A Radical White Identity

It's All About Relationships

When I read AWARE LA’s article on A Radical White Identity, I got really excited: a way to identify as white that wasn’t centered in guilt and never enough! As a white person, I felt my cultural heritage of my Irish, English, German ancestors was traded in for “we’re better than brown and black people and we eat white bread with lots of mayo.” A radical white identity gave me new meaning as a white person who deeply cares about social justice. I want to help move us toward a world where human needs are prioritized over money and hierarchy.

Another excellent resource for my anti-racist work has been The Characteristics of White Supremacy Culture. This article (now developed into a website with multiple resources) really helped me hone in on the ways I continue to perpetuate white supremacy in my life. I have listed the 13 characteristics in the article and posted them on my door. Using them as markers for the changes I want to see in my life has been very useful.

I have been blessed to work with activists, white, brown and black. I have spent time with the wonderful folks at Showing Up for Racial Justice (SURJ). I have learned to say “I am racist” in a relaxed and compassionate manner, knowing that I work on ferreting out the racism that was fed to me as a child, and continues to be fed to me by the culture at large. Like an invasive species in the garden (blackberries, bind weed) I have learned that I both need to live with the knowledge that I have learned white supremacy, and that I can work, every day, to unlearn it. It’s not easy, it’s not comfortable, but it’s real, and I would rather be sitting uncomfortably in truth rather than in a false sense of comfort or security.

On my resources page you can find many great books that help us learn about the insidiousness of racism. Learning these roots is necessary to understanding the problem. The problem is multi-faceted and the roots are deeper than any blackberry root. Intersectionality with antisemitism, sexism and other forms of oppression must not be overlooked. Antisemitism plays a key role in racism, as outlined by Eric Ward in his article Skin in the Game. All forms of oppression (including oppression of children) fail to appreciate our shared humanity and also fail to put human needs first.

Learning to love each other and honor and celebrate our differences is worth work. I leave you with the wise words of Audre Lorde: “Revolution is not a one time event. It is becoming always vigilant for the smallest opportunity to make a genuine change in established, outgrown responses; for instance, it is learning to address each other’s difference with respect…We are making the future as well as bonding to survive the enormous pressures of the present, and that is what it means to be a part of history.”