I find four barriers often prevent white people from effectively engaging in racial justice work. For each, I use these antidotes .

BARRIER #1: Most white people were raised on a diet of white myths such as

  • the level playing field
  • race as a biological certainty
  • “white” as the most responsible, hardest working, intelligent race
  • racism is limited to bigotry
  • history taught in schools and through media is the only history I need to know

ANTIDOTE: Education that explores

  • race as a social construction and “white” as a U.S. legal term
  • race and class as separate and entwined
  • white subsidies, e.g. land grants, Social Security, GI Bill, education
  • history of racial violence, e.g. attempted indigenous genocide, Black Wall Street, Indian Boarding Schools, Jim Crow tactics
  • messaging/propaganda that targets specific groups, e.g. the black brute, lazy Latino, model minority Asian
  • connections between current racial events to historical racial events

BARRIER #2: Most white people who want to move the needle on racial disparities fall into a white savior mindset that believes

  • the role of “good” white people is to help people of color
  • the white way is the right way
  • because I have achieved, I will be able to help you achieve

ANTIDOTE: Cultural Competence training that

  • educates about power structures in order to dismantle them
  • educates about privilege in order to disrupt it
  • identifies patterns of oppression in structures and systems
  • identifies patterns of oppression in our own behaviors and attitudes

BARRIER #3: Most white people have been taught to fear 

  • saying something offensive or ignorant
  • the “PC police”
  • being labeled racist
  • not seen as a “good” person
  • acknowledging the bias that lives within us
  • feeling guilty, ashamed, or humiliated

ANTIDOTE: Resilience training that moves people from

  • a rigid either/or mindset to a nuanced both/and mindset
  • fearing discomfort to normalizing it as a part of growth
  • avoiding internalized bias to exploring it
  • focusing on self-image to focusing on group well-being

BARRIER #4: Most white people collude with white silence based on the belief that

  • talking about race is rude
  • being colorblind is the best way forward
  • if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all

ANTIDOTE: Shifting conversational culture so that

  • conflict avoidance is understood as a limiting cultural norm
  • the conversational playing field begins to level
  • historically silenced voices are valued and validated
  • interrupting conversational patterns of power and privilege becomes an intentional practice