Hey, are the riots and plagues over? So I can get back to normal, and tell you about the best way to verticalize your apartment? Not yet? Buckle your seat belt, put on your wading boots, and let’s get right back into it then.
Stage One: I’m not a racist! I can stop racism any time I want!
With apologies to famous 12-step programs. The first stage, “classic denial”, is to be found mostly around Thanksgiving tables in the heartland as younger family members put in their earbuds while Uncle Lou talks crap. I know most of us are far beyond using the kind of outdated, bone-headed “things white people say” that HuffPost talked about last week. All these items are symptoms of Stage One – classic denial. You can’t do much about Uncle Lou except cut him off at the pass, stand your ground, politely remind him your new girlfriend is African American, and then refuse to cut him a break even if you’re getting a lot of flak for pushing back on Thanksgiving Day. Good luck and God bless.
Stage 2 – Being really embarrassed
You aren’t in denial any longer. Like PepsiCo, which is changing its “Aunt Jemima” brand image (slavery apparently isn’t a good look these days), you’re saying, hey! We know there’s a problem! We’re changing things!
Listen, my people. My white people. No one is blaming you PERSONALLY! (unless you’re Barry Krouk). Get over yourself. There was slavery followed by Jim Crowe followed by civil rights followed by now. That’s called history. The cops treat you differently. Stop being embarrassed and just move on to phase three…
Stage 3 – Apologizing
Do you find yourself becoming really apologetic to your black friend – oh, I mean friends in the plural of course – like people are doing to this guy? Apologizing like it’s all your fault? “I’m white, I get privilege, you don’t, omg I can’t help it and I’m so sorry! Can you ever forgive me?”
Well, stop. Of course we feel bad, all us 2-percent Neanderthal DNA Americans. We were born into this mess just like everyone else. We directly benefit from a corrupt system, without having to lift a finger. It’s just there for us. Always has been, ever since we were wee innocent little blue-eyed babies. Naturally, we get even more perks if chromosome 23 is XY and we haven’t done anything surgical to change that.
Stage 4 – Do something Useful
If you are young and strong, make a sign and go lay on the pavement for eight and a half minutes. Not everyone can do that so let’s try…
White people make lots more money than anyone else. Start throwing it back. Here are places you can donate money. Note – no need to work this info into conversations with your Black Friends, like when the husband takes out the garbage, but you have to notice it. “Look honey, I’m doing it! I’m taking out the garbage! Now I’m washing dishes and straightening up!” Just do it and shut up about it.
Leverage your strengths
As a White Woman of a certain age, I know how to write a letter. I know the value of expensive stationary. I have a box of ecru 100% cotton personal stationary embossed with my name just in case I need to look extra-classy. And no, I’m not saying black folks can’t do this too, so get over yourself. Anyway. Take your classy stationary, use your best handwriting (I had to hire a professional calligrapher), and write a well-worded, quietly damning epistle to people in power. My example is here.
Remember, it’s not about “bad apples”. It’s about changing the power structure. Use your power and entitlement to make that happen in whatever way works for you.