Good White People

What happens when your white friends or family says or does something racist? How do we cope when someone we love excuses or condones racist, xenophobic, anti-Semitic or Islamophobic rhetoric and actions? If you’re a person of colour existing in our current world, you have probably experienced this. I have white family members, my best friends are white, I have fallen in love with white people. Most of them, at one point or another, have said or done something hurtful. It often comes from being ignorant or so unaware of their place in life that the comment or action doesn’t appear harmful to them. I had brushed this off as a part of life, something I would have to contend with. As a light skin, relatively privileged WOC, I figured I don’t have a right to complain. My thoughts around this have changed as the climate of racism and white supremacy intensifies. Recently, a POC pal mentioned how hurt they were that their white friends were not empathetic towards them when they experienced racism. At times, they were argumentative and refused to believe that things could be “that bad”. It’s often easier to see things when it’s not happening to you. I hated seeing a person I care about hurt, and I haven’t been able to stop thinking about how common this experience is. Recent events have reignited a local conversation on racism and white silence/violence. We, as poc, are all too aware that racism is a systemic and insidious problem.

These are not new conversations for us. Every time, something happens, whether it’s in the news cycle or something closer to home, I see and hear white folks coming out with, “It’s [insert year], I can’t believe this is still happening!” or how the perpetrator(s) of said racism are sick individuals, filled with some unknown source of hate. These good white folks are confused. They are scared and they feel helpless. If this is you, your feelings are valid, but your surprise and lack of awareness of your complicity needs to end. POC are not surprised, this is not new to us. We also know that this isn’t a problem with one individual. Racism is systemic issue, it is built into our institutions and structures. individuals may act, but the rhetoric, stereotypes and reasoning behind their actions are deeply rooted in structures of white supremacy.

The majority of the white people I know are Good White People™. They are proudly call themselves allies, they attend anti-racist events, they post on social media, they might even attend a protest or work to call out the ‘bad’ white people in their lives, i.e. ones that are openly racist. Good White People™ pride themselves on being part of the struggle, they love having POC friends, they like Solange over Beyonce, they are the best ally, they ask a lot of questions during Q&A’s at racial justice events, they are not racist. Good White People™ may also be your parent, your best friend, your lover. They genuinely love you. They don’t want you to experience the pain racism and discrimination causes. At the same time, they stumble over their words when you gently point out that maybe, just maybe, they could do more. Good White People™ get just a little bit upset when you start celebrating your ancestral magic, they prickle when you call them out, their silence is is palpable when racism happens in your community. They post 7x a day about racism in the US, but their feed is empty when it comes to the racism happening at the local bar or on campus or in their own home. Good White People™ want racial justice – as long as it doesn’t disturb their status quo. They want to see the end of discriminatory policing practices, they want to see more WOC in leadership roles, they advocate for a vague kind of Reconciliation. They don’t want to confront their own racism, those deep internal thoughts that are inescapable in a white supremacist society, they do not want to give up their 10 minutes at the Q&A, they still want to point about that “all women are beautiful y’know, not just woc” every time we uplift our sisters, they are reading this blog post thinking about all the other white people they know that fit this description, but not them, because they really are a Good White Person™

This is not to say there is no way to unlearn this or that their is not a place for them (you) in the struggle, but it takes work. Hard, uncomfortable, on-going work. POC have been doing this work, we need to unlearn internalized racism. We learn at young ages how to deal with racism with a smile on our face because it may not be safe to respond. We are here, resisting by simply existing. We are doing the work and we don’t need allies, we need accomplices. We need white folks to put their whiteness on the line and take the risk to share their power and privilege. The understanding that achieving liberation for POC means white people losing power is rooted in white supremacist notions of power. That is to say that, to achieve liberation, we need to shift our understanding of what power means, how we organize our communities and how we share power and responsibility in relationship. This is an ongoing conversation that is made harder when so-called allies take over spaces of activism and cloud the vision of true liberation with neo-liberal, neo-colonial concepts of “diversity” and “multiculturalism”.

