Responding to racism is hard. It’s palm sweaty, stomach churning, awkward silence, tempers flaring work.
And for white allies, who have not spent their entire lives responding to racism, most of us are new to this work and we don’t always get it right.
Whether it is a racist uncle telling a shitty joke at dinner.
A co-worker asking “BUt wHerE aRe YoU ReAllY FrOM?” to our colleagues of color.
Or someone we follow posting a racist meme online.
It can be hard for white allies to know how to respond to each and every case of racism and bigotry.
Because each case is different. The people are different. The situation is different.
Do I call them OUT publicly or call them IN for a private conversation?
Do I tell HR?
Do I still quietly and hope the awkwardness just goes away?
White people often get caught between competing impulses:
I don’t feel fully equipped to engage in this conversation…
But I don’t want to just let it go because that emboldens racists…
And I don’t want to be a white savior…
And I don’t know how my friend of color wants me to respond…
There are often many factors to consider.
And yet, allies are being asked to Speak up! Be Brave! See Something! Say Something!
And we want to show up! We want to fight racism and dismantle the system of white supremacy in America!
What if you PLANNED for Racism?
What if you went into situations with a plan for what you and your friends of color were gonna do when you saw, heard, or felt racism?
Now we can hear some of you thinking…
If you plan for racism, you’re just bringing negative energy with you…
If you plan for racism, you’re just inviting racism to happen…
If you plan for racism, you’re just gonna start seeing it where it isn’t there….
We get it, planning for racism is a mental shift that can feel pretty shitty.
It might feel better to just be optimistic and hopeful that white America will treat people of color with the respect and dignity they deserve.
And being optimistic and hopeful is good. We want to think the best of others.
But in American society,
with 400 years of anti-blackness,
a legacy of Jim Crow,
nearly 170 years of anti-Asian racism and a 150% increase of anti-Asian violence since March 2020,
and millions of people who eye guzzle racist propaganda online and in the news…
It is actually pretty naive not to plan for racism.
We can and should continue to hope that the American court system will hold racist police accountable for killing unarmed Black Men like George Floyd.
But allies need to plan for the system to fail. Like it failed for Breonna Taylor,
and Emmitt Till.
In America, planning for racism is not being skeptical, negative, and overly critical.
Planning for racism is being practical, realistic, and is actually a lot safer for everyone.
White people actually plan for worst case scenarios in many parts of their lives.
Women hope for a wonderful first date, but they make a plan if they show up and find a creep waiting for them at the table.
People with severe food allergies hope that the chef reads the dietary restrictions. But they make a plan if their throat starts closing up.
Parents hope their kid’s diapers don’t explode at the playground. But they pack a change of clothes just in case.
Schools hope there’s no threatening danger and students are safe. But they practice active shooter drills because they know it’s a possibility and everyone needs to know what to do when it happens.
We prepare because we want to ensure everyone can be safe and cared for in worst case scenarios. It’s always good to have a backup plan in case what we hope doesn’t happen.
Preparing for racism is a practical, safe, and effective way to care for our friends, neighbors, and communities.
White people, what if we started to show up prepared to be allies?
Maybe we wouldn’t be so sweaty, awkward, and word vomiting if we spent some time thinking through each possible racist scenario. And we asked our friends of color how they would like us to respond in different situations.
What would it look like to actually create a plan?
What if we sat down with white allies and co-workers of color and made a plan for how the BIPOC folks would like us to respond the next time they experience racism at work?
That way we aren’t standing around the break room with our faces screwed up like somebody farted and no one wants to name it.
What if we decided on some hand signals with our friends of color for when we are in public like
–Touch your nose if you want me to call it out.
–Touch your elbow if you are uncomfortable and just want me to make an excuse to leave.
What if we reached out to our family members and made a plan for how we were gonna respond the next time someone brings up some crazy racist conspiracy theory or tells a racist joke?
What if we had a brave conversation with our friend group about trying to calmly correct people instead of blaming and shaming in a huge knockout, drag out fight of who’s the wokest?
What if we made a plan….gasp…for how WE are gonna respond when someone calls US out?
When you are prepared, you know what to do, then you can do it effectively.
We can be much more confident allies when we know our roles.
So the next time there is a racist joke at dinner… you’ll know that your neighbor of color wants you to say, “Did you know that joke you just told is racist?” or “I would like to apologize on behalf of my guest for his rude behavior.”
Next time there is a female co-worker of color who gets interrupted in a meeting, you’ll know that she wants you to amply her voice by saying, “I liked what _____ was saying a moment ago.”
Next time there is a killing of an unarmed Black man in America, your friends of color will know they can count on you to show up for them in ways that affirm their pain and calls for justice in your community.
If we are brave and prepared, then we can be the confident allies that America needs right now.