Me & White Supremacy final days

My journey with the #meandwhitesupremacy challenge is complete. Of course this work is really just beginning. A deep bow to Layla F. Saad for shepherding us through this journey. Subscribe to her mailing list to find out when the book will become available.

Day 26: Me & My Values

What are my values?

I value self reflection and self study. Completing this challenge has been living in alignment with this value and desire to know myself. Devoting a dedicated amount of time to do the work and dig deep. However as is apparent from the past days I have not been regularly engaging in anti-racism work in this way. I’ve been guilty of spiritual bypassing, I’m already part of the choir so this work is not for me, I have other areas to work on right now so I dont need to show up for this work in this way. I have missed opportunities to know myself better because I was deflecting my energy into other concerns. Workaholism. Parties. Relationships. I always come back to my writing as the key back into myself and this value.

I value honesty and integrity. Living in alignment with this value one hundred percent of the time is impossible for a mere mortal like me. However it is a good measuring stick to come back to and hold my actions against. When I look at the writing from earlier in the challenge I am aware that my actions have not measured up. Radical truth speaking requires so much vulnerability to hold space for what is outside of the narratives I have created about the kind of person I am. Speaking truth to myself about what is in my mind is the first step to acting with integrity. I also acknowledge that my white silence is deadly, and to act with integrity means to speak to white power within each other not speaking over BIPOC as another white saviour.

I value compassion and loving kindness. I know that the actions, beliefs, bias, attitudes, and words described in this challenge are not in alignment with this value. I know that paralyzing guilt and excessive self flagellation is also not in alignment with this value. Kindness that come from a desire to appear good and not to spread love is not in alignment with this value. The desire to only see love and not look at the hard ugly truths is not in alignment with this value. The desire to center only self compassion, only my own experiences of compassion at the expense of others, is not in alignment with this value.

I value creativity. Living a creative life is the ability to look at how things are and imagine them differently. The difference between dreamers and artists is those that put actions behind their imagination. There is an incredible amount of responsibility as such for artists to spend time pushing the limits of our imagination and unpacking our unconscious bias. Because the narratives we tell collectively matter. The stories we repeat to each other. the jokes we tell. The songs we sing. They shape our collective conciousness, and without taking personal responsibility for the baggage that we are dragging into that creative realm. My creative practice has not always been engaged in anti oppression work. I have not done my due diligence to do my own anti racism work when working with BIPOC collaborators. I have not fully taken responsibility for my actions. Which relates to the next one…

I value justice. This is a value I have been personally grappling with of late. Justice looks at right versus wrong, good prevails over evil, fighting for what is fair and right always and absolutely is. This is an idea I have inherited in my blood. I can’t name where I learned about it or why it lights such a fiery ball of rage in my core. But I don’t think it is a helpful value. That much repressed anger leaks out in all the most ugly violent ways. The world has never been just. Mercy is the value I would like to welcome in its place. Mercy opens the door on forgiveness. Perhaps that is a selfish value to wish for in light of the writing I have done, the justice that should be dealt my way. I dont have an answer to that right now. Currently I still think I deserve that justice in my heart of hearts. And yet I pray for mercy.

I value selfless service. I believe we are on this planet to serve. A higher purpose. Survival of the species. Cosmic collision course in destiny. Doesn’t matter what it is attributed to. Acts of selfless service are love incarnate and are the motor beneath life itself. In the context of white supremacy I have not been of service to dismantling these powers of oppression. I have put my self interest ahead of the greater good. I long to do better.

I value community and accountability. Again writing these reflections has been in alignment with this value. I appreciate all of the people who have reached out to talk about the challenge with me. To hold me and each other accountable. Doing this work isnt about getting a cookie for having the right answer, but it is so rewarding to hold each other up in this hard process of learning and reprogramming.

I value respect for all beings. I have never lived fully in alignment with this value. Not in the context of white supremacy, not in the context of environmentalism, not in any context of life. But it is something to work towards. It is something to hold to be true to shine light in the darkness.

I value the interconnected web of life. This challenge has illuminated this so much more deeply for me. We are connected by years of socialization that I wasnt even aware of. That socialization has wide spread consequences and realities for all of us. I want to continue that work of understanding how deeply those connections run. The world is my classroom; learning all of the time.

Ultimately, I believe in the power of creative transformation. I have the power to transform these attitudes, behaviours, bias, and actions. You do too. Collectively we can evolve past this moment in time and write a new chapter together.

