Choose Anti-Racism, Always
If my silence regarding the current civil unrest and battle against the undeniable systemic racism has been noted (with only an implied stance provided in the June 2nd entry), I apologize. I'm still processing and making changes to my behaviors that previously failed to live up to my values of equality and justice, but I will no longer remain silent while I do so.
A friend recently pointed out that I have a bad tendency of starting off with one (usually offensive) point before circling back around to the main point everything I said ties together. Given my verbosity, that means most people who start listening are lost long before that circle completes.
So let me start with the point all of the following words are meant to tie together: I stand with Black Lives Matter and BIPOC. I am, always have been, and always will be anti-racist. I acknowledge that I've failed to live up to this highly important value in the past. I am committed to recognizing my white privilege and adjusting my thoughts, words, and behaviors accordingly to reflect and live up to this value.
To all of my friends, peers, and everyone who I have ever crossed path with (even indirectly) who I have failed to adequately acknowledge and support you in your needs and struggles, I apologize from the depths of my heart and soul. I have given only lip service where you needed clear action, even when that action was just to stop and listen.
As I'm learning and evolving to be a better ally, please let me know in what ways I can help you and the things I still need to fix. If there's additional resources that I've failed to list here, please let me know so that I can include them.
The next few sections of what I have to say is intended for those still struggling to acknowledge white privilege. This will be wordy, so feel free to skip ahead to the end if this doesn’t apply to you.
Waking Up to White Privilege
What I share here is done so in the hopes that it helps others with similar experiences and perspectives to my own wake up to their privileges. Because realizing we’re still part of the problem hurts.
If we truly are against racism, prejudice, discrimination, hate, and injustice as we say we are, we owe it to our fellow humans to wake up, listen, learn, and actively be the anti-racists we've previously only claimed. We can overcome these blind spots to fully support our loved ones whose life experiences are made drastically more difficult for no other reason than the color of their skin.
As a woman considered as white within the man-made race system who’s long considered herself an ally to disparaged minorities, I'm trying to take the time to process the new realization of my own white privilege. No matter my adamantly opposed feelings on the matter, society deems that my predominately European ancestry makes me white, and with that forced upon delineation comes the privileges that same society bestows.
Staying silent or hidden behind the scenes only allows power remain with the ignorant (read: racist) perpetuating the lie and using it to dominate over, discriminate against, and carry out acts of violence that go unpunished.
My Understanding of Race
I can still remember that first moment I learned what race was. Super excited with all the enthusiasm of a 6-year-old kindergartner, I shared my class picture with my then-liberal aunt. Expecting “awws” and compliments, I was shocked at her instant first response:
“You’re only one of two white kids in your class! Well, 3 if your count that mixed girl.”
At 6 years old, I was heartbroken in that moment. Not so much because of expectations falling drastically short (the compliments did eventually come, after all). But somehow, as young and inexperienced and uneducated as I was at that point in development, I felt the full weight of what had just been taught to me: humanity’s biggest lie that once seen can’t be unseen. Made all that much more worse because it came from someone I admired and looked up to deeply at that time.
I hated being called a white girl just as much as I was angry and frustrated at the whole absurdity of race that humans continued to cling to. As friends over the years can attest, my default response was “I’m not white. I’m Irish.”
This, of course, wasn’t quite accurate either given that it only covers approximately 53% of my ancestry. Thanks to a lineage filled with generations of nomads (contextual note: my close relatives only ever referred to this part of the family history as "gypsy" and--given the lack of details--there's not much to presume Romani lineage specifically, so I will use "nomads" in its place), my genetics have a distinct splattering of a variety of mostly European elements.
Clearly, my ancestry approach to fighting racist terms came fraught with complexities, especially given so many of my peers (from all racial identities) had little clue about their ancestry.
I felt so reassured when I had perhaps the best assignment ever in college. I had an opportunity to create a presentation about the science behind race.
The findings? It doesn’t exist. Humanity is the race.
The concept of human “races” is utter bullshit created by smaller, more ignorant, clearly self-interested minds. My inner child shouted with joy; my 6-year-old self was wise beyond her years.
