In Conclusion (final paragraph)
Interrupting racism takes courage and intentionality; the interruption is by definition not passive or complacent. So in answer to the question “Where do we go from here?,” I offer that we must never consider ourselves finished with our learning. Even if challenging all the racism and superiority we have internalized was quick and easy to do, our racism would be reinforced all over again just by virtue of living in the culture. I have been engaged in this work in a range of forms for many years, and I continue to receive feedback on my stubborn patterns and unexamined assumptions. It is a messy, lifelong process, but one that is necessary to align my professed values with my real actions. It is also deeply compelling and transformative.
Recognize Bias and Privilege
Acknowledge your privilege.
Before having conversations about race, explore the history of race-based privilege in this country and put your privilege in context. Privilege, loosely defined, is any unmerited or unearned advantage. In that sense, we all have experienced privilege. Part of the privilege associated with whiteness is the luxury of not having to consider one’s own race -- let alone the disadvantages faced by many people of color. Bay had this to say about his own white privilege, “It’s mine, and it doesn’t say anything about my value as a person. White people are not better people because we have unearned privilege -- we are also not worse people. We just have it and there is no way out of it. The more we can face the reality and take the value judgment out of [white privilege], the more we can work together to eliminate it.” Respected scholar and Director of the Haas Center for a Fair and Inclusive Society john a. powell hits the nail on the head when he says, “The slick thing about whiteness is that you can reap the benefits of a racist society without personally being racist.”
Privilege can be present in any circumstance. It is important to name privilege wherever it exists. I am a mixed-race African-American male who was adopted at birth into a white family. (Shout-out to all my transracial adoptees!) To a certain extent, I indirectly benefited and still benefit from my family’s white privilege. That’s part of my story. Being white and benefiting from white privilege does not disqualify you from having a voice in the fight for racial equity. Privilege should not be a constant source of guilt. Rather, it should fuel action against the inequality that it breeds and sustains.