's explore it a bit more.
You can see this in how we believe we need to act in order to be acceptable.
- White supremacy teaches white people that they have to be good - or else they’re monsters
- Patriarchy teaches men that they have to be right - or else they’re worthless
- Exploitative capitalism teaches us all that we have to be productive - or we have no value in society
So you cling on to being good, right, and working - even if it means denying that you did something that hurt someone, that you were wrong about something, and working even if you’re sick.
All that just helps to keep you unconscious and in denial of the reality of systemic oppression around you and within you - thereby perpetuating it (even if you're actually against it!)
This conditioning happens to people of all races, genders, and classes because that’s the system we all live in.
But people with more marginalized identities tend to have more experiences that counter this conditioning - making them more conscious of it. (Though we all have internalized oppression to a certain degree.)
For many white people, you’re just starting to see the violence in the deeply normalized reality of white supremacy - after a lifetime of being righteously and insistently unconscious to your own unconsciousness.
In other words, you’re becoming conscious of how unconscious you’ve been.
So you’re becoming aware of just how uncaringly ignorant you’ve been raised to be - and how that has violently impacted people of color, including those you care about.
And that’s terrifying.
You’re realizing that you don’t know what’s good or bad, what’s right or wrong, or how to take action that’s actually helpful, especially to people of color.
Because systemic oppression told you how to be acceptable - on their terms, meaning:
- Being good, according to white supremacy, means to be color blind and insist that race doesn’t matter (which denies the reality of people of color facing racism due to their race)
- Being right, according to patriarchy, means you have to know what to do with certainty all the time (which is an impossible standard that leaves you feeling like you’re a failure when you can’t know)
- Being productive, according to exploitative capitalism, means you have to just keep doing, doing, doing - even if you don’t know what the most appropriate action is or have the embodied consent of the other people involved (which means your actions normally just lead to you burning out and hurting and breaking trust with other people)
None of these beliefs are actually inherently true.
They’re just true within our current oppressive society that is designed to keep us working and generating obscene amounts of profits for the ruling elites - at our expense.
And you were never supposed to question it.
You were supposed to keep blaming lazy, stupid, criminal, poor people (aka people of color) for society’s problems (as if they have the power to run our society).
You were supposed to keep victim-blaming people of color for any struggles they dared to name (as opposed to the racist system they live in).
But now you’re realizing that what you’ve been (un)consciously conditioned to believe is right and good too often serves systemic oppression (and not the collective good as you once believed).
So the very grounding that told you how to make sense of of the world and how to be a good person is being shaken and shattered.
That’s why the earlier stage of waking up is often disorientingly painful.
It's like when your foot falls asleep, because you were in an unnatural position that cut off blood to your foot.
When you start trying to move, the blood rushes back into your foot - causing you pain with the pins-and-needles feeling.
If you didn’t recognize that pins-and-needles feeling as a positive sign, then you might try to return to the unnatural position to stop the pain.
That would have only made it worse for you in the long run. If blood was blocked from getting to your foot for too long, your tissue would begin to die aka gangrene.
White supremacy has conditioned you to be uncaringly ignorant and insistently unconscious about the white supremacy around you.
It's like your blood has been cut off from the compassionate, empathetic, human part of yourself.
That's what allows so many white people to witness acts of racist violence and not register it as violent.
It's why well-intentioned white people will do all sorts of mental and emotional contortions in order to insist that those unarmed Black people must have been doing something wrong to deserve being shot by the police - to avoid the implications of acknowledging the existence of racism in their world.
Now that you're becoming conscious of the inhumanity of that perspective, it's disrupting your grounding.
Which is usually a disorienting and painful process.
Because even though your grounding was ultimately harmful to your emotional well-being, it's how you knew what to do for your life up to now.
So this is going to be a process...a long process.
You’re going to need to stay open to this awakening process - even through the pins-and-needles phase.
So you don’t put yourself back into racial unconsciousness.
That way, you’ll be able to grow your capacity to push back on white supremacy’s attempt to keep you in that unnatural position - and help others do the same.
But to do that, you will need to reconnect with your compassion, empathy, and sense of shared humanity through this anti-racism work - for yourself, other white people, and people of color.
You will need to find a new grounding in your own body - giving you access to your inner voice for guidance on how to be in the world.