And enter my white privilege: I stopped there, falsely believing that the only way we can fight racism is to point out how scientifically ridiculous the whole thing is. Don’t like being judged against for your race? Stop giving them the power by feeding into the lie!
Oh, little white girl, you’re so naïve!
Does the science alone lead to reversing climate change? Does science alone get people to properly socially distance and wear masks during a respiratory pandemic? Does science alone stop… anything?
What makes you think educating people that race doesn’t exist will somehow instantly transform centuries of systemic racism and abuses? Doesn't matter the scientific breakthroughs; cultures don't change over night.
White Privilege Blind Spots
Those of us who are white and quickly offended by accusations we’re racists and almost instantly reiterate our long history of and undying support for the marginalized need to let go of our own ancestors’ tragic pasts.
On my father’s side, we have the Irish. Ancestrally, we’re no strangers to oppression. We also are no strangers to the racial discrimination and violence suffered in America, where the Irish and Scottish immigrants were the “white n—” (yeah, I still can’t bring myself to use the “n” word even when it’s contextually appropriate…).
Because of my paternal lineage, I considered myself among the racially marginalized.
On my mother’s side, we have that nomad lineage. My siblings and I grew up being told we were mostly Ukrainian with a tad-bit of Russian. The genetic ancestry, however, paints a different picture, as we’d expect of nomadic tendencies in a family line. On this side, we’re only 2nd generation American.
Following the maternal line, my great-grandparents were both born and raised in the war-torn regions of Ukraine. They lived through and survived back-to-back civil turmoil, invasions, famine (to the point of cannibalism), and witnessing friends and family exterminated first-hand along the way. My great-grandmother additionally survived internment in a Nazi concentration camp.
Somewhere in the tail end of all that was the birth of my grandmother. The family migrated to America a few years later with the ship manifesto showing the family as Polish.
Where my father’s lineage taught me the experiences of being marginalized historically and more recently in America, my grandmother’s lineage taught me we’re definitely among the marginalized, how screwed up the world is, how utterly senseless racism and discrimination on any basis is, and how important it is to fight back now lest it lead to so much worse in a much-sooner-than-you-think later. Oh, and how important it is to have a safe space in the world for targeted people to run to.
I'm realizing now that my white privilege gave space to confusing the experiences of my ancestors with the experiences of people of color whose ancestors experienced similar traumas and injustices. I've been acknowledging the role my ancestral history has in creating empathy, sympathy, compassion, and love for those negatively impacted by the atrocities rained down upon them.
But thinking that my ancestors' lack of participation in the atrocities and this family background somehow puts me on the same page as people of color is naive at best. My ancestors' tragic pasts don't give me license to be complacent in any way.
Instead, this lineage means that I undeniably know better than to allow racism to go unchecked.
Black Culture Experiences Sound A Lot Like Poor Culture
My mistakenly believing I was living on the same marginalized “playing field” of my non-white friends was further ingrained by where I grew up. My earliest years were spent in the slums of Wilmington, DE, where we (young children) all benefited greatly from the inter-city exchange program of the state.
No matter our economic standings, we were getting equal treatment education-wise across the board. The neighborhood I lived in had a playground where kids of all ethnicities played. The local gang members, teens, and adults who might not have been the most law-abiding of citizens made concerted efforts to protect us small kids from witnessing any violence—to include any racially-motivated violence—in and around the playground.
After moving to Maryland and losing that, my family was again living in the slums of the city we resided. Oh, there was clear and definite discrimination and marginalizing going on in that town. But it was based on location.
What neighborhood you lived in made all the difference in how you were treated. Kids who rode our bus but lived just blocks away in a different neighborhood were “mysteriously” treated with a level of kindness and respect not extended to the rest of us.
We were disadvantaged at every opportunity. (Many of us couldn’t afford to play sports. We couldn’t afford to join clubs which required transportation our families couldn’t provide. We couldn’t afford to take driver’s ed and get our driver’s license which would have opened up employment opportunities to better our circumstances.) We were a diverse group of kids of various colors of skin and ancestries.
Were there cases of racism? Absolutely! But they were seen as outliers.
