Is This Your Work to Do?

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???

Do the Work!: An Antiracist Activity Book

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.
  • VOTE!
  • 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.

Greatest Hits of White Defensiveness from Do the Work

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?

Share your thoughts in the comments.

Read More:

thanks to NetGalley + Workman Publishing
for the review copy of this book

4 thoughts on “Is This Your Work to Do?

  1. Liz Dexter

    I love that illustration, very useful, the book looks great, too.

    As I don’t have a workplace and am not part of a religious or other cultural organisation, I felt a bit defeated for a while, what can I do? But something someone in that position can do is work in the spaces they have, as it says there, and share and amplify GMP people’s voices on social media, share about books on their review blogs and call in examples of racism they spot. It’s hard not to centre oneself but possible to (for example) rewrite a paragraph to say “someone can do is … ” rather than, “I do”.

    Thank you for sharing this.

  2. Jean Wise

    your blog today stretches and challenges me. lots of consider and think about. We just had a discussion this weekend and I noted to a friend that we see so much history through our white eyes. She said she never thought of that way before. Sometimes I feel like I am not doing enough but after this weekend, I think it is also the one to one interactions that can make a difference too. Good thoughts, Lisa.

  3. David

    Very true. If the US could wean itself off White Saviour Syndrome at the international level, the rest of the world would be very happy 😀 Kipling used to call it the White Man’s Burden — civilising the savages and saving them from themselves.

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