It can be tempting to disengage from these conversations, frustrated and fed up, feeling hopeless. It can be tempting to retreat to spaces where social justice is the norm, where privilege is checked, and where whiteness and the feelings of the privilege are de-centered.
Today, in honor of a pillar of civil rights activism, non-violence, and peace, I ask my fellow white allies not to go silent in the face of ignorance. I urge you to have the hard conversations. I urge you to maintain a calm and rational front as you lay out the evidence supporting the existence of white privilege, and the evidence that people of color still are and continue to be oppressed in a culture that values whiteness and all its trappings as "normal" and as the default experience.
It's going to be hard. You're going to want to scream and cry and call people names.
When our brothers and sisters of color have to step away, because the blatant racism and disregard for their lived experiences becomes too triggering, keep on. Remember that being able to "check out" on matters of race is an example of your privilege, and push through that discomfort.
Right or wrong (hint: it's wrong), white people remain overwhelmingly more likely to listen to other white people on matters of race.
When they accuse you of "reverse-racism" (not a thing!), keep on.
When they call you names, keep on.
When they tell you to worry about "more important" things, keep on.
Whey they insist that "making everything about race" is the problem, keep on.
Keep on, because behind that loud backlash of people who just don't get it, there are quiet people who are learning. They're too timid to speak up in support, because this is new to them and they are confident in their handle on it. But they are there, and they are learning and growing, and they are well on their way to being a conscious ally themselves.
I was given an important reminder of this last week, when a heated and very toxic discussion chock full of racism, cultural appropriation, and ignorance veered off the rails in a big way, leaving people of color who I respect feeling rightfully angry and hurt. I was angry and hurt too, but my anger and hurt were less personal, so I kept on. Then it happened. One by one, people began to contact me privately to thank me for the information I was sharing. They asked questions about it. They learned. They kept me going when I was about to give up and cry with my friends of my color.
We don't always get the benefit of those silent bystanders reaching out to let us know that they hear us. But hear us, they do.