As a group, we were marginalized for being too poor to afford escaping it. Regardless of our racial identities, all of us kids were looked at as lost causes not worth investing in because we were just going to turn into drug addicts and drug dealers.
Again, my white privilege at that time was the ignorance that my friends and peers of color were dealing with this same BS on top of very real dangers based on the color of their skin which they couldn’t hide.
To this day, I can’t even tell you to what degree these additional negative experiences and dangers were for them in our city because—with the exception of just a couple instances I was made aware of—my white privilege left me out of the loop entirely. Unlike me, my non-white peers couldn’t escape through just letting go of the “slang” and masking where they once lived.
They didn't get the opportunity to remain oblivious.
Is This Because I’m a Woman?
I felt my first moment of racial bullshit when it came time for college. Again, poor. Cost of college would ultimately lead to a debt that would require working that would require quitting school and lead to an unpayable debt.
I skipped on that shit. But not before I entertained the idea of scholarships.
This was “back in the day” where to learn about scholarships meant digging through giant books with small font and few spaces between lines to scour for something you can apply for (we had internet, just most of this stuff wasn’t online yet). The searching alone is not a small feat.
It became a disheartening defeat when you realize that your lack of racial minority status left you with a highly competitive list of scholarships that will ultimately rank on factors that bring to mind your more financially well-off white peers. Shit.
Don’t get me wrong. I held no animosity for the various scholarships that existed to help raise my peers of color out of poverty. I possessed enough knowledge of history and statistics that supported the fact that they would have a tougher time overcoming poverty than those of their white peers.
My sad lesson, however, was that there’s no hand up to help the poor white girl who’s very psychological well-being depended on getting the heck out of her parents’ house. So I moved in with my then boyfriend and his family before joining the Army.
Willpower and openness to a different way, not my whiteness, got me out of poverty.
In the same way my whiteness didn’t save me from poverty, it also didn’t save me from nose-diving right back into it again. (Side note: While I take responsibility for the choices I made along the way, each instance of economic downfall can be linked to a cis male in my life at that time.)
At the lowest point, I couldn’t get assistance from anywhere, it seemed. Apparently, selling all your stuff for just enough to get across the country to the non-financial support of family counts as income with which to deny benefits.
In the search for employment, childcare, and assistance before, during, and after a stint in homelessness with a custody battle smack in the middle, I was repeatedly hammered with denials. Again, there’s no hand up for the poor white girl.
No, it wasn’t the other women in shared experiences who were of color receiving the same assistance I was denied that pissed me the fuck off. My whiteness didn’t save me, but my status as a Veteran and past federal civilian employment provided opportunities to me that they wouldn’t have qualified for. I see the balance in that.
What pissed me off was learning that a white man, making more money than me, with less financial costs than me (even factoring for the child support he was paying and that I wasn’t receiving), not only received the assistance I was denied repeatedly for, but also received it without the headaches and struggles and overturned denials my women peers of color had been.
As I rose above the struggles, I connected with other women of various racial identities who’d gone through similar experiences. Again and again, we’d find the unfair disadvantage of being women and, particularly, single-mothers.
I still couldn’t see my white privilege that allowed me to go through all of this without the added struggles and dangers of systemic and blatant racism, but I sure as hell could no longer deny the systemic marginalizing of women that’s still far more prevalent than the women who’d lived through it when it was even worse care to admit.
As a result, I got stuck in a blind spot again by zeroing in on only the marginalization of women in general.
Where I stand now
Like the vast majority of us, I have words and stories that could go on for days. But I won’t. My hope in sharing these selected experiences is that more of us who’ve failed to or can’t see our white privilege can at least start to see it now. It’s there, even if it doesn’t feel like it at first.
I’m realizing, now, how damaging my approach to fighting racism was. I was wrong and reeking of white privilege to just reference the science and call it a day.
I was wrong in failing to acknowledge that those who shared my experiences struggling with poverty and as a woman were going through these experiences to a much worse degree because of the racism they had to face on the daily.
I’ve gone through a lot of really tough fucking shit that I wish on no one. It’s certainly not worse than the shit my great-grandmother went through and I have no right to claim her experiences as my own. And it’s certainly not worse than those of color who’ve gone through much the same as me having to deal with the added struggle of fighting the inherently racist system that has marginalized them far more than it has myself.