Day 27: Me & Losing Privilege

I am a white settler in the Western Canadian bible belt. I have been given many privileges directly, indirectly, inherited, and newly bestowed because of the skin I was born in and the way I was socialized. I have actively participated in protecting these privileges at the expense of BIPOC. The extent of which I was not fully aware of at the beginning of this challenge, and to which I may never be able to fully fathom. However I can begin by taking responsibility now to learn to let go of these unearned privileges. Even while making the decision to consciously act to lose privilege I must acknowledge that on some level it is going to be impossible to lose all white privilege. I can work towards dismantling the systems that make this true, but it also runs incredibly deep and will not disappear in my lifetime. I can still work towards that goal. Some privileges that I can begin giving up right away are the privilege of silence and apathy on matters of racism. These are both predicated on my own personal comfort inside of white supremacist society over the greater good. I can begin to let go of those privileges by knowingly stepping into the uncomfortable knowledge of how racism is implicated in daily life. I can begin by making more time to stay informed with current events and the hidden histories that have created these conditions, and reflect on my personal role in each. I can speak up when I am in white only spaces including family gatherings that are encouraging white solidarity and complacency. This is the bare minimum sort of effort to show up in conversations of race not just when people are watching (optical allyship) or to turn performing the bare minimum into a martyr situation where I’m here to save the helpless and be validated for my efforts. The small sacrafice of comfort and complacency is the easiest place to start. The second way in which I can step outside of my white privilege is in the access and accumulation of wealth and resources. I regularly make a point to donate to kickstarter campaigns, charities, and advocacy organizations. However I don’t feel that the occasional contribution is doing enough. I don’t lose any privilege, and a lot of the time it is a token gesture to assauge white guilt and for optical allyship points. I need to look more deeply at the ways in which I earn that money, what I prioritize spending it on, and how those things may be supporting white supremacy. Right away I can make more efforts to research and support small local businesses that are owned and operated by BIPOC, or at least not ones that are actively displacing or erasing BIPOC. I can seek out other ways to be materially of service to BIPOC activists and advocates in their work that accept more personal risk than financial contributions, although not to say I will stop contributing either. I will not apply for any further public funding as a white artist that has already been given a stable financial position to build my practice from. I will not accept sponsorship money from businesses and organizations that up hold white supremacist values. I will seek ways to support BIPOC collaborators better materially in my creative practice that doesn’t end in offering them a pay cheque to tokenize their work for my project or goals. This brings me to the third privilege that I want to step outside of, my assumed white superiority and white centering in leadership roles. I have seen myself as a leader and actively pursued leadership roles since a very young age. I need to reconsider my need to assume this role or what I think that means, and do the work to be leading by example not by leaning on white privileges. Affirmative action has most benefited cis white women like me, and I can’t ignore the impact that has had on me directly. I need to work harder to take responsibility for my actions in order to escape this sort of white feminism brand of equality. I’ve got by being a well spoken white person that understands Roberts rules of order and can lean on the existing dynamics of power to use to my advantage, but I want to A) unlearn these colonial principles of hierarchical management and B) make a point of following more BIPOC leaders rather than bemoaning they dont exist from where I stand. Following Layla’s leadership through this challenge taught me so much, and I know there are countless others like her including many local activists and advocate and teachers. Choosing to seek out their work and follow their lead instead of creating another project that I am at the centre of is not just a nice change of pace but an important part of letting go of privileges that centre my white experience.

Day 28: Me & My Commitments

3 concrete actions undertake in the next 2 weeks that will put me out of my comfort zone and continue the work started. I’m tagging Sarah as my accountability buddy but pls everyone is invited to check in with me if you are interested.

1) I’m committing to reading authors I’ve been “meaning to read” and get serious about learning more about the foundations of racism this country is built on. In the next two weeks I will be putting together a list of books (an unschoolers curriculum if you will) for the coming year. I invite white friends interested in reading along with me to join me book club style so we can discuss and hold each other accountable. If you have suggestions of books for the list lmk.

2) I’m going to support Layla, Leesna and Rachel on patron to continue to support their work financially in gratitude for the learning I have received from them. I’m going to continue to write once a week reflections to continue to hold myself accountable. I will continue to find ways to show up for the work that they share on their platforms.

3) I’m committing to visiting the Justice for Our Stollen Children camp and finding a way to materially support their work. I’ve been bystanding this work in my own backyard liking & sharing on Facebook, but this is not enough.

4) I’m going to follow up on the creative project that has left me feeling most uncomfortable with my colonial creative practice in light of this challenge. I’m going to write letters acknowledging and apologizing for any actions or words that may have done harm, and commit to changing how I approach this kind of work in the future.

5) finally I’m going to commit to re-reading what I wrote during the challenge. I took a long time to finish this work, and some of those earlier posts were over a month ago. As the second part of this prompt is about identifying how I can commit to change in a more on going way I want to revisit what I wrote to highlight the patterns.

These are the concreate goals that I am committed to completing by September 10th 2018. The other more on going commitments I am going to be meditating on and will share at the end of this 2 week digestion period. The first one is that I commit to not looking away from this work. I am committing to making anti-racism work a central pillar of my self development, and an on going practice. I can’t unsee what I have learnt about myself over this challenge, but it will be easy to slip back into old habits. I commit to the vigilance required to hold myself to higher standards, and to cultivate the support in my peers to do this work so that BIPOC do not need to bare the brunt of my ignorance. Along with the areas I have highlighted yesterday, I will continue to add to these commitments as a life long practice.

Advertisements
Standard

Me and My Community

This writing represents days 22 though 25 of the You & White Supremacy challenge by Layla f. Saad aka Wild Mystic Woman. She has helped me go deeply into myself and look at some ugly truths about my relationship to White Supremacy. This challenge began on Instagram where you can follow the hashtag #meandwhitesupremacy to see what others have wrote. Currently the challenge is closed and not accepting new joiners. However you can subscribe to Layla’s mailing list to find out when she publishes it into a workbook of the same name. For BIPOC that may be reading this there may be triggering things discussed here in, and so just be aware of prioritizing your own self care.

