This is a time when white people need to be uncomfortable. Embrace the discomfort.
Updated: Jul 20, 2020
Justice Vaughn is a sophomore at Earlham College. A Biology major, Justice is studying to be an Ob/GYN to work in underserved and minority communities focusing on the sexual and reproductive health of black and brown people. Justice has been the president of Feminist Club, involved in the Environmental Sustainability Club, as well as being a part of a peer-counseling group. She has written this piece to encourage her white peers around the world to keep working towards a united change.
Hard Pill to Swallow: Life for Black people begins to be uncomfortable the moment they are born. People will view and treat black people regardless of age differently because of the way they perceive Blackness. This is not to say that Black people don’t experience joyful, whole, intricate lives, but it does acknowledge that their Blackness makes life more difficult. This, obviously, shouldn’t be the case. Many white allies agree with this statement but where we begin to lose you all is when your life becomes uncomfortable because Black people are seeking to change the situation. Currently, we see this in the Black Lives Matter protests and subsequent anti-protesters.
Coming from Indianapolis, Indiana where we have had many protests about police violence I have heard some white acquaintances of mine voice how they are made uncomfortable by the protests, how the anger and passion so many black people are vocalizing now is scary to them. This vocalization and disruption of “business as usual” is what makes white people afraid and filled with discomfort. We are angry and we are demanding change, a change where white people and other POC come together to fight injustice.
The disruption in the streets, the shutting down of recently opened stores and highways, and the outcries of Black people in person and on social media make life difficult for people who want to be “passive allies.” What I am imploring that you do, especially white people is that you lean into that discomfort you are experiencing and make something fruitful come of it. It can take time and serious deep self-reflection to confront the racist tendencies and biases that you hold against people of color. It is not a pleasant realization that you are and have been a racist. But truthfully, if the country you live in colonized and cast aside people of color you have grown up being educated in an inherently racist school system from birth regardless of your own personal skin color. And now, we as Black people are asking that you reflect and educate yourself on this reality and how you can be a part of changing it.
If you think this request is daunting to you, imagine how other Black and brown people feel about it. They are fighting for their lives daily. All we are asking of you, my white friend, is to be a part of that fight too. The only good world is where we are all able to see each other is deserving, whole, unique, human beings. You must be anti-racist.
“Making a change” is such a broad statement. Change can be brought about in many different ways but let me first tell you what it is not. It is not having a token Black friend. It is not watching a show with mostly Black characters. It is not posting a Black square on social media. Those are shallow consequence-less actions that allow you to stay comfortable in your safe bubble. Change is educating yourself on systematic and personal racism by reading a book or even this article. Change is calling out your own racist thoughts when they enter your mind and acknowledging them for what they are. Change is advocating for those that are not able to on their own. Change can be making your body present at protests or city hall meetings. It can be patronizing more Black and Brown owned businesses. It can be voting for candidates that clearly value Black and Brown people and acknowledge the systematic racism that makes many countries run. This list is not exhaustive, I encourage you to find a method of change suited for you.
I truly believe that dismantling racism throughout the world will not come about if white people do not become active and vocal members of the movement. The Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s showed that until white allies were murdered and beaten just like the people of color at the hands of police and mobs - it was easy for other white people to ignore the movement because they were passive allies, admiring from their living rooms the “brave and noble efforts of the negro.” That time is passed. It is 2020. We are asking you to join us in the streets, join us through reading books, join us at the Black-Owned businesses, join us at the ballot boxes, and join us in the fight to dismantle a racist system of governments and help us rebuild a just, fair, and equitable society for all who chose to make a place their home.
If you're white and feeling uncomfortable right now - that's okay! It's a journey of learning, and the first step is recognizing your discomfort and learning to work through the shame and defensiveness. If you'd like to join a safe discussion around how to get comfortable with being uncomfortable, in the effort to become a better ally, feel free to get in touch with us
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