Amy C. Willis
Unpacking White Privilege: Resources for Your Anti-Racism Journey
Updated: Jul 6, 2020
These are the names that represent (some of) the Black folx who have recently been murdered at the hands of police officers in North America. To be shocked, saddened and distraught is expected; these folx were murdered because of their skin colour. If you aren’t angry and upset, I would strongly encourage you to take some time to reflect on why it is you feel okay with this and how your white privilege has contributed to your capacity to be fine with an extremely horrific and unjust situation.
Police brutality, violence and murder of and against Black communities is not new. It is largely because of camera phones that we are now seeing with our own eyes the devastation and brutality that Black folx and communities have been experiencing for centuries.
As a white woman, I am incredibly upset about what’s happening. I can no longer remain silent and passively watch what’s happening in the world. I have written this article as a resource for other white folx in an effort to challenge our collective white privilege and dismantle white supremacy and systemic racism.
I want to start by saying that I am not an anti-racism educator or expert. With the recent (but not new) flurry of police brutality and violence against Black folx, I feel as though a switch has been flipped in me. While thinking critically about racism, white supremacy and my own deeply rooted privilege as a white person aren’t new to me, I want to acknowledge that I have been passive and frankly, lazy, in the actions (or more appropriately, inactions) that I’ve taken in recent years. And that stops now. I felt inspired to not only write something but to share some of the incredible resources that have been recommended and created by a variety of Black folx. If you know anything about me as a coach and entrepreneur, you know that I often share what I’m in the deep work of in my own life. And this is no exception. My intention in creating this article was to house a variety of resources in one place so you could save or return to this as you progress in your anti-racism journey. I have been swimming in books, articles, videos, podcasts, organizations, social posts for the last several days and while I’m grateful for the abundance of incredible content, I have also found it overwhelming. Because overwhelm often results in paralysis, I wanted to share things that have been helpful for me and where I’m at in the hopes that they will be helpful for you as well. Being overwhelmed and paralyzed in this moment isn’t helpful for anyone.
I have included book recommendations, podcasts, articles and online resources, folx to follow on Instagram, action steps you can take immediately as well as “dos and don’ts.” This article is not meant to be exhaustive by any stretch of the imagination. Instead, it’s merely a reflection of where I’m at right now and some of the resources I’ve been learning from. My journey in anti-racism work and in unpacking my white privilege is in its infancy and far from perfect. I know that I will make mistakes along the way so know that I’m here for your feedback and to learn and adjust moving forward. Also, I understand that as a white person interested in anti-racism work, unpacking my privilege and dismantling white supremacy, it is my job to talk to other white people about race and racism.
The resources below are comprised of almost entirely Black folx/voices. In the case of the book recommendations, they are books that repeatedly came up over and over in my research and again, have been recommended by Black folx. I typically do not make book recommendations without having read the books personally but this is an exception to that guideline. I have read some of the books on this list and am committed to reading them all and others.
Unpacking white privilege is not a singular act and cannot be treated like a checklist. This is not a one-and-done effort; it is a lifelong pursuit that will require a lot of discomfort, tons of listening and also knowing when to be quiet, getting right with being wrong, learning from your errors and trying again, taking risks and continuing to show up even/especially when it’s inconvenient. Anti-racism work and the work of dismantling white privilege and white supremacy is an on-going, ever-evolving process. This is a marathon, not a sprint. And this is just the beginning. As Audre Lord famously wrote: “Revolution is not a one-time event.”
Let’s get into it.
Reading and educating yourself by learning about the lived experiences of Black people is essential as is understanding the history we have behind us and how it informs and shapes the society we live in today.
Sister Outsider by Audre Lorde
Are Prisons Obsolete? By Angela Y. Davis
Me and White Supremacy: Combat Racism, Change the World and Become a Good Ancestor by Layla F. Saad
So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo
When They Call You a Terrorist by Patrisse Cullors and asha bandele
The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander
White Rage by Carol Anderson
Between Me and the World by Ta-Nehisi Coates
White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Race by Robin DiAngelo
Redefining Realness: My Path to Womanhood, Identity, Love, and So Much More by Janet Mock
Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson
How to Be An Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi
I’m Still Here: Black Dignity in a World Made for Whiteness by Austin Channing Brown
The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
Wherever possible, please consider purchasing these books (to support the authors who put a ton of intellectual and emotional labour into their work) and again, if possible, purchasing these books from your local bookstore. And if you’re not in a position to do so financially, check your local library (and if it doesn’t have the book you’re looking for, reach out to them and request they purchase copies) and consider purchasing the book at a later date.