Day 22: Me & White Feminism

When I first learnt about feminism I was against the idea entirely. As I slowly opened my eyes to the fact that there might be some merit to a discussion of gender based discrimination I specifically only entertained the idea for white women. The goal was still to be as successful/powerful/rich as white men, so BIWOC just had to learn to assimilate into white culture properly to get to where I was then we could smash the patriarchy together. I didn’t consciously think I was better than BIWOC, but statistically I was better off so there must be some reason right? I hadn’t heard of white privilege yet. Today I am uncomfortable calling myself an intersectional feminist. Not because I dont believe in the importance of intersectional politics, but because I dont think I am informed on them. I still mainly learn about feminism based on what effects me and my friends. I have a wider social circle than I did as a teenager so the things that I learn about are also wider, but it is motivated by learning how to be a better friend not how to be an intersectional feminist. Why dont I want to put in the work to learn enough to call myself intersectional? Because I am afraid of getting it wrong and using a label that doesn’t actually reflect how I operate in the world. I organized a feminist arts festival in 2011, and although the event itself was a success, the politics behind the scenes were not. My collaborator called me out/in on having a shallow understanding of feminism. How she did not feel comfortable with some of the marketing messages I had been circulating. It’s been nearly a decade, and I dont remember the specifics of what either of us said, but it was the first time it occurred to me that different women experience feminism differently. I thought that by giving all women the opportunity to share their stories we could create more equal representation in media (one of my primary concerns as an actor), but I didn’t consider the different barriers preventing women from being heard and making art beyond just having the airtime to do so. There was one single mom in the festival who couldnt afford to have her pictures framed and wasnt sure how she was going to be able to show them. We didn’t have resources at the time to help her overcome the financial barriers to showing her work. There was another recently immigrated woman that approached me at work that wanted to apply, but she didn’t speak very much English and I wasn’t sure how to begin to help her get her access to materials and time to get her artwork into the festival. In the end the event felt unsatisfactory, and we did not continue. Organizing successful events is easy for me, but I didn’t have the skills to actually create meaningful change. So I gave up. I burnt out rather. I stopped working actively on anything feminist related for years. Today I am cautious about getting involved in activist circles and falling into those same blind spots. That caution is a safety net that prevents me from spending months worth of resources on projects with no tangible social benefit, but it also protects me from taking any risks or putting my neck on the line for anyone else. I’ve recognized for a while that racism and ableism are two of my biggest blind spots, and I’ve slowly been taking time to educate myself, but I am sure I still prioritize white feminism in more ways than I realize. Even in my decision to take a step back from collectively organizing to focus on getting my life together. I spoke about earlier using self care as an avoidance technique rather than a tool to repair and keep working on the deeper issues.

Day 23: Me & White Leaders

I try to vote for politicians that make promises about better relationships with indigenous peoples, refugees and new Canadians. But this is the first election where my vote has actually elected anyone. I dont feel like I have done due diligence following up to see if my picks are working for me. I just assume that anyone is better than Harper. I feel like the box checking approach to political platforms carries over to other kinds of white leaders. When I’ve heard white leaders that are currently employing me say misdirected and racist things I’ve generally swallowed it as a means of getting to the next pay cheque. But even when there are white leaders that I am paying to follow their teachings or leadership it’s hard to call out or educate because of the sunk cost investment. I’ve been in the situation where I know I can feel in my bones that what you are saying is incorrect and dehumanizing in some way, but think to myself that I can set that aside to take away the “other parts” of what they are saying. As if it is as simple as spitting out the watermelon seeds. It is hard to renounce one part of what they are saying but accept another part. Inevitably either I walk away from the whole thing silently distancing myself or smile and nod endorsing something that I know isnt right in my gut. When I’m looking for people to collaborate with or learn from politics is definitely one of the first things I look at, but usually through a white feminist lens like I discussed yesterday. If I’m only holding people up to the knowledge I already have that aligns with the beliefs I already hold I’m going to end up continuing to follow a lot of these behaviours I’ve outlined earlier in the challenge. When I am in positions of leadership I want to work with a diverse team, where everyone has creative control of their work and their narrative, but when push comes to shove I want to be in charge calling the shots. I’ve struggled with where that comes from, a desire to serve with the skills I have, or reinforcing colonial narratives of power and control. The desire to be the bitch in charge carrying a clipboard and long jacket is celebrated in white feminism, but is filled with loaded histories of nuns in residential schools, slavemasters and lady of the house, all manners of government agency workers just following orders. It’s a desire to be seen as competant in the eyes of patriarchal white supremacist ideas of order and civilization. Its beyond doing a good job for the sake of doing a good job, but subscribing to the sanctity of duty over human qualities of compassion, sharing, and mercy. Not that I always participate to that level, but that is what is intoxicating about that particular idea of leader. A leader that follows orders. Rather than carve a new path.

Day 24: Me & My Friends

I’ve noticed myself avoiding this prompt like the plague. I’ve also had a very busy week, but this is a hard one to answer. So lets look at that.

