As I’m recording this episode, Derek Chauvin is on trial for the murder of George Floyd. It’s April now, but this episode will likely go live sometime in May.
It’s been almost a year since George Floyd was killed in broad daylight, in front of witnesses who begged for Derek Chauvin to get off his neck for 9 minutes straight.
The racist systems that uphold the killing of Black people began long before George Floyd was killed and they haven’t stopped. The machine of white supremacy continues to operate.
We live in a country where racism is so deeply entrenched, that even the phrase “Black Lives Matter” is considered to be outrageous. I cannot think of a less offensive word than “matter”…Not “are better”…just “matter”.
How far have we really come when it’s considered to be completely controversial to say that Black Lives Matter?
Almost a year ago I committed to being an anti-racist and to be honest, I had no clue what I was doing. I knew I had to hire a professional to lead the way. So, I reached out to a woman named Lynne Maureen Hurdle. For those of you wondering why she’s not here today, I invited her, but she said I needed to stand on my own two feet and do this episode myself. So, here I am.
When I first started working with Lynne, it quickly became clear that I had a LONG way to go. I remember filling out an intake form where she asked me a bunch of questions that would give her insight into what systems and policies I had in place in my own business to ensure that I was running an anti-racist operation. Well, I had systems and policies in place for things like hiring, posting on social media, hosting 1:1 meetings and building landing pages. But, I had NOTHING related to anti-racism…and all my existing product, sales, marketing, client success, and operations systems were created based on teachings from books written by white men.
Anti-racism was NOT something they nor I considered in the creation of those business systems. This meant that many of the systems and policies I had created in my own business were unknowingly upholding the culture of White Supremacy such as perfectionism, paternalism, and individualism. Not the good kind of individualism, the kind that devalued collaboration and the importance of asking for help.
Since then ALL of our operations and systems have been updated, and we continue to look for ways to improve.
But, for the first six months of working 1:1 with Lynne, we didn’t even talk about systems and policies in my business. I remember thinking, WHEN WILL THE WORK BEGIN – WHEN WILL I GET TO TAKE ACTION, and it took me awhile to realize that the work was already happening, but it wasn’t happening externally. It wasn’t performative, it was real. Nobody else could see it. I knew that if I was going to make real change for myself and my business, I had to let Lynne lead the way…and I did – and I still do.
In this episode I’m going to be sharing three lessons that I learned since committing to being anti-racist to my team, to my audience, and to myself. So, let’s get into them.
Lesson #1: There is a lot to learn and a lot to dismantle…and it’s likely that NO ONE is going to see you doing that work.
As a white person living in the United States, one of the key things we learn is that it is 100% wrong to be labeled as a racist and that being labeled as a racist should be avoided at all costs.
White people know that being called a racist is bad and many of us will do whatever it takes to let everyone around us know that WE aren’t racist. Nope, not me, I’m one of the “good” white people. I’m not racist like THOSE white people. I’m different.
That kind of thinking is problematic and reveals a very low level of understanding of what we’re dealing with when it comes to racism.
The very nature of racism is systemic, which means it’s everywhere . As white people, we are 100% benefitting from racism in our daily life and if we are business owners, we likely have created systems and policies inside our own companies that are REFLECTIVE of the very systems and policies that uphold the thing we SAY we do not want – racism.
We are taught in school that racism is bad, but we are not taught why it exists, how to identify it, and how to dismantle it. And oftentimes when teachers DO teach that in school, they are told by white people that we shouldn’t keep bringing up the past, that talking about racism is racist towards white people because it makes them look bad.
“Let’s not talk about racism, let’s just pretend it doesn’t exist.” That’s pretty easy to say if you are white and living in a country where YOU aren’t four to five times more likely than a Black woman to have a pregnancy related death. I had my daughter when I was 32. If I was Black, I would have been 4 to 5 times more likely to die from a pregnancy related issue.
White people are taught that when a Black person DOES speak out on something that is racist, we should not trust them because: they are playing the victim, it’s not so bad, they just want attention, they are lazy, they just don’t want to work hard, they are not taking personal responsibility, things were hard for me and I don’t complain about it, etc etc.
