The World Without Anti-Racist Powers
Most white people have power to undo racism that they never exercise. I call them White People with Power or WPP©
Our power lies in our actions, thoughts, reactions, and habits – those internal motion sensors that can help end racism. WPP© can take certain actions to end racism even without knowing it. Being white makes you powerful in this world. Here’s a list of those powers in the anti-racist struggle.
- The Power to Be Real With Yourself– Obviously the most important power of them all should go first. This is important to learning through your powers and learning what a world without racism should be like. You, believe it or not, belong in that world and if it doesn’t seem right to you, you need the ability to be real with yourself about it.
- The Power to See Through Excuses– This is the most important power for a white person living anti-racism in a racist world. The Power to See Through Excuses is a fancy way of saying ‘you can see the bullshit’. You can recognize racism for what it is and call it out when you see it. Since now you know what racism is, learning to see through it will be a valuable skill.
- The Power to Lend an Ear– LISTEN. Yes that’s it. It’s like when your wife is talking about her day and her problems. You don’t really have to have an answer but the well-placed hmms and oh is that right’s help a lot. The power to lend an ear is all about being a good friend.
- The Power to Lend a Hand– This is what it sounds like, plus a bit more. If you can lend a hand you have a resource that a POC needs. This can be anything from giving money to actually just lending a shoulder to cry on. You might not realize but if you’ve ever worked in an office without a buddy you might start to see how a ‘shoulder to cry on’ is much more than you can imagine. This is partly creating space, partly just being a good person. It’s still anti-racism. If you are the go-to person for a POC or a group of POC dealing with whatever they are dealing with, you’re doing something right.
- The Gatekeeping Power– This is primarily within the workplace, but I’m sure it has implications in other places. It’s the power you have as the last line or decision maker in your company or department. If you have ever hired, fired or performed personnel reviews you have this power. It’s the ability to prevent institutions from inflicting damage on outside people. It’s the ability to stop your institution from hurting its own folks. If you’re a decision maker you can definitely do this. If you’re white, you can probably influence a decision maker.
- The Power to Create Spaces– Have you ever thought about how important your space is to you? The next time you’re on a crowded train, or walking on the sidewalk, at home in your bedroom, or bathroom just think about the space you are in. Is it comfortable? Private? Light? Dark? As humans our space means a lot to us. Most of the time we appreciate having ‘personal space’- just a cultural norm that we usually take for granted. As an organizer I learned that creating space is not just about the physical place but also about the way people feel when they come to that space. So creating space- is about making people feel open and free with you. It can be as simple as a list of community agreements, or as complicated as a conversation with every person who enters the space. The most important thing is that people feel safe in the space you make- safe to write a poem, share a picture, cry, get left out, be themselves- all of those things that make us dynamic human beings. Creating space can also look like taking up less space- not speaking or commenting on certain issues When you as a white person create a space where POC can feel safe and unburdened you’re really doing this anti-racism work! Those spaces are few/far in between, and hard to come by for POC.
- The Power of Naming– This is a more complex power, so it might take you a few tries to get it right, and a few more to get the pronunciation right. This is the act of calling something racism. Just as you would ‘call a dog a dog’. The act of naming is a very powerful force. The Bible, states that life and death are in the power of the tongue. By calling something what it is, we have the power to truly see the thing (then destroy it). This is a parallel to internet ‘callout culture’. You don’t have to become a keyboard gangsta, but when you see or hear something that’s really racist you should call it out. Speak on the issue to save a black life. Speak on the issue to brush up on why racism is still a problem. And the more you learn the more you will know, so speaking up is important for flexing these new muscles.
- The Power of Multiples– Everything you do will multiply. So, if you only use one power out of the ten, or if you use all ten all the time- it will multiply. That’s the benefit of having white privilege. I can write 30 books and never reach the same amount of white people that you will. White people are more willing to listen, actually listen-hear- and digest- information from other white people. If you speak up about something that might be racism, you not only save a POC from having to speak on the issue, you make other white people listen and take notice. Your power to multiply works both ways though, so be careful. If you refuse to act in anti-racism those results will reverberate too. But since you’re already committed to having The World Without Racism, you can help us all get there faster by doing more while doing less.
- The Power of Timing– Even if you don’t care about any of your other powers. You still have power. You can make a difference in the smallest of battles and still carry a major victory. Look out for instances where someone is subtly being treated differently. This happens at your place of work all the time, and if you need a clue ask someone. The Power of Timing works like this: A white person steps in, in the nick of time to save someone else the trouble of having to defend themselves or their existence as a POC. They are a welcome gift from the gods at the moment, even if the distraction is just a distraction. In security training we call this technique distraction. By distracting the perpetrator you give a POC enough time to get away and enough space to digest what action they want to take next. The Power of Timing also works to save us time. When a white person steps in to cut off racism, we are suddenly free to do something else, to take another path, or to contemplate the path we’re on.
Learn More about your powers to undo racism in The World Without Racism. Join my email list for updates.