Looking at the circles of friends I frequent they are very white, and I can say this is not intentional but there is also clearly an unconscious bias that causes me to seek out mainly white social spaces. When I am with my theatre peers there is a lot of head shaking about “diversity” and “inclusion” and “who gets to tell this story”, but I feel like very little action. I participate in these conversation with my theatre friends in efforts to try to unpack some of the very colonial patriarchal racist practices of theatre, however a lot of the conversations amount to nothing more than virtue signaling and tokenizing the work of companies like GTNT. Often repeating the same tired lines about how things should be without a very serious look at why they are how they are. This is a form of white solidarity by agreeing to talk about the problem of race in a certain way that codes the obvious lack of diversity on stage and shifts the blame onto the victims of the oppressive dynamics that me and my white peers are benefiting from. We celebrate white feminist productions as diversity even though our success is largely built by adhering to certain aspects of white patriarchal structures such as traditional white beauty standards or access to disposable income/family money. In my music circles of friends there are a lot more activists who have lots of things to say about the lack of diversity in the scene and seem more willing to engage in grassroots change. However I also see that small group of people making slow change if any, and I dont do anything to help beyond a like on Facebook and another white body at a show. I see their work and I think that is good they are doing it, but that it’s not for me because it doesn’t play to my skills which is a coded way for me to center my whiteness again by only getting involved in projects that I personally benefit from/impact me. I have rarely called out or in a friend or accquaitance in the music scene because I view myself as outside of it as a passive consumer rather than influencer or activist only here to have a good time. In my yoga and hippie circles the whiteness feels the most enforced. There seems to be the least willingness to openly discuss race or white privilege or appropriation. There tends to be more focus on individualism than community. There also tends to be more focus on profit and branding. When I am in these spaces sometimes I like to stir the pot and ask questions that are intentionally drawing attention to the whiteness of it all, but usually I lack the skill knowledge self awareness or willpower to follow it up with any kind of meaningful exchange. I have tended to escape the uncomfortable feeling these social spaces bring in me by practicing alone at home. However even if I pursue these things alone I am still part of a white culture that is fueled on cultural appropriation, genocide, and white privilege. The cognitive dissonance in this area is one of the main reasons that I began to seek out more information, but I have not reached out to local practitioners to learn and have these conversations. Online I am more likely to delete a racist comment and block that person from my online than take the teachable moment. Mainly because often I dont know that I have anything to teach them I just know saying that is wrong. When I do take the time to call a friend in online it usually goes well, so you would think the positive reinforcement would make it easier over time, but I also feel like most of the time it won’t do any good so I just don’t bother. When it doesn’t go well I blame the other person, and dont look at how my words may not be lining up with my actions. Face to face it is easier to fall into not wanting to rock the boat. We are already here present with each other if you dont take this call out well it is going to change that space into something awkward and uncomfortable where as online I can just scroll away unnoticed. I might make a mental note to distance myself from them socially, but I won’t actively cut them out unless it is very blatantly racist. Even with my very close friends I find it hard to talk to them about whiteness because most of the time it goes unnamed in our conversations. If we say something racially insensitive it’s usually assumed it is from ignorance and the call out will be taken well. But some of these bias are not so easily named, and sometimes they are coded into other privileges of access to education, family money, land, or social status. I find myself keeping quiet about things that dont sit right convincing myself I dont have the full story or I don’t really understand these issues. But mostly it is out of learned social white solidarity to not question the status quo so much. I find myself wondering if when I screw up and reiterate racist bias, beliefs, comments if I have a social network that will call me out or just validate my good intentions. I appreciate friends that keep sharing their words and processing in the open and hosting workshops and otherwise making social spaces to talk about and deconstruct these issues online and off because I learn so much from them. Because of one friend sharing a post on Facebook I found Layla’s work and this challenge, and I would not have begun this depth of work without their unknowing nudge.

Day 25: Me & My Family

I lost my writing from this day so I had to go back through Instagram for it.
I avoid talking politics with my family for the sake of keeping peace. I try to keep visits with my extended family short and sparse to minimize opportunity to get into a fight. I don’t keep my politics a secret, and there have been fights that have disrupted all manners of gatherings. When I was younger I cared more about standing up for what I believed in, speaking up to power, and trying to convince my family to see things my way or at least care about what I was saying. Now that I’m older I have the belief that old dogs can’t learn new tricks, and banging my head against the wall of their bigotry is not good for my wellbeing. Maintaining relationships with them in a perfunctory way is easier than completely cutting them off, but sometimes they function in the same way. The only people I talk openly and in depth about politics with in my family are my mother and my sister. Even though I know we can have these conversations without jeopardizing our overall relationship it still can devolve into a lot of white fragility or deflecting blame onto other branches of the family tree. I still appreciate that they usually listen, and actively call me in as well. The rest of my family does not appear to be interested in any type of anti-racism work. My mother’s side of the family is from rural Alberta, vote for the Wild Rose party, and fly Confederate flags. They blame immigrants for their problems, think indigenous people should not have access to health care or education, but think they are best friends with the family that runs the local Chinese restaurant because of friendly customer service. This is the side of the family I have fought with the most about their racism because it is do blatant and proud, but this is the side of the family that also always makes an effort to be part of my life at all important occasions which keeps me from cutting them off out right.

Standard

A weeks worth of Me & White Supremacy writing

I’ve been very slowly working my way through Layla F. Saad’s Instagram challenge You & White Supremacy. I’m sharing my reflections here and on Instagram as outlined in her guidelines on YouTube. If you want to read other folks writing check out the hashtag, or sign up to her newsletter to find out when the workbook will be available. Some of this writing may be triggering if you are a BIPOC please prioritize your self care if reading.

Day 15: Me & White Apathy

I have been apathetic towards my role in racism by not beginning this challenge when I first came across it on day 3 or 4 back in June. I thought that I was too busy and that by following others doing the work that was enough until I had more time. Not having time is such a slippery method of white apathy. We all dont have the time to do everything we would like to do, yet we make decisions that effect what our priorities are – family, work, education, volunteering, etc. I realized that if I didn’t make time for this important work there would never be time. However I am forgetting it again already. 15 days into the challenge and my white apathy is creeping back in. The last 7 prompts were a lot of ugly work. They made me feel physically and emotionally sick. And sure enough when the work got hard, and the social rewards of sharing my writing went away, that apathy crept back in. Maybe it would be ok to just leave the work. I’ve done enough for now. I can pick it up again later when I “have more time”.

My white apathy also disguises itself as self care. I dont have time/energy to do the writing today because I need to rest to prepare for X. Yet I continue to avoid the root problems of my over scheduling complex and instead throw BIPOC under the bus in order to “rest”. The other word for this behaviour is laziness. Rest is radical, but there is nothing radical about laziness. Laziness is undermining my will power to address the root problems that allow racism to flourish in my life.

I have been apathetic towards racism when talking to my family. Because their racism is so blatant to me, and yet they are frequently kind and generous towards me, then they must just be putting on a show. Something they learned on Fox News. How dangerous can they actually be? Is a dangerous apathetic thought I have had.

I also see white apathy in my creative communities when there is little interest in learning about a social issue or another culture until we are working on a piece related to it. Our attention is only as long as our contract is paying us to care, or as long as we can take credit for “learning” from others work while repeating it into our own voice. “All artists steal from each other” but I observe that not all artists are rewarded equally for their theft.