I understand this is daunting. Challenging your own racism and prejudice is scary, but is it worth avoiding and staying complicity in white supremacy? Being a Good White Person™ is often an important phase of ‘getting there’. We can’t expect ourselves or those around us to wake up one day, fully released of any racist notions, that is unrealistic given the society we live in. I do expect myself and others to commit to unlearning. I expect the white people around – if they want to continue to be Good White People™ or “allies” or whatever – to confront their racism in a humble and open way.

So if you have read this whole thing, and still think it’s not about you, it’s probably about you.

If you read this and think it is about you, you already completed the first tiny step. Educate yourself, don’t ask POC to do the work for you. Be patient with yourself, learning and unlearning takes time, but hey, at least you’re moving forward.

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Not All Bad

I think we can all agree that last week (or three months or year) has been surreal. If you’re anything like me, it can be easy to spiral into watching the news and reading articles for a few hours and focusing too much on negatives issues in the world. Yeah, there are lots of fucked up things happening right now, but there are so many wonderful, positive things and people. It can be hard to focus on the good, but I have been blessed to have some positive events and amazing humans in my life to remind me to shift my perspective.

 

I had a chronic pain-filled, anxiety-ridden week and took some time to practice some self-care that ranged from re-centring myself through yoga, a bougie bath, and wine with good friends. After all these lovely, and challenging points of self-care, I feel more like myself again. I was inspired to write this post for a couple of reasons. The first being that Trump officially became the president of the United States yesterday (definitely a cause of my week of anxiety) and I know a lot of people are feeling very overwhelmed with anxiety, anger, sadness and shock. The second reason is much more positive and much less complicated. I went to a friend’s birthday this weekend and had to head back to the city in the morning. After having coffee with my friend, I decided to pop into the farmer’s market before I caught the bus. I had a 5 dollar bill in my coat pocket. I was checking my phone just before I walked into the market and realized I dropped the $5 somewhere, I was a little annoyed but there wasn’t much I could do about it. I wandered around the market, bought a yummy af morning glory muffin and walked back the way I came. As I got closer to main street, I saw my $5 on the ground! It was only a little thing and because I have the privilege to be employed, I could have survived without the $5 but something about it struck me. There may be terrible things happening in the world, but we shouldn’t forget to celebrate the joys of life. Too often we focus all our energies on the various oppressions and tragedies of life and feel guilty when we fully enjoy and celebrate the beautiful things in life. It can be hard to remember what those are, so I’ve written up a couple of lists in case you need a little posi inspiration.  

 

5 Happy Thoughts

 

  1. Upwards of 4 million people marched across the United States yesterday. There were marches all over the world to show solidarity with those in the US who are resisting bigotry, racism, sexism, xenophobia and fear.
  2. Baby animals and baby humans exist. If you are ever sad, there are a million Insta accounts to overwhelm you with cuteness.
  3. It’s getting a little brighter (and a little closer to spring) each day. More sunlight = happier people.
  4. We live in a country where we have access to excellent healthcare. I have never once had to consider if I can afford a visit to my doctor due to financial constraints and find it hard to imagine not having access to safe and affordable healthcare.
  5. The internet: OK, HEAR ME OUT. Yes, the internet brings the grossest and most horrible parts of the human mind out in the open, but it allows us access to information, connection and opportunities that we never could have previously imagined. That’s pretty fucking great.

 

5 Positive Things to do for Yourself Today

 

  1. Take a nap. Naps aren’t an indulgence and taking a nap doesn’t mean you’re lazy. Give yourself the permission to rest. Improve your nap experience with soft blankets, taking off your pants and cuddling with a human and/or animal companion.
  2. Make safe-to-eat raw cookie dough: coconut oil/butter/margarine, maple syrup or sugar, flour, vanilla extract, chocolate chips. Blend, eat, congratulate yourself on being a great human and also avoiding salmonella.
  3. Compliment someone else. Tell a friend how you appreciate their insight, compliment your barista on those lattes that keep you alive, thank staff in the store you’re at or tell your coworker that their jokes make your day better. We can forget to express our appreciation for the little things, but you never know how much it may mean to someone. Appreciating others also makes you feel better. It’s a win-win for everyone.
  4. Say ‘No’. About three years ago, I decided to make a concerted effort to say no to things that I don’t want to do, or that I don’t have the time for. It’s a skill that I continually work on. I still find myself double-booked and feeling guilty for taking time for myself, however, since I started to try to say no to things, I feel happier and more centred in myself.
  5. Say ‘Yes’. This is a challenge of another kind. It can be hard to say yes to things that we need. Say yes to an offer of help from a pal, say yes to a road trip, apply to a job you don’t think you’re qualified for, say yes to taking a day (or even an hour) to yourself, say yes to trying something you have always wanted.

