White Savior Complex
It was 2020, a few months after the murder of George Floyd. My friend and I were in a message thread with each other, complaining about politicians, about lack of change in race relations, about being tired of it all.
I was ranting about being tired too, despite having privilege my whole life living in this light skin.
But I couldn’t leave it at that.
I went on to tell my beautiful Black friend that I’d get back up to fight another day, but that she needed to rest. She’d done enough.
After I hit send, I cringed at what I wrote.
I sounded like such a white savior*. Ugh.
* read: What Is White Savior Complex?
But I couldn’t undo the message.
Here’s the Work
That’s why I need to keep learning from friends AND keep reading books like this new one, Do the Work!: An Antiracist Activity Book by W. Kamau Bell and Kate Schatz.
Often our #1 question about racism is: What can I do???
This workbook answers that question.
But not only does this book include serious how-to work, it presents it in a fun way. Along with informative text, the book also includes comics, lift-the-flaps, crossword puzzles, coloring pages, and activities. Kamau and Kate work hard to engage the readers so we’ll follow through and act.
What can YOU do? Here are a few of the MANY things listed in this book.
- Shop at local BIPOC- and immigrant-owned businesses.
- Find out whose land you’re on. Learn more about Indigenous customs, languages, and contemporary life at native-land.ca.
- Call out racism in Nextdoor threads.
- Practice new responses to white defensiveness [see below]
- Sign up for antiracist training.
- Celebrate activist birthdays.
- Fight voter suppression.
- Know your elected representatives and how to contact them.
- Learn about and donate to help oppressed peoples in other parts of the globe.
- Watch films with a BIPOC lead and cast.
- Read books by BIPOC authors.
- Do the work in your real-life spaces (school, house of worship, work, gym, book club, etc.)
- Catch up on the news, including local news.
- Offer support during challenging times.
- Make new friends who are different from you.
- And if you’re white, learn how to organize other white people to take action without being righteous know-it-alls.
Here’s a page from Do the Work! on how to respond to White Defensiveness.
Again and Again
Talking about racism is hard.
But as Kamau says,
“White people: It can be hard to talk about racism, but it’ll never be as hard as it is to experience racism.”
Becoming antiracist (an active supporter of antiracist policies) isn’t a one-and-done thing. It’s something we do again and again and again.
So I continue to learn and practice. Practice and learn.
That includes messing up. I often go wrong in what I DO say and even more in what I DO NOT say.
After the flubbed-up message to my friend, I vowed again to keep learning and practicing. (I’m grateful for friends who do the work of forgiving me again and again.)
Because white supremacy is alive and real. Keep noticing where it shows up. Use what skills you have to help eliminate it.
We all can do the work.
Are there 2 or 3 things from the list that you can do?
- Recommended Reading on Racial Justice
- Can White People Be Good Friends to Black People?
- When History Makes You Sick
thanks to NetGalley + Workman Publishing
for the review copy of this book
- An Extraordinary Letter in the Mail
- Linkup for Your One Word Updates + 3 Challenges