Women and Anti-Racism

Hi Friends,

I want to take this opportunity to highlight an article by Courtney Napier called “The Fetishization of Antiracism Work” on her Know Better Do Better blog. The whole article is worth a read, but I want to call attention to the sections below in particular. She’s writing about antiracism work as a whole and how it has been twisted and distracted from its goals.

“The goal is to subvert the entire system. It is to devise a new way to be with one another. It is to undermine every lie, including that anyone inherently embodies an ideology of racial superiority that one cannot rid themselves of.”

This is what I’ve been circling around, especially after my recent trainings with White Awake, about how we need to acknowledge the privilege that white supremacy gives to White people AND ALSO that those privileges are not the natural order of things, that we could choose to live in a world in which those privileges are just the human rights that everyone has (or no one has, depending on which privilege we’re talking about — I wrote about this before here, regarding the Two Faces of Privilege).

Napier continues:

“White supremacy is evil and should be called out in all of its ways. However, there is a difference between calling out racism accurately and conflating someone’s humanity and capacity based on an act of racism. When the call out goes past the action-and-damage and into the space of dominance and humiliation (you must do this, and if you don’t, you are irreparable and worthless), it’s no longer about liberation and instead about humiliation.”

This goes beyond “calling people in” and is especially important for White people doing this work. Antiracist work must come from a place of respect for each person’s humanity, even when a person is saying or doing harmful things. We stray from the path of progress if our antiracist focus is competitive or judgemental when any of us make mistakes. We are also more likely to send people further into embracing white supremacy if we do not make each other feel welcome and accepted and that we have faith in each other to do this work. The harm can be addressed and repaired without anyone losing their humanity.

She also addresses White women in particular:

“White women also need to heal. Instead of gravitating to humiliation for pleasure and identity, white women must reconnect with their power and consequently their responsibility as change-makers in society. White women need to stop exploiting Black women educators, using their intellect for their own emotional appeasement. White women must stop treating these relationships as transactional, that you are somehow achieving antiracism by paying a Black woman to berate you and letting her live to tell the tale, this time.”

I have written about not asking BIPOC to explain things to you, but this takes things a step further. White people can imagine that taking classes, reading books, going to a book club, or having a Black friend means that we have done enough. We are not absolved of doing further work, we have not checked a box of wokeness that gets us off the hook of doing the hard work on ourselves.

Further on White women:

“White women must stop identifying with shame and fragility. It’s harmful to the psyche, but it’s also simply untrue. Consciously or unconsciously, it becomes a place of retreat when the pressures of society’s expectations become too heavy to bear. Like Black people, white women know so little of their history, especially their role as disrupters of the status quo. Instead, our collective narrative often sees them as only self-interested — no matter their political allegiance. Or they are depicted as the pawns of powerful white men. Either way, they are painted as partially awake and disinterested in collective liberation.” [emphasis mine]

Knowing our history, understanding our powerful role in society, is essential. I encourage you to do some research about female “disruptors of the status quo” of all races and political parties, to be inspired by the power of women when we resist harmful stereotypes or low expectations. You might start with Anne Braden and I’d love to hear your suggestions of others.

Listen. Amplify. Follow. In Solidarity.


Hi Friends,

Happy March! I hope you’re all well.

I have been finding music to be particularly compelling lately and I wanted to share some inspiration with you. First, I want to highlight two Black female artists who have used their musical talents to draw direct attention to racism and the need for change: Mickey Guyton (especially “Black Like Me”) and Whitney Parnell, who just dropped her debut album last month (“What Will You Do”), whose name should sound familiar because I’m so grateful for her organization, Service Never Sleeps. Please check them both out and support their efforts to bring the truth into the light.

Second, I’ve been thinking a lot about community — how we define it for ourselves, how we take care of each other, how it connects to solidarity — and two songs have really inspired me. The first is “Humbling River” by Puscifer and the second is “Crowded Table” by The Highwomen. I hope you enjoy them.

I find that certain experiences, like listening to music, connects with my emotions and an overwhelming feeling of belonging and solidarity. I am not generally a fan of crowds (even before the pandemic), but these moments are consistently positive and memorable, a primal connection to fellow human beings. For example, when a massive crowd at a music concert is cheering or singing along; when our car is one of thousands on a slow pilgrimage into the mountains to enjoy the snow; and, when my voice is one of many others singing together in a choir. I get goosebumps just writing about these experiences — what are your connections to community?

I think we define our communities differently depending on the context. Sometimes we’re focused on our household and nothing else. Other times, we’re called to consider people in another part of the world our community and we send donations or positive thoughts their way. I think what I’m trying to approach is how we think a little more permanently about who we have a responsibility to, who we want to be in solidarity with, whose wellbeing we want to have allied with ours.

We are all constrained by our time and energy, and I’m not asking for any one person to try to care deeply for every single person they encounter on a given day. I think what I’m approaching is how to engage with people in our lives (either temporarily or more long-term) in a way that centers our humanity and basic respect. In many ways, our social structures encourage competition, scarcity, and isolation. The pandemic has made this even more stark and painful. The way through the things that divide us, the fear that makes us shrink from change, is compassion and love.

This is an incredibly vulnerable way to approach the world, gently with your heart and mind open, willing to make a meaningful connection with a stranger or someone you already know. It’s not something we’re likely to be capable of every moment of every day, so it is a goal to strive for. We cannot make meaningful change together if we do not see each other or understand how intrinsically linked we all are.

I cannot recommend Heather McGhee’s The Sum of Us highly enough. Much of what I have been writing about in the last few posts have been inspired by her writing and I haven’t even finished the book yet. She lays out so clearly how harmful white supremacy is to all of us (yes, even White people) and how we must understand our history to see how the structures in place are things that can be changed. I am inspired by her work.

Listen. Amplify. Follow. In Solidarity.