There is a lot to learn and a lot to dismantle…and it’s likely that NO ONE is going to see you doing the foundational work of LISTENING, READING, and REALIZING how much you don’t know. No one will be there to give you a gold star and say, hey you made a great effort there! In fact, in my experience the opposite will happen. l learn something, make a change, do it wrong, fail, make a mistake, someone will tell me publicly or privately it was racist, I recognize my mistake, I take accountability, then I’ll learn some more, try again…and on and on.
Which brings me to the second lesson I had to learn.
Lesson #2: Stop being so obsessed with “taking action” and invest in your own learning FIRST because you are making things worse.
“What can I do?” is the question that floods Facebook every time another Black person is killed. Either that or “I know it’s problematic that I ask what I should do, but what should I do?”
I love taking action. I love getting things done. I love checking things off a list.
But, dismantling the systemic oppression of Black people is not going to be solved by attending an anti-racism workshop, receiving a To Do List, and then checking each item off the list.
Me thinking, “What I really need is some action items,” shows that I did not fully grasp the gravity of the problem.
Raise your hand if you are a white person who has ever walked away from reading a book on anti-racism or attending a seminar and when you were finished – you felt frustrated because you didn’t know what “action” to take. Maybe you even thought, “Jeez. That was a terrible training. Nobody told me what to do!”
“I mean, yeah, I was asked to take personal responsibility to deepen my own learning and to keep asking myself tough questions – but that sounds hard, I’d rather someone else just hand me a To Do List so I can start making the world a better place already!”
That was 100% me and it was completely problematic.
Did I seriously think this problem was as simple to solve as having someone hand me some action items to implement? YES. That’s exactly what I thought, which shows how UNqualified I was to take any sort of action other than to deepen my own understanding of what systemic racism really was.
Aside from “taking immediate action” I had to let go of something else, which takes me to my next learning.
Lesson #3: Let go of the attachment to being labeled as a “good” white person.
I used to get incredibly triggered by white people who were “doing anti-racism wrong” because I was still clinging to the desire to be a “good” white person and thus distance myself from anyone else who I believed was saying the wrong thing.
I was angry and frustrated because I didn’t know what to do and I would take it out on other people. Like I mentioned earlier, I’d see a white person post on social media “What am I supposed to do?” I would totally judge them, but on the inside I was thinking the exact same thing!!
I also wanted to know what I was supposed to “do”, but I also knew I wasn’t supposed to ask that – which created ridiculous amounts of pressure that didn’t lead to anything productive.
I didn’t fully appreciate that anti-racism is a never-ending journey, not a destination.
I will never cross the finish line and I will never “be done”. There will always be more to notice, hold myself accountable for, and dismantle. I’ll probably listen to this episode a year from now and think, “I cannot believe I said that. Wow, I had so much more to learn.” But that’s the whole point. To keep learning, to keep speaking up, and to keep moving forward – even when you make a mistake.
As promised, I am NOT going to conclude this podcast with a list of To Dos for you to complete in order to be anti-racist. However, I do have ONE thing that I want you to walk away with – not a list, just one really important thing: Do Something and Keep Doing It – No Matter What.
Pick up a new book. Hire a coach. Sign up for a course. Watch a documentary. Use Google. Your learning is going to be slow and messy and incredibly frustrating, but it’s important.
I have linked to a few resources (free and paid) that were particularly impactful for me and will likely be a good starting point for you.
Thanks for listening.
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Links mentioned in this episode:
- “The Successful Course Creator” FB Group
- 13th – A documentary about the U.S. prison system directed by Ava DuVernay
- So You Want To Talk About Race – By Ijeoma Oluo*
- How To Be An Anti-Racist – By Ibram X. Kendi*
- List: 10 Black Owned Online Book Stores
- Lynne Maureen Hurdle – Coaching
* Disclaimer: This page contains affiliate links which means we may receive a small commission for any products or services you sign up for using our links at no additional cost to you. Please note that we are highly selective and only promote products and/or services we’ve used and trust. FTC Guidelines