shedding white comfort

So, what’s the next step, once we’ve accepted that unearned ‘white goodness’ is a myth (see The myth of white goodness)? It’s not only to acknowledge, but to embrace our discomfort in order to commit to dismantling our racist acculturation.

Lapsing back into white comfort

Resisting the urge to lapse back into white comfort is an essential component to dedicate ourselves to ongoing work, or we’ll quickly return to that all-too-familiar white comfort.

One way that white comfort sneaks back is through a feeling that ‘I’m doing enough, because I do X, Y, and Z. For example, if I read anti racism books and follow Black content creators on social media, I may pat myself on the back, then remain stuck at this comfortable level of unlearning racist acculturation. While reading books and learning from Black content creators are important first steps in the dismantling process, shedding white comfort will move us from comfortable spectator to empowered change agent.

So, how do we resist returning to our white comfort? By examining and deconstructing our white goodness ideology. Nothing pulls white people back into white comfort more powerfully than unexamined white goodness ideology.

The white comfort boundary

White people have been acculturated to know where their white comfort boundary is – it’s at the boarder of their imagined white goodness. As in, ‘how can I be an active participant in a racist culture and still be a good person?’ To outright deny the former, because we can’t fathom the latter to be in any way false, is to retreat into white comfort.

The need to be seen as good

Within white comfort norms we can expect protection from potential white societal rejection. Outside white comfort, we risk the unknown. Willful courage is required to interrupt white comfort social norms.

In order to maintain the courage to persist beyond the myth of white goodness, past the comfort to which we’ve grown accustomed, and settle into discomfort it’s important to have a clear motive.

Identify our motivation

Perhaps we’re motivated by a global concern, to stand up to the injustice of racism. Or, it could be a personal motivation, to stand in support of family, friends, neighbors, or coworkers. When identifying our motivation we need to be careful to avoid white comfort disguised as anti racism, in the form of white saviorism. A white savior acts at a performative level, which fools us into believing we’re evolving. However, performative displays that come from a place of white superiority lack true growth. Worse still, white saviorism protects white comfort by enshrining white goodness.

Actions to shed white comfort

calling in – taking someone aside privately to address racial bias, micro aggressions, etc.

calling out – addressing racial bias in the moment without pulling someone aside

‘Calling in’ and ‘calling out’ our white peers may rattle our protective white comfort, but this form of activism will promote a greater social justice, and will also help to diminish the power of our white goodness myth holds over us.

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