Dear Well Meaning Liberals: How We’re Complicit In White Supremacy

This article was created after reflecting on the many conversations we were (and still are) having within ourselves, our friends, our families, and our communities. Well-meaning liberals who feel activated in this moment, who have “good intentions”, and really are wanting to be “good allies” are still complicit in white supremacy. Through our reflection of these conversations and our work at SHIFT we recognize the ways in which this Liberation Movement is pushing ALL of us to go deeper, to do better, and address the ways in which we internalize and continue to uphold the violence of white supremacy in this moment.

This work was inspired by the continuous love and labor of Black Women and Femmes of Color like Audre Lorde, bell hooks, Rachel Cargle, Erika Heart, NoName, and so many more.

Illustration created by @nataliepbui (Instagram).

WHEN YOU…

Make It About You

  • When someone brings to your attention that you were racist/homophobic/transphobic/anti-Black etc. and you then ask that person to tell you exactly what you did and why it hurt them, putting more labor on them to explain to you
  • Over apologizing and staying in the guilt and shame too long when you realize you messed up
  • Wanting attention or validation that you “got it right”
  • Pick apart the demands of the movement for your personal convenience or lack of understanding “Cops need to be held accountable, but defunding them isn’t going to do anything.”

Want Immediate Solutions

  • Moving in panic and reactiveness
  • Wanting to be absolved of guilt and shame immediately
  • Performative “wokeness” or “allyship” that doesn’t lead to long term commitment or sustainable actions
  • Rather than listening, always wanting step-by-steps on the how-to’s: “But how many Reparation payments need to be made?” “Will defunding the police solve racism by 2025?”

Tone Police

  • Feeling entitled to comfort in conversations around injustice when you are the one who doesn’t understand the injustice
  • Gaslighting anger and passion with statements like: “Why are you getting so angry/hostile/loud?” — “I can’t hear you when you’re yelling at me!” — “I’m just trying to have a conversation.” — “Well if you’re trying to create change, getting angry isn’t going to help.”
  • Using respectability politics to shame BIPOC who’s frustrations are valid
  • Emphasizing the way something is being communicated, rather than wanting to understand what is being communicated

Want to Be the Perfect Ally

  • Thinking that there is a destination of “perfection” in this process of racial justice
  • Doing nothing, and staying complicit, out of fear of getting it wrong
  • Shaming and distancing from other people of your race/communities who are growing in their understanding

Play Devil’s Advocate

  • Wanting others to do the intellectual labor and answer all your questions for you, for free
  • Wanting to agitate the person more than actually wanting change
  • Seeking for loopholes in an organized effort/campaign from Black Leaders or focusing on mistakes of a movement, rather than the progression
  • Shifting the conversation away from Black Lives to a “universal” or “true humanitarian” approach to instead of acknowledging the urgency to center the Black community and recognize the way white supremacy hurts ALL of us

Weaponize Your Education

  • Over intellectualizing
  • Thinking you’ve reached a place where no more work needs to be done so you probe and instigate (potentially triggering) conversations to show how much you know
  • Needing to understand “logically” and not allowing for an empathetic emotional response
  • Silencing real, lived experience and needing to be convinced with data and dates
  • Valuing your racial/social justice views over the work of another person, namely a Black person’s, just because they don’t have a degree in the field
  • Personally detaching yourself from the issues

Think in Scarcity

  • Thinking in a deficit mindset: “But what resources will we use?” “Where will the money for mental health services in schools come from?”
  • Dismissing radical or revolutionary thought as unrealistic or futile
  • Creating barriers to progress: “Who will stop crime?”
  • Refusal to engage in radical re-imagining and in an abundance mindset

Don’t Address Whiteness

  • Speaking about, or on behalf of Black people as a non-Black person, but don’t call out whiteness regularly
  • Only talking about the injustices that the Black community face but not the ways in which whiteness has caused the injustice
  • Commodifying or appropriating Blackness in an effort to distance yourself from whiteness
  • Feeling angry towards the Black community as a NBPOC about not knowing where our oppression matters in this conversation and not at white supremacy

Long list? We know! But the journey to unpacking our internalized white supremacy is a continuously evolving lifelong commitment. Now is the time to practice this unpacking, fail, and get back up to commit yourself to the work again, and again.

We need to hold ourselves accountable so we can show up for each other in community and in this moment. Share this article with your other well meaning liberal friends, and let’s keep this work moving.

SHIFT Consulting is a racial equity and gender equity consulting group founded by three women of color. Keep in touch with us.

WEBSITE: www.SHIFTingculture.co

IG: @SHIFTingtheculture

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Racial equity and gender equity consulting group founded by three women of color. •Natalie Bui, Veline Mojarro, Kausar Mohammed• Visit www.shiftingculture.co.