The “Other” White People: Reasons to Talk with “Racists”

You’re a good white person. You posted “Black Lives Matter” signs or memes. Your heart has been in the right place from the moment you became aware that something was rotten in the state of melanation. Since Derek Chauvin murdered George Floyd, you’ve become even more concerned about the state of Black lives in the United States of America.

So when your high school friend Susie, your cousin Fred, or your uncle Rob counter your Black Lives Matter posts with “All Lives Matter,” “Blue Lives Matter,” or “God takes care of all things, leave it to Him,” what do you do? Ignore them? Unfriend them? Argue? Get reinforcement for your anger from your like-minded friends?

White man looking seriously at person with blond hair
Photo by Joshua Santos on Pexels

Here’s why it’s vital to stay in connected dialogue with “racists” near and far, especially when we find their view on race repugnant:

  1. You’re in a unique position to engage with them. They will listen more to you than to the average person on the street.
Back of white woman’s head looking at blurry white man
Back of white woman’s head looking at blurry white man

Instead of our usual knee-jerk reactions, here are some things we might say:

  1. Hey. I’m not pretending I have answers to all of this, but can we take a look at it together?

Notice that these are all questions, not statements. They need to be followed by empathic listening. They could start a dialogue. That dialogue could be transformative.

Here are a few reasons it might feel hard to do that:

  1. We don’t want to associate ourselves with “them”.

If our true motive is transformation of white supremacy, not simply dissociation from the “other white people,” we have work to do. We need to find ways to move beyond dissociating ourselves with those humans who most obviously express white supremacy. We need to start dismantling the white supremacy that lives within us, as well as the ancestral, emotional, and social structures that hold it in place.

It won’t be easy. But if we’re sincere about dismantling white supremacy, this is a vital piece of the work: engaging from a grounded, centered place with the “other white people” who are simply reflecting more clearly that very same system that creates us all. Come to an event and learn more

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