Art by @stuffgracemade
I want to talk to my white people about change-making.
Specifically, I want to talk to my intensely creative, highly sensitive, empathic, spiritual white people, about change-making.
I know this world can be a brutal place. I know you’ve learned to narrow your focus in order to survive, you’ve had to deliberately shut out the clamour because you felt like you were drowning in it.
You have a right to do what you need to feel good in your life.
In your attempts to be ok, you’ve shut some really important things out. That clamour, it’s from people dying. People who can’t choose to step away or protect themselves the way you can. That pain you pick up on, that you cannot bear, it’s their pain. And it’s real.
I know you know that. I know that’s exactly what throws you into overwhelm. I get it. And we can’t stay there anymore.
We can’t allow overwhelm to be our exit point anymore.
Because our participation is needed now. We are needed in this work for the exact reasons we believe we can’t participate. Because of our sensitivity, our empathic abilities, our powerful imagination, our creative capacities.
All of us can’t be on the barricades – shouldn’t even, because then other aspect of change-making would be neglected. Activism is not either or and no one is asking you to override who you are. I love this graphic by Deepa Iyer because it shows how many entry points there are into the work.
It’s not about you sacrificing your health and sanity to help others. It’s about getting real about what you CAN do and then doing it. It’s about understanding that your human heart actually IS strong enough to endure (we were made for this). It’s about carrying our share of the weight, because as white people, we carry so much less. It’s about understanding, fully, your part in all of this and accepting the responsibility that comes with that.
It’s about finding a middle way, because us burning out is not an option, but us staying out of it is not an option anymore either.
Everyone can’t be involved in everything. But racism isn’t an isolated issue. Just like patriarchy affects us all, because we live and breathe it from birth, white supremacy does too. It’s the underpinnings of the world we live in and we can’t change this world without understanding and addressing it.
So if you think of yourself as doing good work, lightwork, love’s work, but you don’t bring this awareness into it, you haven’t understood the depth of our real work. Our common responsibility. You’re only scratching the surface, only offering the kind of change that doesn’t upset the status quo, that doesn’t upset your world.
White privilege is the very thing that allows us to do that, to look away, to opt out. Our skin colour affords us that privilege.
Right now, I’m not interested in how easily overwhelmed you are or how you’re “not into politics” or how you just don’t know what to do. What I want to know is: Are you willing to learn more, in whatever way works for you, so that the work you do can bring freedom and change for everyone, not just those who happen to have the same privilege as we do?
I’m asking myself this too.
This doesn’t mean we throw ourselves recklessely into the fray.
It means we educate ourselves.
It means we commit to being accountable.
It means we figure out what our role is in this and then do that work.
It means we do better. Because lives depend on it. The world we say we want to live in depends on it – or rather, our ability to create that world.
We need our imagination in order to co-create a new world, that’s our work as creatives, but first – and this is the step most of us skip – we need to stand firmly rooted in the reality of THIS world, beauty, pain, horrors and all, or whatever we create won’t be new at all. It will just be another, slightly prettier version of the same old.
And that’s not an option anymore.
A few places to start
So You Want to Talk About Race, by Ijeoma Oluo
Sister Outsider, by Audre Lorde
How to be an Anti-Racist, by Ibram X. Kendi
White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism, by Robin DiAngelo
Welcome to the Anti-Racism Movement – Here’s what You’ve Missed, by Ijeoma Oluo
The 1619 Project – New York Times
White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack by Knapsack Peggy McIntosh
No, I won’t Stop Saying “White Supremacy”, by Robin DiAngelo
Follow and learn from on Instagram (and compensate them for their work when possible):
Courses and resources to help you create work that is truly inclusive and anti-oppressive:
Organisations to support:
Other things to do:
Talk about it. Talk to your kids about it. Work actively to dismantle these structures inside of you, in your family, in your social network, at your workplace. Be humble. Be willing to get it wrong before you get it right. Trying is so much better than not doing anything at all.
I believe it’s true what they say, until every last one of us is free, no one is free.