Right now there are a lot of questions around “getting it right.” How do I do anti-racism the right way? How do I talk to my Black friend and support her without adding to her burden?
Articles point us in one direction and then in the opposite direction.
We’re so afraid of saying and doing the wrong thing that maybe we do nothing at all.
This creates a vacuum where our convictions are held back by our fear, which gives way to silence, which leads to more fear.
And everything stays in the shadows.
So let’s talk about that fear and where it comes from:
There’s this thing womxn do where we give away a lot of our energy trying to please others. Somehow, sometime in our lives – maybe many times – we got the message that we could not be loved and valued unless we performed a certain way.
We got the message that we were not enough, which has led to us giving away our energy trying to please others in the mistaken belief that it will make us feel loved and whole.
For white women right now, much of that energy is going towards trying to please Black women. There is a feeling of shame due to our whiteness and the subsequent feeling that if we can say or do the right thing and be seen and validated by Black women, then we will be okay again.
The thing is, we were never okay in the first place. We were always trying to please someone to get that feeling of wholeness. Now we’re just shifting that desire for validation onto someone new.
Our energy is being misspent because pleasing Black women isn’t the point.
Living fully present and embodied in this life is the point. Giving Black women and the Black community space and laws that allow them to live fully present and embodied in this life is the point.
It takes energy to check yourself out. It takes energy to pretend you don’t see what’s happening in front of you. It takes energy to deny your privilege.
You literally have to dissociate in order to stay that way.
Doing anti-racist work means deciding you will no longer allow yourself to deny your reality or the reality of the Black community.
But as long as you are trying to please others in order to feel whole, you will fall short. That is as true for anti-racist work as it is for everything else in your life. You will fall short because you will not be able to live the life YOU came here to live. You will not be able to live fully and completely.
Living from a place of not being enough is like being underwater with an oxygen tank. You will always rely on something – someone – else to keep breathing.
And make no mistake, being somebody else’s oxygen tank takes as much energy from that person as it does from you. Be aware that what you are doing right now may be asking Black women to be your oxygen tank when white women have already been taking from Black women for centuries.
There is no right way to do anti-racist work. Your work may look completely different from what you see other white people doing. It is going to be unique to you, your life, and your gifts and abilities.
But the only way you can do the work sustainably is to find that space of wholeness inside yourself where you are not trying to please anybody. I know that’s not easy to do and I don’t know anyone who lives that way all the time. But if you can find a way – through meditation, mindfulness, art, movement, etc. – to bring pockets of wholeness to your being, you can use that clean energy to figure out how to do your anti-racist work. Only then will you be able to look at what is happening in our world and your role in shifting that without the fear of displeasing someone getting in the way.
I think we do everyone a disservice if we pretend that anti-racism is work we do just for others. Just like we’ve been doing everyone a disservice by living only partially true to ourselves.
Do not throw yourself into anti-racist work so that you can please Black women or anyone else. It will take your energy. It will take their energy. And ultimately it will uphold the principles of white supremacy that you want to dismantle in the first place. To be clear, it won’t work and you’ll just burn out and end up walking away.
Do it because you believe that all women – and indeed all of humanity – deserve to live fully present and whole, starting but not ending with yourself.
I hosted a free virtual racial healing circle for white women who want to be allies but aren’t sure where to go from here. This is not an anti-racist educational workshop. This is a space of meditation, journaling, and introspection so that you can release some of your fears and gain clarity around how to sustainably bring anti-racist work into your life. You can sign up for the replay here.