I also see white apathy in my yoga communities that are only interested in how these poses or these chants can serve to simplify beautify our own life without paying mind to where these teachings came from, how we got here, or who is benefiting from the “teachings” we are consuming. The apathy here results in lazy uses of bite sized teachings that loose a more nuanced understanding of the human condition, and work as a shield against anyone that would ask us to reflect deeper.

I see this kind of white apathy in my white feminist circles. That are all for diversity as long as you agree with me, hate the same men I hate, and promise to reassure me I am one of the good ones. The apathy to talk about the issues that aren’t most pressing to you personally. The apathy to learn about the intersections of issues that do not personally effect us.

I practice white apathy when I block a racist friend, or skip the comment section, or ignore a white centering thing my friend says in conversation “because it’s just not worth it”. Its not worth it to me because I can choose to look away from the impacts of racism, and I can protect my own sense of white superiority while doing it.

Day 16: Me & White Centering

My whiteness has been centered in almost every play I have read, most media I consume from magazines to movies, in the history that is taught and celebrated, in beauty standards and depictions of goodness and saintliness. I have centered my whiteness when choosing what social justice issues to advocate for. Although I make more of an effort in the last couple of years to be informed on intersectional issues I often treat them as garnish issues to the main concerns. I have centered my whiteness when choosing what jobs to apply for by prioritizing working in hip atmospheres often directly related to gentrefication and displacement. I have centered my whiteness when asking for help or free education from BIPOC because “they are just better at this stuff”. I have learnt to center my feelings on racism over the lives of BIPOC which shows up as white fragility. I have centered my whiteness by not questioning what I have learnt (white apathy). Accepting the safety bubble that white supremacy has afforded me I have actively chosen to maintain that bubble. I have centered my whiteness when reporting crimes because I know my victimhood will be taken seriously and protected by institutionalized racism. I have centered my whiteness when I care more about how a perceived threat to my “good white person” status makes me feel rather than the actual harm I am causing. I centre my whiteness when I write, never having to think of my voice and experiences as anything but normal. I centre my whiteness when I audition never feeling like I will be a casting risk because of the colour of my skin. I centre my whiteness when I lead because it fits with how I have been taught to expect to get ahead and be at the head. I centre my whiteness mostly because I have rarely had to be in a space that sidelines it, and when I have I can reassure my ego that it is only temporary (white saviourism). Putting whiteness at the centre of my life has been the subconscious driving force behind many of my decisions and actions. Preserving that centre felt like preserving safety although I have not experienced real danger because of the colour of my skin.

Day 17: Me & Tokenism

I have tokenized collaborators by hiring to check diversity boxes on a grant application without thinking more deeply about what my motivation was to find “diverse” voices or what those people might want to say beyond my master vision. I have tokenized black people by using black reaction gifs and adopting online black face and slang. I have tokenized the anti-racism work of BIPOC by sharing it or quoting it without doing the deeper work myself in order to appear “woke”. I dressed up as Flavour Flav for a costume party when I was 16. Although not wearing black face paint I failed to understand how the costume was still offensive and tokenism. I grew up playing cowboys and Indians, and did not understand how pretending to be Pocahontas was offensive and tokenism. Even after learning about the actual Pocahontas I continued to play based on the character version “because it was more fun”. I grew up surrounded by sage burning hippies who “passed on” this sacred medicine that they had appropriated and then I appropriated. I have sage on my alter right now. I bought it in a trendy store that I believe is white owned. I have it juxtaposed with a statue of the Buddha that I got in a garage sale. These are literal tokens of cultures and peoples my white lady spiritualism has collected. When I started reflecting on how much white cis male media I have consumed in my lifetime I started collecting BIPOC (particularly WOC) to read, listen to, watch, and generally consume in a tokenized way to appear to have “diverse” taste. I learnt to associate “diverse” taste whether for kim chi or Taoism or rap music as being seen as more “worldly” and part of being accepted as a “good white person” by other progressive white people always looking for “authentic” and “unusual” tokens to appropriate.

Day 18: White Saviourism

I have expressed white saviourism as an artistic producer seeing myself as the one that is securing paid positions for BIWOC to create, learn, and express themselves. As if they would not be able to do this for themselves and are in fact doing me a favour taking part in my primarily white project/event/festival. I have leaned into white saviourism post Charlottesville and Gerard Stanley trial looking for a way to re-brand my whiteness as “helpful” rather than “dangerous”. In spite of whatever good intentions may have guided me to seek helpful ways of speaking out about my growing concern over the prevalence of white supremacy it was ultimately pointless and toxic as I either spoke over BIPOC or co-opted their words and their struggle. I only felt empowered to speak to blatantly racist white friends about their harassment rather than unpack all the ways my progressive friends and myself have upheld white supremacy. By engaging with the more violent comments in my circles I could feel like I was defending the helpless or being a voice for the voiceless without having to give up any of my own privilege in the conversation including intersecting privileges of class and education. Engaging in this kind of extremism “debates” may be emotionally satisfying, but rarely create real lasting changes. And may in fact work to add fuel to the fire further inciting violence against those I think need my “help” or “protection”. The more work I put into “white knighting” through these conversations on racism the less time I spend actually dismantling my prejudices.

Other ways I have expressed white saviourism that did not originally come to mind… when I advocate for better social security nets as an expectation for my government to be able to legislate out racism. As if that racism is not deeply in grained in the very letter of the law and policy they govern by. When I promote BIWOC by emphasizing how smart or well spoken they are while silently implying for their race. Volunteering to serve meals with my white colleagues at an establishment that mainly serves indigenous people. Calling it community building even though we don’t speak to each other and my presence is actively displacing them in the neighborhood.

