a guide for White people
ready to do the real work
The following guide covers practices for dismantling White supremacy in ourselves and in the world. The practices are separated into internal and external. Each is briefly explained, broken down into smaller steps, and links to further learning are included throughout. This guide has been kept intentionally simple, though the work is anything but. Please know that I am learning right along with you and welcome feedback from those generous enough to offer it.
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It is vital to listen to the voices of Black teachers, writers, healers, organizers, and other thought leaders. They are who we should be learning from and whose leadership we should be following. But it is not their job to educate us. Rather, it is our responsibility to learn about and deconstruct systemic racism, anti-Blackness, and White Supremacy.
Confronting racism and addressing White Supremacy is a moment to moment, day to day practice. It is a life-long process of learning and unlearning. It is not easy work, but it is our work. This should go without saying, but as White people, it is our duty to use our (unearned, unequal, and unfair) systemic privilege to dismantle the systems of institutionalized racism that not only allow, but facilitate the murder of Black people en masse.
“White supremacy won’t die until White people
see it as a White issue they need to solve rather
than a black issue they need to empathize with.”
– Dwayne Reed –
It is vital that we recognize that these systems of oppression live not only in the outer world but also within each of us. And dismantling what is internal is the real work. We must address our ancestral wounds, make reparations for the harms inflicted upon BIPOC by White settler-colonialism, and heal the racial trauma that lives within our bodies. We must begin before we are ready, before we are perfect, and before we are good. We must begin right now. We must push beyond our comfort and be willing to learn and grow in ways that surprise us.
The most impactful actions are often unseen and unheard. We all have different abilities, strengths, challenges, and resources. There is no one-size-fits-all approach to this work. Whether we donate money, participate in direct action, call our elected officials, post on social media, volunteer our services, or all the above, our external actions must be rooted in an internal commitment to divest from White supremacy.
Seek out the depths of tenderness within yourself and move from this place. Focus on regulating your nervous system so that you can show up consistently and do the deeper work necessary for both inner and outer transformation. Whatever your gifts, now is the time to use them. Whatever your resources, now is the time to share them.
We must remain responsive and notice reactivity when it arises. For our actions to be effective, they must be embodied. Whenever we sense that they are coming from a place of urgency or concern for how we will appear to others, it is vital to redirect our energy to be effective.
Right now, changes are occurring at an unprecedented rate in response to unified actions of the Black Lives Matter movement happening in the US and around the globe. Minneapolis has pledged to dismantle the city’s police force. Numerous Confederate monuments are being taken down. People are demanding greater accountability than ever before, and it is working.
But this is just the beginning. We must defund police nationwide, abolish the prison system, and repair the ongoing intergenerational harm caused by White supremacy. We must continue to move steadily toward a world where Black lives not only matter, but are honored and celebrated daily.
Below you’ll find a list of actions, both internal and external. They are equally important and most effective when approached simultaneously.
I N T E R N A L
Practice active listening. Notice your tendency to react or plan a response in your head, rather than taking in the deeper meaning of what is being expressed. Real listening is an active practice rather than passive state.
It is not the responsibility of BIPOC to educate you. Read that again.
Do not, under any circumstance, demand emotional or intellectual labor from your BIPOC friends, family, colleagues, or acquaintances. Don’t slide into their DMs, don’t reply to their newsletters, and don’t text your Black friends with questions you can just as easily google. If a BIPOC has generously expended their precious time and energy to educate you, please find a way to compensate or otherwise support them.
It is us up to each of us to educate ourselves about White supremacy, anti-Black racism, and ancestral lineage repair. There are countless books, movies, podcasts, and online courses available for doing so. A quick search will yield more results than you could reasonably read, listen to, or watch in your lifetime. Below you’ll find a short list of books that is by no means exhaustive, but an excellent starting place.
- Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates
- My Grandmother’s Hands by Resmaa Menakem
- Emergent Strategy by adrienne maree brown
- The Book of Delights by Ross Gay
- So You Want To Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo
- How to Be an Anti-Racist by Ibram X Kendi
- Ancestral Medicine by Daniel Foore
What is most important to remember is that education is just the beginning. For knowledge to be useful, it must be integrated into our lives, translated into meaningful action, and discussed with others.
We need to talk with our friends and family about how we are complicit in White supremacy. These dialogues will likely be challenging, but they are critical. By talking openly, honestly, and with compassion about racial inequality, we create a space for learning and connection that many people may not seek out on their own. These on-going dialogues are foundational to the significant structural changes needed.
Be patient. Remain persistent, insistent, and speak from the heart. When we are willing to meet people where they are, their perspectives can shift dramatically. Just think of all the friends and teachers who have taken the time to educate and call you in over the years. The world really is changed one heart at a time. You have the power to touch many.
Practice asking your friends what you could be doing better. Those who are closest to us often see things that we cannot see about ourselves. When others are willing to point out our blind spots, we should consider it a generous gift.
