Curriculum for White Americans to Educate Themselves on Race and Racism–from Ferguson to Charleston

MalcolmXWhen teaching about race and racism, I invite participants to consider the following analogy: Think of racism as a gigantic societal-sized boot.

 

Which groups do you think are fighting the hardest against this boot of racism?” I ask them. Invariably, participants of diverse races answer that those fighting hardest to avoid getting squashed by the boot are people of Color. (Keep in mind that I don’t ask this question on day one of our study of race. Rather, participants come to this conclusion after exploring the concept of White privilege and studying the history of race and racism in the United States through multiple sources and perspectives.)

 

If that’s true,” I continue, “then who do you think is wearing the boot?” The participants’ answer (though it often only reluctantly hits the air): White people.

 

If that’s true, then whose responsibility is it to stop the boot from squashing them? The people of Color already pushing upward and resisting the boot? Or the people wearing the boot–consciously or not–who contribute to a system that pushes downward?

 

Everyone has a role in ending racism, but the analogy shows how little sense it makes for only those facing the heel-end of oppression to do all the work. It’s time for White America to take on a far bigger role in taking off the boot. 

 

There are no doubt complexities that come with White Americans working for racial justice. White privilege can lead to a chronic case of undiagnosed entitlement, creating poor listeners, impatient speakers who talk over others, and people unaccustomed to taking orders. Nevertheless, the movement for racial justice needs more White Americans to get involved. And it’s our responsibility to help each other get involved–and get involved productively.

 

I compiled this list to help White Americans do so. One positive to emerge from these difficult times is the wealth of resources now available for White Americans. Never have I seen so many ideas, options, and concrete steps to take action against racism. And we are making progress: Looks Like White Americans Are Finally Starting to Come Around on Race and Policing. A few police officers are even being held accountable–finally–for their devastating decisions.

 

But so much work remains.

 

A few notes about this list:

 

Reading Articles Written Specifically for White Americans   

To My White Friends Who See Tragedy in the Black Community and Say Nothing, Make it Personal, published by Huffington Post on June 26, 2015

‘We need co-conspirators, not allies’: how white Americans can fight racism, published by The Guardian on June 26, 2015

Be Less Racist: 12 Tips for White Dudes, by A White Dude, published by Mash-up Americans

7 Ways To Be A White Ally For Charleston And The Black Community, published by Huffington Post on June 19, 2015

10 Things All White Folks Need to Consider about the #BaltimoreUprising, published by Everyday Feminism on April 29, 2015

11 Things White People Can Do to Be Real Anti-Racist Allies, published by AlterNet on April 27, 2015

6 things I wish people understood about being biracial, published by Vox on March 11, 2015 (This one is not specifically addressed to White people but many would benefit from reading it.)

What white people need to know, and do, after Ferguson, published by The Washington Post on November 28, 2014

12 Things White People Can Actually Do After the Ferguson Decision, published by Huffington Post on November 26, 2014

To follow sources that publish such articles, find an extensive listing here. If these articles leave you with unanswered questions, there’s now even a website devoted to answering the questions of White Americans: askawhiteperson.com.

 

Understanding Whiteness, White Privilege, Microaggressions, and a History of Racial Discrimination

By Barry Deutsch

By Barry Deutsch

Native Americans Get Shot By Cops at an Astonishing Rate, published by Mother Jones on July 15, 2015

Slavery to Mass Incarceration, a five-minute video, narrated by Bryan Stevenson of the Equal Justice Initiative, that concisely contextualizes mass incarceration as an evolution of slavery, published on July 7, 2015

I, Racist: Why I don’t talk about race with White people, published by Medium on July 6, 2015

The Atlantic Slave Trade in Two Minutes, a short video that provides a “haunting” glimpse into the mass abduction, abuse, and murder of Black people that lasted centuries, published by Slate Magazine on June 25, 2015

SouthandNorthWhat Is Whiteness?, published by The New York Times on June 20, 2015

We Need To Talk About White Culture, published by The Daily Beast on June 19, 2015

Historian Says Don’t ‘Sanitize’ How Our Government Created Ghettos, a 35-minute interview with Historian Richard Rothstein, in which he links current racial inequities directly to past governmental policies, from NPR’s Fresh Air on May 14, 2015

If Anyone Ever Questioned How White Privilege Manifested Itself in America This Is The Perfect Illustration, a five-minute video excerpt showing that, though race is a social construction with no scientific basis, governmental policy systematically gave it social and economic significance–all to the benefit of White Americans over the course of centuries–from Atlanta Blackstar on May 2, 2015

White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard to Talk to White People About Racism, published by The Good Men Project on April 9, 2015

Only Part of the Story Is Being Told About the Police Shooting in Pasco, published by Time on March 3, 2015

Our Anti-Immigrant Racism Is Rooted in History, published by Common Dreams on February 17, 2015

Killing in Washington State Offers ‘Ferguson’ Moment for Hispanics, published by The New York Times on February 16, 2015

We Can’t ‘Get Over It’: 4 Ways Understanding Past Wrongs Can Create Better Indigenous Allies, published by Everyday Feminism on January 15, 2015

Why Ferguson Should Matter to Asian-Americans, published by Time on November 26, 2014

Joining Groups

Coalition of Anti-Racist Whites (CARW): a group of white people in the Seattle area working to undo institutional racism and white privilege through education and organizing in white communities and active support of anti-racist, people of color-led organizations. We support the self-determination of people of color, honor their leadership and are held accountable to people of color-led organizations.

European Dissent: A national network of groups with the goal to be a visible force in the creation of a multiracial network of people intent on building working relationships between the white community and the communities of color in the struggle for a just society.

Showing Up for Racial Justice (SURJ): A national network of groups and individuals organizing white people for racial justice.

 

Parenting Racially-Conscious Children

How silence can breed prejudice: A child development professor explains how and why to talk to kids about race, published by The Washington Post on July 6, 2015

It’s My Job to Raise Children Who Are Not Only Not Racist But Actively Anti-Racist, published by Huffington Post on July 1, 2015

The Hard Talk: White Parents Discussing Racism with White Children, published in Uprooting Criminology on June 20, 2015

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BreeNewsome

Facing this country’s racist past and present will likely stir up a lot of feelings for many of us. Guilt may be among them. In dealing with guilt, I encourage you to read the words of Audre Lorde:

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I cannot hide my anger to spare you guilt, nor hurt feelings, nor answering anger; for to do so insults and trivializes all our efforts. Guilt is not a response to anger; it is a response to one’s own actions or lack of action. If it leads to change then it can be useful, since it is then no longer guilt but the beginning of knowledge. Yet all too often, guilt is just another name for impotence, for defensiveness destructive of communication; it becomes a device to protect ignorance and the continuation of things the way they are, the ultimate protection for changelessness. 

 

Instead of spending your energies on guilt, I encourage you to spend them seeking inspiration to act. There’s no shortage of inspiration. For a moment on June 30th, in the wake of terrorism in Charleston, you could even find it on a flagpole at the South Carolina State House.

 

Less than two weeks after Bree Newsome’s act of resistance, the governor of South Carolina signed a bill into law removing the Confederate Flag from the State House. Change is possible.

 

 

Stay connected for more ways to fight for social justice: FacebookTumblr, and Twitter. To learn more about the race curriculum controversy that led to the creation of this website, a controversy in which a public school district attempted to shut down a long-established study of race for seniors–all based on the misinformation of one White family–click here.

 

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