Day 19: Me & Optical Allyship

I think the only kind of ally I am is an optical one. I never considered myself an activist, but at some point I got labeled one because I share so many SJW posts online. Layla taught me that there is a name for that – virtue signaling. “Look at me, I am a good white person, no need to talk to me about anti-racism work, I’m already part of the choir”. I never consciously intended to cultivate an image as a socially engaged person, but I definitely continue to do so because of the emotional and social pay off. I get to feel good about “staying informed” and “speaking up” while changing nothing in the world or more importantly myself. I have never put my neck on the line for someone else, or sought out anti-racism resources that were not made readily available to me for free usually by BIWOC. And even then sometimes I pass it over either tokenizing their work or succumbing to white apathy. I experienced how hard it is to get away from only being interested in doing the work when it is in view in this challenge. The mixed feelings of satisfaction, disgust, self loathing, and smugness when someone comments on these posts to validate what I’m doing. I can repeat that I’m here doing this work because it is mine to do, but it’s hard to escape those feelings that want to be the center of attention all the time. It’s hard to imagine what comes after this when the challenge ends. Without Layla’s posts to give me guidance on how to do this work will it fade into the background again? How can I go back to just absently sharing anything that sparks those old righteous feelings? How can I go deeper without reverting to white saviourism? Optical allyship to me is about safety. Wanting everyone to feel safe, but not wanting to risk my own to get there. Assuming that it is possible to feel safe while dismantling violent oppressive systems. Dismantling violent oppressive beliefs in myself. That my idea of safety would feel safe to everyone. That my idea of safe is not a threat to someone else’s safety.

Day 20: Me & Being Called Out

I am not regularly called out (or in) which after completing this many days of the challenge is obvious to me that it is not because I’m “good” but because I’m dangerous, and I’m not likely to take it well. Even if I’m not violently dangerous if I’m not looking at the white supremacist violence that lives through me then I cant expect to be held accountable by other people doing their work. Last week I was listening to Sarah Jones on Oh Boy by Man Repeller. I was trying to explain how amazing it is to watch her perform as all of these characters transitioning right before your eyes like magic to Aron, and he asked “but is she Latina” and I said “no I don’t think so” and he said “that’s racist”. And it wasn’t even a direct call out about my actions but I still felt angry like it was a direct attack. I watched myself respond in my head, wanting to defend her on grounds of the artistry involved (exceptionalism), and grounds of we are all one people in the human condition (denial), on that it wasnt intended to be racist (fragility), on the fact Obama had her perform at the white house (tokenizing), on the grounds that there were different rules for theatre than other art forms (exceptionalism), on the grounds that she is black so it’s fine (tokenizing/denial). He was just pointing out a fairly obvious fact about her performance, but his comments directly challenged my sense of self as someone that supports representation on stage. As a “good white person”. And as is to be expected I responded with anger. Actually I responded with silence because I knew my anger was misplaced, but anger was still present. We did talk about it later and each conceded on some points, but I never apologized for my response. To my own partner. So you can certainly imagine that I have never apologized to anyone else for my toxic whiteness.

Day 21: Me & White Supremacy

I am feeling consumed by hopelessness. There are so many ways I have participated in upholding white supremacy that I was not aware of. Even to try to unlearn one behavior related to that could take years, and obviously this is what is meant by a lifetime of work, but how do I even begin in one lifetime? I feel on edge when I notice patterns I have named in daily interactions, but i haven’t found anything to replace them with other than new self conciousness and renewed self loathing. These feelings are not productive either slipping into white fragility, centering, apathy. Hyper focus without a clear goal. I know that I have to change the criteria I use to make decisions about what is good and correct and safe, but to say how I’m going to achieve that feels impossible right now. Impossible is such a lazy answer. Throw up my hands in despair. If I cant deny my role in white supremacy then I can accept that this is just how things are, they are too hard to change. That’s garbage. I’ve changed things that felt impossible repeatedly, and accepting that uncomfortable feeling is the first part. I need to find what the second part is. Today I’m just tired.

Standard

Day 15: Me and White Apathy

I have been slowly but surely working through Wild Mystic Woman’s Instagram challenge. I am on day 15 of 28 days which began for me on July 18, almost exactly two weeks after Layla Saad began offering this important work. She has asked that no one new who has not made it past Day 8 join the challenge at this time. She will be publishing this work in a work book that you can complete on your own schedule in the near future which I am looking forward to purchasing when it becomes available. Meanwhile I am finishing up the challenge here, and would value the opportunity to take some of these reflections into offline conversations with you.

Day 15: Me & White Apathy

I have been apathetic towards my role in racism by not beginning this challenge when I first came across it on day 3 or 4 back in June. I thought that I was too busy and that by following others doing the work that was enough until I had more time. Not having time is such a slippery method of white apathy. We all dont have the time to do everything we would like to do, yet we make decisions that effect what our priorities are – family, work, education, volunteering, etc. I realized that if I didn’t make time for this important work there would never be time. However I am forgetting it again already. 15 days into the challenge and my white apathy is creeping back in. The last 7 prompts were a lot of ugly work. They made me feel physically and emotionally sick. And sure enough when the work got hard, and the social rewards of sharing my writing went away, that apathy crept back in. Maybe it would be ok to just leave the work. I’ve done enough for now. I can pick it up again later when I “have more time”.

My white apathy also disguises itself as self care. I dont have time/energy to do the writing today because I need to rest to prepare for X. Yet I continue to avoid the root problems of my over scheduling complex and instead throw BIPOC under the bus in order to “rest”. The other word for this behaviour is laziness. Rest is radical, but there is nothing radical about laziness. Laziness is undermining my will power to address the root problems that allow racism to flourish in my life.