Pod Save the People
Speaking of Racism
White Fragility with Rachel Cargle & Robin Diangelo on Call Your Girlfriend
Doing anti-racism work with Rachel Ricketts on RECLAIM
Articles & Online Resources
Welcome to the Anti-Racist Movement - Here’s What You’ve Missed by Ijeoma Oluo (linked from Rachel Rickett’s website)
White Fragility and the Rules of Engagement by Dr. Robin Diangelo (linked from Rachel Rickett’s website)
Do the Work: An Anti-Racist Reading List by Layla F. Saad
How to Create Diversity Within Your Online Business by Rachel Rodgers
The Anti-Racist Small Business Town Hall & Pledge by Rachel Rodgers
Holy shit, being an ally isn’t about me! By Real Talk: WOC & Allies (linked from Rachel Rickett’s website)
75 Things White People Can Do for Racial Justice by Corinne Shutack
Anti-Racist Checklist for Whites by Dr. Robin Diangelo (adapted from Dr. John Raible, linked from Rachel Rickett’s website)
Racism Defined by Dismantling Racism Works (linked from Rachel Rickett’s website)
The Root (website and newsletter) Black Lives Matter (website)
**Many of the people listed under “Folx to Follow” or those who have written books on this list above have websites with a variety of resources as well as newsletters you can sign up to receive so I would encourage you to do some research on your own. Many of them also have podcasts, too.
When They See Us (Netflix)
American Son (Netflix)
Self Made (Netflix)
See You Yesterday (Netflix)
The Hate U Give (Cinemax)
Dear White People (Netflix)
Just Mercy (Warner Brothers, free to watch for the month of June 2020 on Apple TV, Google Play and Amazon Prime)
Bryan Stevenson’s TED Talk “We need to talk about an injustice”
What we consume in terms of media and entertainment is important to pay close attention to. As Brandon Goodman has said in a recent IGTV video on his channel: “If you’re not consciously consuming, you’re unconsciously absorbing racism & white supremacy.” He couldn’t be more right. Notice what your top 5 fave shows are and ask yourself: How many Black people are on the show? How big are their roles? What type of characters do they play? Do these characters perpetuate any stereotypes?
Folx to Follow (on Instagram)
Black Lives Matter (Global and be sure to look for your local chapter)
I want it to be clear that in offering the names listed above, that simply going and following them is not sufficient. By following them, you are there to witness, listen, learn and importantly, take action in your life based off of what you learned. Passively observing or following BIPOC (Black Indigenous People of Colour) does not ensure that you’re anti-racist. Whatever you do, please, please, PLEASE don’t reach out to them personally for guidance, recommendations or to unburden yourself of your feelings. See more about this in the Do’s & Don’ts section below.
Since we’re on the topic of social media, if you participated in #blackouttuesday by posting a black square to your profile, please know that your work is far from done. If this was the only action that you’ve taken so far, please know that your anti-racism work hasn’t actually begun and consider the idea that you may have missed the larger point behind the movement. If this is you, please take a second and Google “performative allyship” and spend some time with the materials you find.
Also, if you are following any Black folx on Instagram and find their content helpful/valuable, pay them for it. If you are passively consuming their ideas, thoughts and the labour that went into the contributions that they’re freely putting into the world, compensate them for their work.
How and where you spend your money matters. There are a lot of anti-racist organizers doing really important (read: life and death) work around the world (though especially in North America right now) and providing financial support to sustain that work is really helpful and necessary. Again, this is not a one-and-done action; yes, donations are important and necessary but making a singular donation and mentally washing your hands of the situation moving forward is not only problematic but an exercise in white privilege. Below is a list of great options that could benefit from your donation. I would also encourage you (as with all things) to do your own research and figure out which organizations best align with your values. And when thinking about making a donation, again, it’s not just about providing support in the current moment but stepping back and understanding that the impacts of systemic racism and white supremacy and access to resources is a far-reaching issue that ripples out into all areas of life for many Black folx.
Black Lives Matter (global movement)
BLM Toronto Covid-19 Emergency Support Fund
Black Legal Action Centre (Ontario)
Black Youth Helpline (Canada)
Women’s Health in Women’s Hands
Do’s & Don’ts
Listen, listen, listen and learn/unlearn from Black folx
Shine some light on your implicit bias. If you’re white, you have bias and privilege. The sooner you accept that, the easier this work will be.
Put in the time to learn and listen before acting. Sometimes there is a strong inclination to act immediately but without having done any listening and learning, you will likely perpetuate problematic behaviours that do more harm than good
Bring the conversation of race, racism, white supremacy and white privilege to your white friends. Talk about what’s happening right now, your role in upholding white supremacy and what you plan on doing to change it.
