White Privilege, Anti-Blackness, and How To Be An Ally & An Anti-Racist
By Rachel Parodneck, LMSW & Chianne Green, LMSW
CG: The year 2020 has been a year of transition, adjustment, and unrest. We have witnessed a presidential impeachment trial, a global health crisis that has impacted our economic structures, healthcare systems, and the way in which we work and interact with one another. We are currently witnessing political and social unrest in the form of the Black Lives Matter movement. Black Lives Matter raises awareness on issues the affect Black lives, specifically police brutality and the consistent injustice we witness in the criminal justice system that is sworn to protect us all. As an African American woman, the Black Lives Matter movement hits close to home and brings an onset of complex emotions and thoughts. Emotions such as rage and sadness at the numbers of lives lost due to police brutality and I often ask myself why are we here again, learning the same lesson countless times. Please note these are my personal feelings and thoughts and not the feelings and thoughts of every African American.
For those who are unfamiliar with the Black Lives Matter movement, the current events and protests can be enlightening and bring waves of various emotions. You may be asking yourself what can I do to help? How can I be an ally? By definition, an ally is “one that is associated with another as a help: a person or group that provides assistance and support in an ongoing effort, activity, or struggle” (Merriam-Webster, 2020). When choosing to become an ally, it is important to remember you’re joining an already established movement, using your resources and privilege to provide aid to injustice. In allyship, it is imperative that you are always collaborating and not taking over the role of those who created the movement. Anyone can be an ally; you do not have to be African American to be an ally of African American issues. There are various ways to help on a Macro, Mezzo, and Micro level for social, cultural, and systemic change.
RP: I must admit, when I began doing research for this article, I was fully ignorant to the difference between racism and anti-blackness. This blissful unawareness is the result of my white privilege, a concept that I was not fully aware of until recently. I took it for granted that the color of my skin has contributed not only to the relative ease with which I have moved through my life, but that this is a great privilege I was simply born into, and as such, it is absolutely necessary to support people of color in the fight for equality.
Lori Lakin Hutcherson wrote a helpful article in Yes Magazine on white privilege, explaining to her white friend the specific ways white privilege shows up in daily life, giving many examples from her own childhood and growing up. “If it’s unclear in any way, the point here is if you’ve never had a defining moment in your childhood or your life where you realize your skin color alone makes other people hate you, you have white privilege.”
Kihana Mirava Ross, a professor of African-American studies at Northwestern University wrote an illuminating piece in The New York Times on the difference between racism and anti-blackness, https://www.nytimes.com/2020/06/04/opinion/george-floyd-anti-blackness.html:
“Racism” fails to fully capture what black people in this country are facing. The right term is “anti-blackness.” To be clear, “racism” isn’t a meaningless term. But it’s a catch-all that can encapsulate anything from black people being denied fair access to mortgage loans, to Asian students being burdened with a “model minority” label. It’s not specific. Anti-blackness describes the inability to recognize black humanity. It captures the reality that the kind of violence that saturates black life is not based on any specific thing a black person — better described as “a person who has been racialized black” — did. The violence we experience isn’t tied to any particular transgression. It’s gratuitous and unrelenting.
So how can we fight anti-blackness in a country deeply steeped in racism, whose very existence was built by black slaves? In my hunt for knowledge, I tracked down an insightful article on recognizing and dismantling your anti-blackness. Janice Gassam writes in Forbes: “Recognize how anti-blackness manifests, continuously disrupt anti-blackness by asking yourself what you are doing to actively disrupt these systems, use your privilege for change, and teach your children to be anti-racist.” The full article can be found at the link: https://www.forbes.com/sites/janicegassam/2020/06/01/recognizing-and-dismantling-your-anti-blackness/#4f9d8a9e4472
Another guide on being anti-racist can be found on the National Museum of African American History and Culture website.
Angela Y. Davis writes: “In a racist society, it is not enough to be non-racist, we must be anti-racist. Being antiracist is fighting against racism. Racism takes several forms and works most often in tandem with at least one other form to reinforce racist ideas, behavior, and policy.” The Museum of African American History and Culture provided this chart on their website:
Being an ally encompasses many different facets. There are a vast number of different ways to help:
Donate to worthy causes! Organizations such as NAACP, ACLU or bail funds help people of color in their quest for equality
Educate yourself! Read books by black authors and books on anti-racism
Protest! There are many protests going on all over the country. If you are not immunocompromised, get out there and wear your mask!
Reach out to lawmakers and government officials to demand justice! Phone calls, petitions, and letters are not to be underestimated. Find your local representative and governing officials to make change happen.
Campaign Zero offers various solutions to police brutality and systematic racism and injustice: https://www.joincampaignzero.org/#vision
Davis, A. (Undated). National Museum of African-American History & Culture. Talking about race: Being Antiracist. Retrieved on June 19, 2020 from: https://nmaahc.si.edu/learn/talking-about-race/topics/being-antiracist
Gassam, J. (June 1, 2020), Forbes. Recognizing And Dismantling Your Anti-Blackness. Retrieved on June 18, 2020 from https://www.forbes.com/sites/janicegassam/2020/06/01/recognizing-and-dismantling-your-anti-blackness/#3a35eab04472
Hutcherson, L.L. (September 8, 2017). Yes Magazine. My White Friend Asked Me on Facebook to Explain White Privilege. I Decided to Be Honest. Retrieved on June 19, 2020 from: https://www.yesmagazine.org/opinion/2017/09/08/my-white-friend-asked-me-on-facebook-to-explain-white-privilege-i-decided-to-be-honest/
Merriam-Webster Dictionary. Ally. Retrieved on June 21, 2020 from: https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/ally
Ross, K.M. (June 4, 2020), The New York Times. Call It What It Is: Anti-Blackness. Retrieved on June 18, 2020 from: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/06/04/opinion/george-floyd-anti-blackness.html