Catrice Jackson is a leading voice on racial justice, serving as an anti-racism speaker, educator and author. She offers strong medicine and hard truths to eliminate the lethal infection of racism.
The fact that black people need allies and accomplices to obtain racial justice, liberation, and equity tells you that black people are at war with an adversary. That adversary is the violent system of white terrorism. Not white supremacy, which suggests that white people are superior to or better than black people. Rape, murder, lynching, physical assault, and enslavement are barbaric and inhumane behaviours, not the behaviours of a “supreme” people.
The term “white ally” is fundamentally an oxymoron. Racism is a combination of unearned privilege and unjustified power. Thus, racism is a white people problem, because collectively, black people don’t have privilege or power. Put another way, all white people are racist, and without a doubt will consciously and unconsciously use what I call Weapons of Whiteness against black people. If white folks are racist, aka black people’s adversary, and are part of the violent system of whiteness, can they truly be allies for black people?
Semantically speaking, no. In theory, possibly. White folks participate in and benefit from the oppressive system of whiteness and anti-black oppression. Thus, they can’t be true allies, because allies do not harm those with whom they are in alliance. I do believe white people can learn to be less violent and more beneficial to black people in the fight for racial justice. But most importantly, white people can be infiltrators and change agents within the system of white terrorism. I purposely use the term “terrorism,” because think about it: has there ever been a time when black people have not been victims of homicide, massacre, destruction, and bloodshed from the white collective? Never, and there is a trail of carnage, each incident with its own hashtag, as evidence. White America has had a chokehold on black bodies since 1619, with no indication that it will be releasing its suffocating grip any time soon.
As black people in the United States are battling a virus that is killing them at a disproportionately higher rate than white people, they are simultaneously fighting the unrelenting virus of anti-black white terrorism. While black people die from Covid-19 and police brutality, white people form book clubs, read articles, collect black people like Pokémon on social media, and argue with black folks about racism - something white folks deny exists. This response is not only ridiculous, it is both pathetic and apathetic. Glenn E. Martin, a criminal justice reform advocate, says that “those closest to the problem are closest to the solution, but furthest from resources and power.” In other words, black people experience racism and anti-blackness, which puts them closest to the problem of white terrorism. If white people want to learn how to be racially non-violent, if they want to become change agents by infiltrating white terrorism to dismantle systemic and structural racism, they need to listen to black people, believe them, and follow their lead. Here are eight fundamental actions to take now.
- Resist the urge to withdraw, lash out, and become defensive or emotionally brittle when black people speak the unfiltered truth about racism.
- Refuse to be a co-conspirator with white terrorism by breaking the intergenerational legacy of white silence and complacency.
- Recommit in every moment to be extremely uncomfortable and uncertain while on your anti-racism journey.
- Stop being afraid to talk openly and directly about racism in general and your own racism in particular. White people always think it is “those other white people” who are the problem.
- Grab a seat, sit down, and be quiet. White people are not the experts on racism. Listen much more than you speak.
- Listen to black women, and if they’re willing to teach you, pay them for their labour.
- Accept that there are no exceptional white people, but there are white people who do good things.
- Understand that there is no perfect formula for becoming anti-racist, and that the work ends only when you take your last breath. Learn what the Weapons of Whiteness are, discover which ones are your go-to weapons, and be ready and willing to disarm yourself.
This is not a complete list, but it’s a start. What won’t work for sure includes avoiding conversations about racism; refusing to confront racist acts; denying your racism; becoming paralysed by guilt, shame, and fear; declining to listen; accusing black people of being racist when they point out your racism; and retreating and going silent when the work gets uncomfortable. Becoming anti-racist is a marathon. Don’t expect to be coddled; in fact, expect to be unnerved. If you don’t have an anti-racism plan, you plan to BE racist.
What is your plan? There’s no time to waste, black people are dying. Get uncomfortable, be less violent, stop colluding with white terrorism and for once in your life be human. Be an infiltrator. Take action now.
Antagonist, Advocates and Allies: The Wake Up Call Guide for White Women Who Want to Become Allies with Black Women by Catrice Jackson is available to buy on Amazon. To learn more about how to become an ally in the fight against black injustice, sign up to Jackson's 30-day course for white women on shetalkswetalk.com.
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