Things to consider before you start.

1) My waking-up process has been largely due to the fact that for 400 years people of color have risked lives, jobs, and reputations in an effort to convey the experience of racism. It can be infuriating, therefore, to have the voice of a white person suddenly get through to another white person. For this reason, throughout the book I’ve included quotes by people of color to highlight the many ways people of color have tried to explain the issues entangled in racism.

2) To readers of color: I apologize for any pain you may encounter in reading this book. The very kinds of conversations, thoughts, and feelings that may have hurt you and your loved ones are aired on these pages.

3) To white readers: I have no pretense that I speak for all white Americans. This is my story and mine alone. Never before have I been so keenly aware of how individual our cultural experiences and perspectives are.

4) To readers new to the idea of racial awareness development: You may find my degree of candor jarring. Please know that at the heart of this work is speaking the unspeakable. A general understanding in the world of racial healing holds that beliefs gather steam and hurt most when they are left to fester unidentified and unacknowledged in people’s hearts and minds.

5) Though racism is not unique to America, America’s brand of racism is unique. My story focuses exclusively on the form of racism brought to America by white European settlers.

6) Because many of the workshops, classes, and conferences that laid the groundwork for this book ask that participants maintain confidentiality, some names and events have been altered. I acknowledge that my best attempt to capture the precise words of conversations is likely inexact. I’ve done my best, however, to capture the tone and spirit.

7) The history and state of race in America has created a variety of unhealed wounds, so much so that even the language we use in discussing them can stir difficult feelings. I’ve tried my best to be mindful of my word choices.

8) Some of my language reflects conventions amongst race and racism educators. Using the word “folks” for people and the term “journey” to describe the process of becoming racially aware are habits I’ve picked up from folks I’ve met during this journey. Also, I take my cue from my mentors and try to speak from the “I” perspective in recognition that the only viewpoint I can truly convey is my own.

9) To white readers new to this work: Should you feel guilt or shame while reading, please know how thoroughly normal that is. Hopefully by the end of the book those feelings will be transformed as you understand the situation racism has put you in. You did not invent racism, you inherited it.

10) For white readers wanting to further their own awakening, I’ve included short prompts and exercises at the end of each chapter. To get the most out of them, I suggest using a journal so you can see your own growth by looking back at your answers over time.