Let's Talk About Race, White People
Updated: Aug 20
My friends, these times demand that we take a stand. Even if it's uncomfortable. As a feminist therapist, I've long believed, we can only be as healthy as the systems and relationships we operate in. Meaning, it's imperative that we look at the role of oppression and trauma in our lives, whether it's homophobia, transphobia, sexism, racism, or ableism. Current events have shown in stark relief just how deadly our society is and has been for black and brown people. In order to fix this, we're going to have to get more comfortable having difficult conversations.
So, let's talk about race. (Note: This article is intended primarily for white people.)
To my readers of color, racial trauma is real and all of your responses to the horrific injustices of this moment AND the history of white supremacist terroristic violence in this country are valid. I cannot understand what it's like and I know it's not going to get better overnight. But, as as a white person, mother, and a therapist, I pledge to do better to be a more informed anti-racist ally.
To my white friends, though our whiteness has largely--and intentionally--been regarded as the 'default' in American/Western culture, our race is not a non-factor, nor is it a neutral choice to 'stay out of politics' and as it pertains to racial matters, in particular. It never was okay and it is especially not now. Due to the inherently violent anti-black fabric from which our society has been woven, our silence about racial matters equals violence. We are seeing this clearly.
We are the main people who have to fix this festering wound in our society by showing up--in the streets, at the ballot box, with our money, and with our talents. This is The Civil Rights movement of our time, whether or not we feel emotionally prepared to be here. As a therapist, I can speak to navigating difficult feelings and doing hard things emotionally as this moment requires.
It's only natural to want to avoid the discomfort of addressing matters of race and racial injustice as white people. (Though it's a privilege that we haven't had to; people of color have not had that option.) No one wants to be called a racist. But, doing so would be morally unconscionable.
To be a part of the solution, we must first acknowledge our differences, including identifying and addressing our own, our family's, and our society's white privilege and complicity in white supremacy. Simply by way of being born white in America, we have gained unearned privilege and safety. There is no shame in admitting this. It's an essential fact. Difference is not a deficit.
Even still, we might rather skip to the end--arriving at the place of safety, equality, and inclusion that most of us desire. But, that's wishful thinking, impossible. And, even if it were possible, doing so would deprive us of the opportunity to develop a more positive racial identity ourselves. Moving from a place of denial or a lack of awareness of our whiteness, through white guilt, to a more healthy and positive connection with being white. As a proud anti racist ally to our friends and community members of color, living together in relationships of mutual respect. This we aren't given, we earn. This is our potential. But, only if we embark on the journey.
It's important that we don't center our emotional reactions at this time and in this work. Giving in to overwhelm and doing nothing or acting out in counterproductive or defensive ways, for example. Rather, we must learn to carry our tough feelings along with us. Holding them gently, setting them down when they get too heavy, and picking them back up, re-engaging, and moving forward, again. Just as people who haven't had the choice to opt out have been doing all along.
My friends, things can get so much healthier for all of us. The internet is full of resources to educate ourselves about what's going on and what we can do. It's never been easier. Let's look to those who have been steadily working on this for years. As we show up for racial justice--anxiety, discomfort, and all--we can build a world in which future generations will never know the pain of life before this movement. As Glennon Doyle says, we can do hard things.
This is our moment. Be well.