She said not to turn away, when we became uncomfortable, that the work would make us uneasy. I agreed. I’d heard and understood that message over a decade ago, at a UPenn diversity workshop. I watched as folks turned away then, when the work became difficult- when it challenged us to consider our privilege in a white supremacy culture. Some denied. Some deflected. One left. The rest of us sat in our discomfort.
Anti-racism work can make white people uncomfortable, because we have to consider a question we may not want to acknowledge, ‘How much of society’s racism has inevitably formed my experience and impacted how I think and feel about non-white people?’.
When followed by a personal inventory, the answer to this question can uncover our more authentic selves. Further work will help us to accept that we’ve been conditioned by society to hold racist beliefs, then to engage in the necessary work to dismantle our acculturation.
Unfortunately in some cases, just as the question of racist acculturation begins to form, some may be triggered and try to justify, deny, or turn from the reality of complicity.
Anti-racist work is difficult, but as white people, it’s our work to do.