They don’t just have ancestral trauma based around their racial identities; they have the traumas directly. They don’t have the privilege of referencing science to attack racism and calling it good.
Perhaps the best metaphor I’ve heard recently is that of the burning house.
My Irish ancestors’ houses were burning when they faced oppression in their homeland and racism when coming to America. My great-grandparents’ houses were burning when they were trapped in Ukraine. My own house has been burning a few times throughout my life. Right now? These fires are out.
But the houses of those who are black, indigenous, and people of color are burning right now. Let’s get those fires out, and standing with Black Lives Matter is where to start.
What I'm Doing to Help
No more silencing race talk. Throwing science at people doesn’t address the cultural and societal issues at play.
I’m still processing. Learning. Growing. Seeing in what other ways I’ve been blind to my white privilege I failed to recognize existed.
The best way to learn is to engage: Allow and promote discussions about race, listen, take it in, self-reflect, adjust behaviors. Doubly-important, I'm bringing my young child into this conversation now so he can grow up a strong ally in the fight against racism.
As I learn, I promise to update this post and welcome feedback to both guide my learning, recognize changes I need to make to support you, and create a better resource to help others become stronger allies in the fight against racism.
Incorporate into magickal practice. What good is being a Witch if we fail to do our job of assisting the marginalized? What good is having the ability to create changes in the real world if it’s not used to make the world better for all?
I've been feeling a shift coming in my magickal style and routines and this is the change: Ensuring that my regular magickal practice focuses on social causes, creating more harmony and love and compassion in the world with an end goal of unity, while also dismantling the racism, violence, and hatred to get it out of the way.
Stand with Black Lives Matter. Stand with BIOPC. Donate to causes. Look into where and to who you’re giving your money when shopping.
I've already been looking into companies and stores that align with my values and making changes a little at a time. Now, I'm taking a broader view at where I'm already spending money, whether that's on food, hygiene products, household items, magickal tools and supplies, or my charitable donations.
How diverse is the population your money is going to? Does your spending habits match your values, ethics, and morals? Are you modeling wise, community-conscious choices for your children? These are the kinds of questions I'm asking myself now.
Pass Along Resources. Sometimes, this may be the only thing we can do in the moment. It may not seem much, but can be super powerful in itself.
In business and marketing, the number one, best advertising that draws revenue is word of mouth. This is the same for powerful grassroots movements. It's equally true for sweeping cultural changes.
When we share a resource, we are drawing attention to it. Those whose attention is captured and turn around and share it again draw even more attention to it. The more we share diverse and anti-racist resources, the more we help in changing the system for the better.
Need some resources yourself? See the list below. This is a living document, so expect this resource list to grow! (And feel free to make suggestions!)
Movements, Organizations, & Ways to Donate
Articles, blogs, & resources for learning:
Additional lists of resources and guides:
Say their names.
Police brutality. Murder. Suicide. Causes and circumstances of death may vary, but the racism inherent in the system that ultimately led to their deaths must be corrected. Remember them.
Addie Mae Collins
Aiyana Stanley Jones
Albert Joseph Davis
Antwon Rose II
Asshams Pharoah Manley
Benni Lee Tignor
Billy Ray Davis
Brian Keith Day
Carol Denis McNair
Clinton R. Allen
Danroy “DJ” Henry Jr.
Derrick Ambrose Jr.
Dominique “Rem’Mie” Fells
James Byrd Jr.
James Lee Alexander
James N. Powell Jr.
John Crawford III
Karvas Gamble Jr.
Keith Childress Jr.
Keith Harrison Mcleod
Marcus Deon Smith
Martin Lee Anderson
Martin Luther King Jr, Dr.
Michael Lee Marshall
Michael Lorenzo Dean
Nathaniel Harris Pickett
Nicholas Heyward Jr.
Oscar Grant III
Reginald Doucet Jr.
Ryan Matthew Smith
Victor Duffy Jr.
Victor Maneul Larosa
Victor White III
Walter Wallace Jr.
Wayne Arnold Jones
William Chapman II