Racism Reality Check

How often do we think that we have done enough work on our racism? That among the whole of white people we are probably at least in the upper 25% of “good white people”? Because we don’t issue anonymous surveys to every POC we encounter every day and because we are cocooned in whiteness, colonialism, white supremacy we remain unaware of our impact on the people of color around us. A solution is to listen to and read what POC tell and have told us for many, many years and honestly apply it to ourselves.

Paul C Gorski and Noura Erakat’s Research on burnout in activists of color caused by white activist behavior is a treasure trove of reality check for all white people. Whenever we are tempted to think we have done enough work on our racism it helps to keep quotes like this from a burned-out activist of color: “…my white allies aren’t really the allies I thought they were…”

This list of behaviors that contributed to the burnout of POC activists is a list we can use to understand our own beliefs and behaviors that are negatively impacting the POC in our everyday lives. Commitment to unlearning this everyday racism means commitment to education, awareness and action. (Thanks to the authors for sending me an email pointing out that my lack of appropriate attribution in a previous version of this post could lead others to believe that the authors’ work is my own, demonstrating another example of their findings and another example of many of the behaviors listed below). In the article, p://www.edchange.org/publications/White-Activists-Causing-Burnout-Racial-Justice-Activists-Gorski-Erakat.pdf, Paul C Gorski and Noura Erakat write:

  • Bringing our privilege and entitlement everywhere we go
  • Our unexamined racist views and behavior 
  • Pushing back and refusing to scrutinize ourselves 
  • Forcing POC to teach us about racism
  • Resisting learning from POC
  • Perceiving ourselves as more racially conscious than we are
  • Our lack of lived knowledge and our lack of respect for lived knowledge
  • Delusional perceptions of expertise
  • Taking instructive critique personally
  • Racial privilege that allows us to not understand the complications of systemic racism
  • Demonstrating our entitlement by entering working spaces with POC without the basic understandings needed to engage effectively
  • Requiring POC to expend energy dealing with behaviors of white dominance 
  • The inability or unwillingness of white activists to understand how whiteness is socially constructed to reify and justify racism

Check out Ibram X Kendi’s book Stamped From the Beginning, and the article “Racism, whiteness and burnout in antiracism movements” for more about all of these issues. http://www.edchange.org/publications/White-Activists-Causing-Burnout-Racial-Justice-Activists-Gorski-Erakat.pdf

Thank you for bringing your best self and most honest efforts to all of your anti-racism work!




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