White Folks Facing Race: How Are Your Actions Supporting White Supremacy?

[This is part of my White Folks Facing Race series, originally written on September 11, 2019 to an email group created for community members in the Washington, DC area.]

Hi Friends!

A reminder that our group has an opportunity for a special listening session with VOICE related to how we can make Amazon’s arrival an opportunity to work towards and/or mitigate the detrimental affects that can come with tech companies’ presence. VOICE has a focus on the “whole community” and would like to hear from Facing Race in Arlington members your thoughts and priorities. We could meet on Sunday afternoon, October 6, or Tuesday evening, October 15. Please let me know your interest and/or date preference.

Please take the opportunity to provide comments on the Transgender/Gender-nonconforming Students draft guidelines for the PIP. Deadline is September 30. People opposed to the policy will be commenting, so we need supporters to register their affirmation of our students in large numbers.

I mentioned this last week regarding the event that was planned for last weekend, but wanted to follow up. The Black Parents of Arlington (BPA) wrote an oped in The Washington Post about why they have united and what their goals are, particularly in relation to APS. They say, “We see the irony of the Arlington County School Board espousing concepts of equity in its Strategic Plan while failing to embrace this value in its budget. The board should always seek to support and fund resources and programs that promote a more equitable school system.” YES! Facing Race in Arlington will listen, amplify, and follow their words and work.

A group member shared an article by Noah Berlatsky about how white parents are enabling school segregation. He says, “White Americans have largely stopped seeing anti-racism as a major goal of educational policy. Instead, they have chosen to focus on maximizing their own choices and the success of their own children. It’s natural for people to want their kids to do well. But how well are you really doing when you are collaborating in a society built on injustice and inequality? Despite the best efforts of activists and scholars, the dream of desegregation in America is dying. Our children are worse off as a result.” THIS is what I’m talking about when I say that we need to take a county-wide view and think about ALL Arlington students, not just our own.

Beverly D. Tatum (author of Why Are All The Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria?) wrote in the Seattle Times in 2017 after the UCLA Civil Rights Project analyzed school segregation and found that schools are more segregated now than they were before Brown v Board of Education. She says, “The cost of school segregation and white racial isolation is immense. As long as children of color remain trapped in under-resourced schools, many won’t have the opportunity to develop their talents — a loss not just for those children and their families, but the whole country. Meanwhile, white children won’t have sufficient opportunities to develop the skills needed to engage effectively in a multiracial society. Racial isolation means that experience of “the other” is too often rooted in well-worn stereotypes, rather than in knowledge nuanced by ongoing engagement. Fear and anxiety about the unfamiliar are the common result.” The resulting fear and anxiety about each other has implications for everything. One of the solutions to the current climate in our country is to ensure that our children have the opportunity to get to know people from many backgrounds and life experiences so that stereotypes break down and it becomes harder to “otherize” and thereby demean or discriminate against each other. Take active anti-racist steps to teach your children (and yourself) the way forward.

Noah Berlatsky has another article about how whiteness and privilege need to be named in order to take truly anti-racist actions to dismantle the white supremacist system around all of us. He says, “teaching people to be anti-racist doesn’t necessarily address the structure of racism itself. In fact, racist structures often determine who does and does not have access to these kinds of educational opportunities. One of our ongoing societal challenges will be figuring out ways to move beyond individual education and address the root issues of inequality — and our role in upholding them.” He recommends Margaret Hagerman’s book (White Kids: Growing Up with Privilege in a Racially Divided America) and says, “Hagerman’s book is a careful, painful and convincing argument that when white people give their children advantages, they are often disadvantaging others. Racism is so hard to overturn, in part, because white people prop it up when they work to make sure their children succeed.”

I recently rediscovered this amazing resource — Opportunities for White People in the Fight for Racial Justice — which gives clear steps and content for moving from Actor to Ally to Accomplice and is straightforward about the role white people should play in racial justice work. I cannot recommend this enough.

Here are some additional resources for you this week:
- Finding the Joy in Black Motherhood by Helena Andrews-Dyer
- Plantations teaching about slavery are experiencing pushback from visitors
- Loudoun County schools fail to confront racism
- It’s Not Pie — this refers to the idea that equality looks like oppression to those with privilege.

Sit with it. Let it make you uncomfortable. Do the work. Reach out as you have questions.

Listen. Amplify. Follow.

Mom, Activist, Community Organizer

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