These five things will not fix your problems or make you forget that a cheeto is now in charge of a powerful state, but they might make you a little happier and make your week a little easier. Take time to be kind to yourself and to those around you, I promise it’s worth it.

 

BONUS: photos of my stupid cats to brighten your day

The Fall of ‘Great’ Men

Yesterday, I was aimlessly scrolling through my Facebook feed and noticed an article on Bikram Choudhury – founder of a self-named hot yoga method and all-around creep. Choudhury recently paid about over $7 million US to  Minakshi “Miki” Jafa-Bodden, who was wrongfully terminated after refusing to cover up the a rape committed by Choudhury. Jafa-Bodden was also sexually harassed by Choudhury and six other women have bravely come forward to accuse Choudhury of sexual assault. Unsurprisingly, Choudhury maintains his innocence. He also claims this lawsuit and another recent loss are sending him into bankruptcy. 2017 is only 4 days old and is already killin’ it.


As some of you may have noticed, American Apparel stores are shuttering their doors. Big signs waved by AA employees stating their American-made clothing is 50-80% off. I have always found AA clothing to be well-made and appreciate the fact that their factory workers are unionized and paid a living wage. It’s a shame that their founder, Dov Charney is a grade A(A) Creep™. Charney is no longer with American Apparel, but his legacy of sexual harassment poisoned the company. Of course, economic downturn and the fickleness of consumers may have something to do with AA’s downfall, but I like to think that Charney’s misdeeds and the implicit support of those around him in the company, contributed to the end of American Apparel. Of course, it is not Charney who will suffer the most loss, he moved on to another company and is probably still just as much of a pervert as before*. Those who will suffer  are the workers; AA’s intellectual property has been bought by another apparel company, Gilden Athletics,  and there is talk of moving the factory out of the US. The loss of skilled jobs and fair wages won’t hurt Charney. His misogynistic words and act will continue to haunt those around him as he prances (naked) on to his next business venture.

 

Charney and Choudhury may bounce back financially, but their wallets and reputations still took a hit. Prison sentences have been upheld as the ultimate justice for abusers and rapists, but it is so rare and does little to rehabilitate offenders, justice in the legal system seems mythical.

 

These two pieces of news may seem like hollow victories, as both these men will be able to walk free and start business’ and continue their lives trauma-free, but it also shows we are slowly learning to believe women. The women that came forward in both cases are incredibly brave, they stood up to public scrutiny, teams of lawyers, and their abusers. There are many forms of justice and healing that do not involve criminal courts, and the fall of great men is one of them.

 

As we move forward in 2017, we will no doubt continue to see ‘great’ men rise and fall. One of them is president-elect Donald Trump, who has publically admitted to sexual assault and has many, many accusers. Trump will become the next U.S. President on January 20th, 2017. His rise to power, despite rampant sexism, xenophobia, racism and implicit support of white supremacists, is a prime example of how far we still have to go. Our work is far from over, but the fall of Charney and Choudrey offer glimmers of hope for those working to end gender-based violence as well as survivors/victims themselves.

 

Money can buy freedom for many perpetrators, but there are rare (but ever increasing) instances of justice. Your paper got you this far, but you can’t buy your way out of your fall from grace. In 2017, let’s celebrate the fall of so-called great men and the rise of justice.

 

* I have no proof of this, don’t sue me.

 

Sources:

http://www.cbc.ca/news/world/bikram-yoga-lawsuit-1.3421547

https://www.thestar.com/business/2017/01/10/montreal-based-gildan-activewear-will-pay-88m-to-buy-american-apparel-brand.html