I have been apathetic towards racism when talking to my family. Because their racism is so blatant to me, and yet they are frequently kind and generous towards me, then they must just be putting on a show. Something they learned on Fox News. How dangerous can they actually be? Is a dangerous apathetic thought I have had.

I also see white apathy in my creative communities when there is little interest in learning about a social issue or another culture until we are working on a piece related to it. Our attention is only as long as our contract is paying us to care, or as long as we can take credit for “learning” from others work while repeating it into our own voice. “All artists steal from each other” but I observe that not all artists are rewarded equally for their theft.

I also see white apathy in my yoga communities that are only interested in how these poses or these chants can serve to simplify beautify our own life without paying mind to where these teachings came from, how we got here, or who is benefiting from the “teachings” we are consuming. The apathy here results in lazy uses of bite sized teachings that loose a more nuanced understanding of the human condition, and work as a shield against anyone that would ask us to reflect deeper.

I see this kind of white apathy in my white feminist circles. That are all for diversity as long as you agree with me, hate the same men I hate, and promise to reassure me I am one of the good ones. The apathy to talk about the issues that aren’t most pressing to you personally. The apathy to learn about the intersections of issues that do not personally effect us.

I practice white apathy when I block a racist friend, or skip the comment section, or ignore a white centering thing my friend says in conversation “because it’s just not worth it”. Its not worth it to me because I can choose to look away from the impacts of racism, and I can protect my own sense of white superiority while doing it.

Standard

Day 6,7,8: Me and White Supremacy

I am taking part in Wild Mystic Woman’s (Layla Saad) 28 day Instagram challenge You & White Supremacy. I am sharing my reflections on racism here and on Instagram for accountability to myself and my community. If you are interested in learning more about the challenge check Layla’s YouTube channel for the two orientation videos. This will be my last post for the next week as part of this work is not meant to be shared here. Trigger warning: I am owning some deep rooted racist bullshit that I haven’t been aware of, but that if you are a person of colour you are probably all to familiar with and may find triggering.

Day 6: Me and White Exceptionalism

I wrote this one at the end of the day after a few beer with the intention of revisiting. That hasn’t happened. White exceptionalism at work?

I believe that because I’m not racist like the townspeople on Who Is America? That means I am not “really” racist. I have never attempted to run over my elderly Muslim neighbor with my truck so I’m not part of the problem. I have done my time arguing at family Christmas so now I can just avoid talking politics with my family until they die. Because if enough older people die then racism will be cured right? I feel exceptional because I am young, and raised in a socially liberal house, so I must be so much more socially concious than previous generations without taking any concrete steps towards social change. My white exceptionalism says that I am a good person, and that I am doing my best and that will just have to be good enough. My white exceptionalism says that I am working hard at other things so I can’t be expected to make extra time for this anti-racism work. My white exceptionalism says I’m nice to BIPOC what more do I need to do. My white exceptionalism slips in through labels of “self care” and “learning” and “trying”. My white exceptionalism denies the real harm and active role I have in systems of oppression and white supremacy. My understanding of the surface of the problem has only allowed me to feed my white exceptionalism more promises of doing better next time, and learning to be a better ally, and helping in my own way as I’m able. It allows me to acknowledge what a bigoted place Saskatchewan is without looking at how that bigotry lives in me.

Day 7: Me & White Supremacy

I woke up hung over and did a half as attempt at this writing prompt at first. It didn’t feel good and I went back and wrote it again once I took care of my physical wellness. In the spirit of transparency and growth I’m sharing both.

Second attempt:
Since beginning this challenge a week ago I have learnt that I am more deeply entangled in white supremacy than I thought. My white exceptionalism came out to play yesterday as I skipped a day in the challenge which Layla had specifically asked folks not to do. Taking a break from doing the work to celebrate with people close to me is a white privilege that allows me to narrow my viewpoint to exclude racial injustice. Nia Wilson did not have the choice to take a day off and just focus on getting home. I see that I choose to surround myself with friends that will validate my white fragility and assure me it’s ok to miss a day. As if it is not my responsibility to tackle these problems daily. I see that there is a pattern of only committing to the work when it is comfortable for me to do so, and expecting to be able to do it on my own terms as suites my priorities. My priorities are usually protecting my mental/emotional wellbeing and making more money which are directly related to how I uphold white supremacy by prioritizing my individual benefit over the greater good. I feel superior when I’m doing well with these priorities even though it is generally through no action of my own but a result of my willingness to exploit white silence and white privilege. When I see how easy it is to fall back into these patterns of behavior and excuse the harm I know that they cause even while actively working to bring awareness to them I begin to see how deep the roots of white supremacy go. I carry the weight of these beliefs not just in my community but in me personally in my daily actions. Today it feels a lot more dangerous to ignore those silenced warning bells that something I am doing is “not that bad” because I can see how that feeds that toxic pattern of behavior. These “random acts of violence” that occur in my community and across the border begin to feel less random when I look at them in light of how easy it is to negate humane responsibility in favour of personal privilege.

First attempt:
Since beginning this challenge a week ago what I have learnt about me and white supremacy is that it is closer than it may feel most days. I have baggage that is weighing heavy on me, and the harm I cause may feel minimal to me in the moment but have wider implications beyond my scope of awareness. These “random acts of violence” in my community and across the border feel less random looking at how deeply ingrained these white supremacist ideas and beliefs are. “White privilege is hard to see when you’re white” is the bathroom graffiti that introduced the term to me when I was 19 and it’s still true today. Everytime I think that I have gotten a handle on what white privilege means I run into another blind spot. Thank you @wildmysticwoman for the crash course through my blind spots.

