An important lesson journalism school taught me is that a writer should read and re-read his or her work before submitting it to the editor. But many writers are so obsessive about their work that even after a piece is published, they’ll keep re-reading it, finding a word or line that could have been phrased better, or feeling a vague sense of having missed something. As a blogger, I have no editor. Yet as I read and re-read my last post, I still felt that I missed something.
I meant every word I wrote. I explained the concept of “white privilege” briefly, but adequately, while being perfectly aware of the sting of accusation the term bears. But is it fair to assume that most white people choose to be complicit participants of racism, even those who don’t consider themselves racist? What if a white person truly isn’t racist, but doesn’t know what to do about racism? Is it even possible to not know what to do?
Those are big questions that likely have complex answers. For my small part, and based on what I’ve learned so far as a social justice activist, I believe there are definitely steps individuals can take to fight against racism. You can speak out against it when you see it, be it at work, school, or out in your town or community. You can fight your own inner bias against Black people (which it is likely that all white people in America possess, but that’s a discussion for another time) while practicing your profession– treat your Black patients, students, clients, etc, the same way you treat your white patients, etc. If you want to do even more, join or contribute financially to the many organizations that work toward racial justice and equality, like this one (ECSW). You can also learn more about Black culture, beyond what you see in TV and movies, by asking the Black people around you about their experiences. Ask me about my experience as a Black woman. Ask me why I don’t chemically straighten my hair with relaxers (a discussion for another time). I welcome those questions. Don’t just assume you already know.
If you are not racist, great. But that doesn’t let you off the hook.