Most Popular Choices
Share on Facebook 28 Printer Friendly Page More Sharing
OpEdNews Op Eds   

Learning Not To Look Away

By       (Page 1 of 2 pages)   No comments

From Other Words

Anti-racist work can be emotionally difficult. Take time to process your feelings but don't forget the big picture.

Protesters march in support of Black Lives Matter
Protesters march in support of Black Lives Matter
(Image by YouTube, Channel: Click On Detroit | Local 4 | WDIV)
  Details   DMCA

When those of us who are white are asked to engage with anti-racism, we are being asked to do something emotionally difficult: understand how we have benefited from a system that disadvantages and hurts others, so we can help dismantle it.

It's not more painful than actually experiencing racism. And our emotional comfort isn't more important than racial justice. But unfortunately, many of us disengage when confronting the realities of racism becomes too painful.

The fight against racism will get a lot further with white people participating. But white people still have the luxury of apathy and ignorance if they choose it, and there's a risk that too many will take this option when the going gets tough.

For this reason, taking a little time to process your emotions in an appropriate way can be an important part of the work.

In anti-racist discourse, often I hear that the feelings of white people take up too much space. The classic scenario is when a white person says something hurtful to a person of color, gets called on it, and then instead of focusing on the bigger harm (racism), they focus solely on their own bruised ego.

I usually hear two complaints: first, redirecting attention to the white person's feelings does nothing to end racism; second, it is painful and unfair to ask the victims of racism to control their emotions to keep the space comfortable for white people.

That's true. But let's acknowledge that it is painful to realize that you participate, however unwittingly, in a racial hierarchy that hurts innocent human beings who do not deserve it. Feeling pained when you discover you've hurt others is a sign you have empathy. It isn't pleasant, but that discomfort can lead to growth.

No, white people should not put their own feelings above the cause of fighting racism, nor should they ask the victims of racism to comfort them. But white people do need to tend to their own feelings. If we don't, how can we be effective allies?

Here's what works for me to keep my own emotions in check.

First of all, understand that racism is structural. Racism is a system that we were all born into, not something we chose. Nobody is to blame for the society they were born into or forces beyond their control.

The danger in saying this is that it could be used to justify complacency. Educating yourself about racism, unlearning your own biases, and working through your emotions is a lifelong, active process. It is ongoing work.

For me, so far it's involved books, movies, podcasts, articles, countless conversations, lots of introspection, therapy, and plenty of apologizing when I've wronged someone. You'll need to find what works for you, and pace yourself out because it's emotionally challenging for everyone and it's easy to get overwhelmed.

Next Page  1  |  2

(Note: You can view every article as one long page if you sign up as an Advocate Member, or higher).

Rate It | View Ratings

Jill Richardson Social Media Pages: Facebook page url on login Profile not filled in       Twitter page url on login Profile not filled in       Linkedin page url on login Profile not filled in       Instagram page url on login Profile not filled in

Jill Richardson is pursuing a PhD in sociology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
Go To Commenting
The views expressed herein are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of this website or its editors.
Writers Guidelines

Contact AuthorContact Author Contact EditorContact Editor Author PageView Authors' Articles
Support OpEdNews

OpEdNews depends upon can't survive without your help.

If you value this article and the work of OpEdNews, please either Donate or Purchase a premium membership.

If you've enjoyed this, sign up for our daily or weekly newsletter to get lots of great progressive content.
Daily Weekly     OpEd News Newsletter
   (Opens new browser window)

Most Popular Articles by this Author:     (View All Most Popular Articles by this Author)

Trump's Gender "Science" is Reductive, Mean and Wrong

This Popular Pro-Gun Argument Doesn't Make Any Sense

The Organic Food Industry Thrives On Regulation

A Genuinely Scary Moment in Foreign Policy

Why Does Trump Keep Doing This?

Mike Pence Is The Worst Person To Lead A Coronavirus Response

To View Comments or Join the Conversation:

Tell A Friend