In the scheme of things it’s a small thing, really. There’s so much that comes together to subvert and destroy what is an essential movement to develop…white people coming together en masse to work toward racial justice. But, I just bumped into myself again, and came face to face with one aspect that I don’t hear talked about nearly enough.
Many of us (white folks) feel like if we can’t be like the premiere, perfect anti-racist person then we might as well give up. (Yes, I know that privilege oozes out of that statement and could rightly be considered the most important aspect to discuss. But, that’s where my conversations with other white people trying to act responsibly usually go.) What I don’t hear very often is the discussion over what sets that feeling in motion.
For example, last night I sat down to offer up a post. As a newbie in this realm I wanted to link up my topic to Tim Wise because I respect his work and often find his analysis more well-crafted than my own. I learn from him…and I think plenty of other people should too.
But, as I cruised his blog (Tim’s Main Blog) and saw how much he really offers, the feeling swept over me…what in the world do I have to contribute? How could my voice possibly add in a beneficial way and not just be unhelpful clutter? My sense of self sank and I ended up not writing a post. In fact, I sank into a sense of personal self-pity that left me unmotivated to do the other work I’d intended to do that night.
Why is that a big deal? It’s because my lack of motivation for doing my own work showed up because I was in some way disappointed at not being at a Tim Wise level.
Again, I’m already recognizing that it’s a privilege position to even sit and reflect this way…to have the time and opportunity to follow my own emotional self-pity into laziness and not have it adversely affect my life.
And, yet, I think there’s something to be gained by realizing that if there are lots of people doing what I’m doing then we need to really deal with it. If I (and others) can resist entering that place of “well he’s doing so much…I can’t do what he does…so I’ll just go over here and sulk” then maybe, just maybe, we’ll be more likely to resist our privilege to do nothing and figure out a way to contribute in our own way.
After a night of destructive thinking, I awoke this morning realizing how much that tendency to compare might be stopping people from taking up action.
Although it remains true that I respect Tim’s essay-writing capabilities and appreciate that his voice is in the world, I also have to remind myself that there’s room for ALL white people to find their unique voice and speak out about racism, privilege, and how we can work more effectively for racial justice…in our own, hopefully continually improving, way.
For me, today, more effectively means that I search within myself for my own offering to the conversation without worrying whether or not I’ve achieved my perfection standard. Yes, I’ll make mistakes. Yes, there will be times when I add to the clutter. But, my belief must be that struggling to learn and speak about how white privilege and whiteness show up in my life and how I allow them to derail my efforts at times can perhaps shed a bit of light, on occasion, and perhaps, just perhaps, support others to do the following: Stop the comparison. Use our voices. Speak out against privilege whenever and wherever possible. Create community around our attempts at subverting racism. And, stop the cycle where we as white folks allow ourselves to turn away from working at racial justice (even for a moment) because of our own insecurities.