This is possible...
If you take a healing approach to your anti-racism work.
If you want to learn how to do that, keep reading on.
Here’s What Else
Is Possible for You
Here's what I've learned from over 15 years of my own journey healing from white supremacy and racism as a person of color and from working with hundreds of white allies.
As a white ally, you can both:
- Meet yourself and other white people where you’re at with compassion, AND
- Call yourself, and others, higher to live into your values with unapologetic accountability for your individual and collective healing and liberation journey
This is possible.
Let me tell you - it’s a game changer when you’re able to do this.
As I mentioned before, it just requires you to take a healing approach to anti-racism work.
You can acknowledge how you've internalized whiteness - in a way that frees yourself of it, as opposed to whipping yourself for having it.
This healing approach will help you to more quickly notice when you're unconsciously perpetuating whiteness and shift to a more grounded, human place.
This healing approach is the opposite of the self-flagellation approach - which is the unconscious tool of choice for white supremacy.
So it's a deep norm in our society. Unfortunately many of our anti-racism spaces are not yet fully free of it.
With a healing approach, you can learn how to do this with yourself and others:
- Notice and name white people’s emotional flailing around race as a trauma reaction to what white supremacy has done to you - so you can stop feeding into it and move from a more grounded place
- Stop beating yourself up for having been brainwashed by white supremacy and start noticing how you’re unintentionally being racist - so you can stop and act according to your values
- Grieve your unconscious belief in what whiteness promised you and what was taken away from you that you don’t even know you lost - when your European ancestors became white people through the creation and perpetuation of white supremacy
This healing work calls for white people to be gentle and patient with yourselves - which goes against everything white supremacy taught you to do.
If you can humanize yourself while deeply looking at how you’ve unconsciously internalized whiteness and unintentionally perpetuated it, you can begin to internally free yourself of it.
As you become increasingly internally free of this conditioning, you’ll be able to take more action to change the external conditions supporting white supremacy.
You will be able to do this from a place of groundedness, integrity, and shared humanity with people of color.
Do you want this for yourself?
If Yes, Then I Can Help
As a person of color, I don't work directly with white people who are completely unconscious of their own internalized whiteness.
It's terrible to have to explain how white supremacy is violent to my community and justify my right to not be violated and to be who am I.
Especially to someone whose unconsciously conditioned to say I'm pulling the race card and automatically dismiss my experiences on principle.
But somebody does need to do that educational work and emotional labor with them.
Someone who they're more likely to listen to and open up to, because they have more shared identities and experiences and an ongoing relationship with - ideally with lots of compassion, understanding, and integrity.
That's why I think it's more appropriate for more racially conscious white allies to do this vital work.
And that's why I work to guide and support white allies on this path.
By doing your own consciousness-raising and healing work, you can turn around and share your journey with the less conscious white people in your life.
I use a trauma-informed, healing-engaged, spiritually-grounded, and communally-held way to guide white people in dismantling white supremacy from the inside-out.
Here’s some surprising news too.
I actually really enjoy working with white allies who are willing to look deeply at themselves - even when it’s really painful - in order to do something to end racism against people of color.
It took me over a decade of healing work to get to the point where I both want to and am capable of doing this work with white people.
That became possible only because I take a healing approach that actually works, including for me!
Let me show you the very framework and practices that led me to be able to do this work with white people so you can do this work with them too.
In my online training, Healing from Internalized Whiteness, you'll:
- Learn how unconscious white supremacy shows up in your life, relationships, work, and communities - that dehumanize you even when people of color aren’t involved
- Be held with compassionate accountability by someone who is both willing and able to skillfully love you through your whiteness with fierce tenderness
- Practice getting in touch with your pain of internalized whiteness - without beating yourself up and without bypassing it
- Practice co-creating conversations about racism with less conscious white people - where you are both unapologetic about your anti-racism position and lets both of you be human in the process
Listen, you’re already on the healing journey because you’re getting in touch with the pain that needs healing.
The question is are you ready to take the medicine you need to purge yourself of internalized whiteness.
If you’re ready, here's your chance to get guidance and compassionate accountability from me and a supportive community of other white allies on the same path.
So, you ready to learn more?
Hope to see you soon,