Reflecting on Whiteness, Messing Up, and Accountability

in Blog,Personal,Social Justice Education

A couple of weeks ago, I had the opportunity to participate in a panel with other white people about ways that we have messed about how we have responded and how we could do better. For me this was an important way for white folks to model authenticity and vulnerability around our own internalized racism. I also hoped that it would give other white folks permission to acknowledge their own internalized racism and share some ideas about how we can be more conscious, more accountable, make the implicit explicit, and foster healing for those hurt and oppressed by racism and by those of us who perpetrate and perpetuate it despite our intentions. You can view it below.

 

There was also an active and engaged Twitter backchannel that included many folks sharing their own connections and perspectives to what was being shared by the panel. This was also a rich source for my own reflection, engagement, and perspective. I was especially paying attention to what was being shared by People of Color as it is critical to me to be accountable to them in doing anti-racism work as a white person.

I especially resonate with some of those who expressed discomfort with a panel of white people having this discussion publicly. Should there have been a moderator who is a Person of Color to challenge, push, and hold us accountable? Would that have put the burden (emotional and actual labor) of white people’s racism on a Person of Color? Were we centering White people in a conversation about racism? Or were we breaking the cycle of white silence about racism? If we understand racism as really not a People of Color problem but a white people problem, don’t we need more white people talking about it critically? I felt like I was trying to swim in the both/and between two shores of certainty.

I entered the conversation a bit nervous and very thoughtful (one of the ways whiteness shows up) about what I would say and think. I certainly didn’t want to mess up in a conversation about messing up. However, something shifted for me by the end of the conversation and I was pulled from a thoughtful, critical, reflective headspace to a deep, powerful, and urgent emotional space. I’m not sure if this shift was because of the conversation by members of the panel, my own contributions I shared, or reading the comments on the backchannel. Regardless of what instigated these emotions, I had a deep and urgent desire to talk about racism and whiteness with my daughters. I shared this with the other panelists right after the episode and committed to myself to stay in this space and cultivate what was there for me to learn from and be motivated by as a result of the panel discussion.

 

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