If you would like additional insight into how to talk about race and why it is so important, I recommend reading Ijeoma Oluo’s book, So You Want To Talk About Race. This is an incredibly accessible text that you can suggest reading as a group and discussing as a jumping-off point for anyone who may be resistant or unsure of where to begin. Throughout this work, it is important to remember that it is a privilege to educate yourself about and discuss racism rather than experiencing it directly.
Make prayer a part of your protest. Daily prayer keeps us humble, hopeful, and in relationship with the unseen forces that support our lives.
Racism is inherited. Healing it within ourselves also requires us to address it within our lineage. Call upon your wise and kind ancestors to support you in the work. Dig deep into the traditions of your people. How did your ancestors grieve? How did they petition the spirits for divine intervention and support? Ask for them to guide you and pay special attention to any messages they share about specific healing that is needed for your lineage.
Be in the discomfort and the grief. Really feel them. This is not supposed to be comfortable work. This is visceral. Often we attempt to push feelings away through our actions, to do something so that we can feel good again. On the surface, this may look like meaningful action. But it is important that we make time to really sit with ourselves and the ways we have upheld White supremacy. Racial trauma lives in the body and healing it requires a somatic approach. Resmaa Menakem illuminates this topic and offers profound practices for addressing it in his book, My Grandmother’s Hands
Rest is non-negotiable. This is life-long, intergenerational work. We must tend to our well-being if we want our efforts to have longevity. Remember to eat food and drink water. Prioritize pleasure, connection, and time spent in nature. The more resourced we are in our own lives, the more meaningful our contributions to the movement.
This is not a time to burn yourself out. Show up consistently in ways that work for you and your nervous system. Take breaks and remember that a lifetime of meaningful resistance is made up of days that contain both deep rest and focused engagement. It is up to each of us to find a balance that will allow us to make this a central part of our life’s work.
E X T E R N A L
Showing up at marches and protests is incredibly important. Direct action is not accessible to everyone but if it is for you, I hope you will make it a priority. When participating in direct action, always follow the ground rules laid out by the organizers.
Research your local officials. This includes your Mayor, City Manager, and City Council Members. Find out what they are doing (or not doing) to fight discrimination, defund police, and invest in community. Call and email them daily to make your demands known and hold them accountable for their actions or inactions. For those who cannot be out in the streets or are unable to donate funds, this is something you can do for free from home. Additionally, take time to educate yourself about voter suppression and advocate to prevent it in your city and state.
Local elections have never been more important. In these smaller elections, numbers matter and people truly do hold the power. If the values of your current elected officials do not reflect your own, turn up with your friends and vote them out of office. If everyone marching right now votes in their upcoming local elections, the changes we see will be monumental. Take time to research the candidates and their position on issues that matter most to you.
Local officials to pay attention to are the Mayor, the City Manager, and the City Council members. The City Manager hires and fires the police chief, while the City Council members control the budget and allocate funds within your municipality. I don’t know what a mayor does.
Review your spending and find ways to regularly donate a percentage of your income to Black-led organizations. Even if you can’t make a huge contribution, remember that every dollar counts.
If you want to increase your impact, reach out to a friend or a group of friends and ask if they would be willing to match your donation. Most of the time people are excited to do so and appreciate being called-in.
The need for funds is ever-present and at times urgent. Direct your donations to Black-led organizations and bail funds in your area and stay informed about which organizations need resources. There are far more organizations than are possible to list here, but I hope you will learn about and consider donating to the following:
Reparations are defined as “actions taken to make amends, offering expiation (atonement), or giving satisfaction for a wrong or injury.”
Historical and ongoing oppression of Black people has caused a disparity in income, access to economic opportunity, and the development of intergenerational wealth. This must be addressed on an individual as well as systemic level. Reparation is more than just an action, it is an ethic and a way of moving through the world that acknowledges your privilege.
Personal reparations can take many forms, including redirecting a percentage of your income to BIPOC-led organizations, individuals, or both. Financial reparation is one of the most straightforward ways to make an impact. However, there are countless ways to devote your time and energy to support the ongoing well-being of Black people. Draw from your personal gifts and ask yourself what you have to offer. If you love to cook, make meals. If you can provide housing, do so. Whatever your skills and resources are, share them.
Those of us who own businesses and occupy leadership roles have a responsibility to make anti-racism central to our organization’s mission. In addition to the actions listed above, those of us who work in wellness must do our part to address both the personal and political conditions necessary for healing. This includes acknowledging that there is unequal access to the resources needed to be and stay well. We must ensure that we are not increasing these barriers to access but instead taking measures to make our offerings available to those who need them most.
Find ways to make your products, services, and offerings available for free or at reduced cost to BIPOC. This will look different for everyone depending on your offering and business model, but finding a way to increase accessibility is essential.
Reflect on the ways you take up space professionally. How has your privilege influenced the opportunities you’ve had? How could you reorient your work to provide more opportunities for BIPOC to step into leadership roles within your field or organization?
The work of anti-racism is never finished. It is a practice that requires daily presence and life-long commitment. Perfection is not the goal. You will make mistakes. Continue to listen, learn, take action, hold yourself accountable, and remain committed to doing better.