Before Harper was born, I came across A Striving Parent’s blog on how preserving her white child’s innocence was an act of white supremacy. At the time, I had just finished my fourth year teaching in Placencia, Belize, and I was completing my M.Ed. We were preparing for our little one’s B’earth day & all the preparation that comes with welcoming a new member into the family.
When I read Shannon’s words, I recognized that I had failed as a white educator. I knew it was my responsibility to start learning about my white privilege because soon enough, I’d be failing as the white parent of a white child, too.
A few years prior, a Black friend, and the founder of the school where I was teaching, asked me this question (or something similar):
“Do you think you are racist?”
After a few, “of course not, I have Black & Brown friends, I teach Black & Brown students…I set the same expectations for everyone…[insert more words that expose my white fragility]” the conversation ended.
But this conversation re-entered my mind after reading Shannon’s writing. Four years and a lot of stumbling, fucking-up, and learning later, I’ve come to realize this: White folks, because systems of racism serve us and provide us with power, have inherently racist world-views.
We benefit from systems of oppression and toxic whiteness, and it is a continuous journey to unpack and dismantle these mindsets within ourselves and within our children. It’s a continuous journey to strive to become anti-racist and strive to become a co-conspirator with non-Black People of Color, Indigenous folks, and Black folks.
This journey involves a lot of messing up, shutting up & listening, and paying reparations to Indigenous & Black people.
It’s thinking about our role in colonization and how we can move towards decolonization. This means changing the way we think about where we live and the Indigenous peoples’ who lived here first.
It means researching and honoring this knowledge with a land acknowledgement, and teaching our children about this truth, too.
It involves risking our jobs (not really, though, white people, because…white privilege) to speak out when we notice racist policies or actions.
It involves calling members of our family “in” even when it’s uncomfortable.
It’s recognizing the white-savior complex within ourselves and taking the time to unpack, question, and dismantle.
It’s raising children who can name race, recognize their privilege, and use their privilege to amplify and listen to the voices of Black + Indigenous + People of Color.
It’s raising kind & compassionate kids who can recognize and name injustice, and take the necessary actions to step in and disrupt. It’s introducing my child to Disabled heroes with intersecting identities.
For the past four years, I’ve been striving to unpack how I’m complicit in upholding systems of oppression. I’m no where near the finish line and I know I’ll never be. To truly unpack and take action to do better and be better, I’ve been learning about and digging deep into my many intersecting privileges and reflecting on how these privileges influence everything I say and do.
I’m white, cisgender, able-bodied, and heterosexual. I’m also financially privileged. We must name our privileges. It’s not about guilt, white guilt & tears serve no one. It’s about recognizing how these privileges inform the way we interact with the world.
Anti-racism is becoming a buzz word and it’s terrifying. You can’t just purchase a book and become anti-racist. You can’t just attend a 2 hour webinar and consider yourself to be anti-racist. When we throw around terms like this without truly understanding how much messy, uncomfortable work it takes to “become” anti-racist – it’s dangerous.
But, fellow white humans, here are some things you can do. Here’s a few ways we can strive, collectively, to dismantle these systems:
1. Shut up & listen to BIack experts in education. We need to decolonize schools, y’all. How many Black + Indigenous educators do you have teaching in your school (fellow educators) or the school where your child attends? Have you ever thought to bring this up to the school board, superintendent, or administrators? Follow experts like Ijumaa Jordan, Megan Pamela Ruth Madison, Britt Hawthorne, Tiffany Jewell, Dr. Beverly Daniel Tatum, Mamademics, Amelia Sherwood of Hood Montessori,Jylani Ma’at Brown of Black Lotus Rising, The Black Apple, Dr. Kira Banks, and Ki from Woke Kindergarten. Pay them for their work!
2. Pay reparations.
- Your local chapter of Black Lives Matter
- National Bail Fund Network
- Local social justice organizations (ATX: Austin Justice Coalition)
- Families of loved ones murdered by police
- Communities United Against Police Brutality
- American Civil Liberties Union
- ECE Equity initiatives like Bankstreet Center on Culture, Race, & Equity -> research local initiatives
- Center for Racial Justice in Education
- Rethinking Schools
3. Disrupt racism in the world of education, at work, in your home, with your friends, and with your family. Step in and disrupt. It’s messy, you’ll mess up, you’ll get uncomfortable – but white folks – do the work. Check out this doc for tips on collecting racists.
4. Strive to raise kids who are anti-racist/anti-bias. Follow organizations like EmbraceRace, Wee the People Boston, Bellamy Shoffner of Hold the Line, The Conscious Kid, Raising Luminaries: Books for Littles, Akilah S. Richards & Raising Free People, Montessori for Social Justice, and Mothering for Justice. Learn. Listen. Pay for & attend webinars. LEARN! But more importantly, PAY!! $$$
Even though my intention is to be inclusive, my intersecting privileges influence the content that I write and share. I am always open to being criticized and called “in”.
If this happens, I will commit to doing better.
Yours truly as a continuous work in progress,