Day 8: Me & Seeing Colour

Growing up I learnt that you were not suppose to see colour. That if my generation could learn to see everyone the same as me, as each a part of the human race, that would end racism. I truly believed that, and because of that I didn’t notice things like all of my friends at university were white or that there was only one student of a visible minority in my entire department. Because I wasn’t paying attention to these things I couldn’t ask why. I don’t remember specifically when I became aware that just “not seeing colour” was not a good approach to ending racism. I am sure that that awareness came from the internet and being exposed to intersectional feminist writers, and writers of colour. As I began to do my own research into the subject and sharing what I found on social media I began to be seen as an intersectional feminist and activist although I was not active in my community like these writers were. I don’t think I consciously thought of using them to cultivate a brand, but that is definitely how it played out. Many of my white peers started to commend me on speaking up, so I started to believe that was the next best thing. If I could just speak on behalf of the voiceless then people in power would listen denying how I was speaking over them to retain my own power. I started following more and more feminist writers of colour “to learn from” but it ended up being to steal from as I was gaining social capital for sharing their ideas without doing the work. Now when I reflect on what I have learnt about seeing colour I don’t feel like I have really done the work to unlearn my habit of hemoginization. I still mainly relate to my friends and aquaitances on ways that they are like me rather than ways they experience oppression that I won’t. In the midst of the Stanley trial I was regularly speaking to people that couldn’t see that the crime was racially motivated, and although I felt in my bones that this was wrong I still consistently lacked the words to explain it to them. I now can see that lacking the words is from failing to do my own work to be an informed advocate and unlearn my own racial bias. Bias towards white innocence. Bias towards trouble making Indians. Bias towards not seeing colour.

Standard

Day 5: Me and White Superiority

I am completing a 28 day writing challenge by Wild Mystic Women’s Layla Saad called You & White Supremacy. Follow the hashtag #meandwhitesupremacy on Instagram, and check out Layla’s videos on YouTube outlining how to participate in the challenge.

Day 5: Me & White Superiority

I feel superior when I apply for jobs because I know that I interview very well with white interviewers. I present as a Pollyanna white girl, and they see me as articulate and non-threatening. It’s not that I think others who apply for the job aren’t capable, but I know that they will have to work harder to make a good impression. When I was younger I tried to actively maintain this image of white feminine purity for fear of not finding work. Now that I am beginning to reject some trappings of that identity instead of feeling more secure in myself I am feeling that I am unprepared to not be rewarded for my mediocre whiteness. So instead I lower my standards and continue to work in places where only being seen as agreeable and white is still valued like serving at hipster coffee shops.

I feel superior when I’m serving on a board of directors because I am pushing for better representation, and community outreach with marginalized groups while actively tokenizing their work and contributions. I feel superior because I am a “woke” white person pushing for community consultation, and hiring diversity, and other nice white buzzwords, but I still not so deep down want to be in charge of how these conversations happen and who is at the table. I feel like I need to be part of those conversations because I will be able to translate the needs of these groups into the mandates of the funders, as if the experts we are consulting are not already more aware of how these relationships work because they live with them everyday.

I feel superior when I apply for artist grants or otherwise playing the business game of a creative entrepreneur. It’s not that I think money and resources shouldn’t go to artists of colour, but I know how to work the system to my advantage and believe that will give me a superior edge. Even if I politically believe this edge is undeserved, I personally feel like it is my right to get all that I can. Because of this when I see artists of colour being more successful than me I feel like I am worthless as an artist. Because I have had more opportunities than them and have still been unable to create anything half as successful or meaningful.

When I was a teenager I sat on a panel of unschooled students at an home schooling conference, one of the people in the audience asked us if we thought that we were better than other students and I unequivocally answered yes, of course. I had read the studies on how unschooled students out performed their public school peers in almost every way. Within the literature on public school students there was further evidence that white students out performed other students except asian students. There was substantial evidence that the barriers marginalized students faced were usually institutionalized and not a reflection of their actual aptitude, but the bottom line for me was still yes, or course I am superior. The silence in the room afterwards told me I had said something wrong, but my views were not challenged, and so I learnt to be more modest in my answers.

Standard

Day Two: Me & White Fragility

I am participating in the Me & White Supremacy 28 day writing challenge. Wild Mystic Woman has shared these writing prompts and guidelines for participation on her Instagram and YouTube. I am sharing my reflections here to hold myself accountable to completing the work as honestly and deeply as I can.

Day 2: Me & White Fragility

Online I regularly delete my posts & comments that get called out as racist, and those by other white people on my social feeds. Before Layla identified this as a form of white fragility I believed that I was helping by taking down the offending remark and giving everyone time to go away and think about what they said. I see now how erasing the comments is a form of white fragility by hiding my racist comments/friends and being afraid to process and learn out in the open. I use white fragility to call out and block white people that I believe are more racist than me. By getting angry and shutting them out I also shut out any opportunity for growth. I don’t have to have the hard conversations with them, or look at how they are like me, and can allow them to continue to hurt POC out of my sight and out of my mind while feeling like I did something good. I also enact white fragility when I claim “self care” in order to avoid going to the protest or showing up to the workshop on anti-racism work because I don’t want to face the ugly emotions it may dredge up. I tend to centre my own emotions as the truth in all situations regardless of whether they are relevant. I use white fragility to justify prefering to listen to POC speak about racism in videos and podcasts and lectures where I won’t be called upon to speak up. I avoid conversations on race that I do not feel well informed about because I am afraid of being embarrassed or acting embarrassingly. I want to have control in most situations which is why my white fragility tends to check me out of conversations. I would rather believe that the conversation doesn’t concern me, or that watching and supporting other people doing the work is enough, rather than challenge the defensive ugly feelings white fragility brings up in me. My white fragility screams “but it’s not my fault” internally while externally I smile and nod.

Standard