Always consider intention versus impact when speaking and taking action. Often, we are well-intended however, the impact of our words and actions can have a negative impact so applying the intention vs impact filter to your actions can be quite helpful
Get comfortable being uncomfortable. Anti-racism work and the work involved in unpacking your privilege should feel uncomfortable as a white person. If this process becomes comfortable for you, please understand that as a sign that you need go deeper in your work
Reference the “White Supremacy/White Privilege Iceberg” often and hold it up against your thoughts, beliefs and actions. Often times, we think that the only kind of racism that exists is the extreme and overt versions of it; however, in reality, there are numerous ways in which white supremacy is upheld through insidious and subtle micro-aggressions that may appear innocuous on the surface but are far from it
Understand that you’re going to make mistakes and be prepared to hear feedback/criticism about them. Take the feedback, learn from it and try again
Take every opportunity to can to share your privilege with BIPOC
Take responsibility for your own learning and education
Don’t reach out to your Black/BIPOC friends and barf your feelings of guilt, embarrassment and shame on them in the hopes that they will assuage you and make you feel better. This is not their job and they are likely dealing with the intensity of their own feelings of grief, sadness, anger and beyond, on top of the relatively constant threat of oppression, micro-aggressions and violence
Don’t reach out to your Black/BIPOC friends and ask them what you can do/ask them to educate you. Again, this is not their job. As my bestie Alana said in a recent conversation: “Don’t ask Black people to educate you on white supremacy. They’re not the experts; you are.” We live in the age of info abundance and greater access to info than ever before so please take advantage of this and do some digging on your own. This document is an great starting point for your work in anti-racism.
Don’t question or challenge a Black person when you hear them expressing their thoughts, feelings or experiences as they pertain to racism, white supremacy or racial injustice. A huge part of challenging your white privilege is listening, witnessing and knowing when to be quiet. Challenging a Black person on their feelings or experiences as a Black person is you exercising your privilege. Don’t do that.
Don’t engage in anti-racism work with the expectation of getting a pat on the back. This work is the bare minimum that we can do to contribute to the dismantling of a problematic, racist system that we historically and currently benefit from in massive ways. Also recognize that the work that we’re doing isn’t actually about us or our egos so please don’t expect a cookie for your contributions. As Ijeoma Oluo frankly states about white supremacy: “If we have to live it, the least you can do is Google it.”
Actions You Can Take Now
Google petitions in your area in support of racial justice including things like: defunding the police, requests for inquests into racist and problematic behaviour on behalf of the police and government, bringing charges against police officers responsible for the deaths of Black folx. Here’s a petition you can sign to support justice for Breonna Taylor who was shot 8 times and murdered in her Louisville, Kentucky home by the police, who have yet to be charged for this crime. Today (June 5th, 2020) would have been Breonna’s 27th birthday. Add your name to this petition and others and share them amongst your friends.
Bring the conversation of racism and white supremacy into your relationships and have frank, honest convos with the white folx in your life.
Address comments, jokes, and actions that perpetuate racism and white supremacy. It will be uncomfortable and that’s okay. This is the work in action.
Reflect on your life: do you have BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Colour) friends? Do most of your friends look like you? Do you follow and respect the contributions of BIPOC on social media? Do you read books by BIPOC authors? Do you watch tv shows that centre the diverse experiences of BIPOC? What charities and organizations do you donate to? If you’re an entrepreneur, do you intentionally work to amplify the voices and experiences of Black folx? Do you emphasize diversity and inclusion in your work? If you have a podcast, do your guests reflect the diversity of experiences that exist in the world? Nothing in your life happens by chance; your life is a story and you are the author so if your life is lacking in diversity and experiences that highlight the lives of BIPOC, it’s time to create meaningful change in your world.
Educate yourself. This document is a great starting point.
LISTEN LISTEN LISTEN to the experiences and stories offered by BIPOC. Hear them, honour them and where appropriate, amplify them. Learn and discern when it's appropriate to speak up and when it’s appropriate to shut up. It's not our job to speak on behalf of Black folx (Google “white saviour”) but it is our job to speak up in support of them when we witness injustices and micro-aggressions take place.
Enrol in (and pay for) anti-racism courses and webinars offered by Black folx
I’m going to stop here. I have hopefully offered you not only a lot to think about but a variety of diverse resources and actions that can be taken by you as you begin (or continue) your anti-racism journey. If you’re a white person and you have questions about anything in this article or about anti-racism and your role in white supremacy, please reach out to me directly at email@example.com and we can chat.
White folx: Let’s get to work.