This post was written by Bevin Keely in June of 2020
***If you are a person of color, you are welcome to read this, but this isn’t written to you. This is written for you, however, in an attempt to take on the burden of understanding and bringing my white friends and family along with me.***
For interested white folks I offer this peek into my ongoing quest to educate myself, and invite you to join me. I am a student in this space, bumbling along trying not to hurt anyone and aware that living here and not doing anything is actively hurting people. It is long past time to do something to change the fundamental realities of life in America for our Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC) neighbors.
First, we have to understand the problem. Let’s start with a bit of humor, because it helps to see the absurdity in any difficult situation. Thank you, Michael Che.
I began tackling the Me and White Supremacy Workbook last year (before it was a book) and got stuck. I didn’t know enough, really, to answer the prompts honestly. So I spent a several weeks with the 11 Step Guide to Understanding Race, Racism, and White Privilege, digesting concepts as I ate my lunch or took a break between clients. It’s thorough and engaging and by the end I felt like I knew more. Not enough, but more, so…
Here are some of my favorite podcasts, an easy way to keep learning while cooking, cleaning, commuting.:
The Third Season of Serial
Robin D’Angelo is a white lady who coined the term and literally wrote the book on White Fragility. I haven’t read her book yet, but I have used her resources page, which is packed with tons of good links.
Ava DuVernay’s excellent Netflix documentary The 13th is a primer for understanding the racism at the core of our criminal justice system. I have not yet had the courage to face her film When They See Us, which takes that understanding to a personal level, but I will be watching that ASAP.
Ijeoma Oluo is a local treasure. A self-described “internet yeller”, her words sometimes feel like a slap in the face, but always illuminate. I recently read her book So You Wanna Talk About Race, and I have a copy to give you (at this moment) if you want it. Check out the “writing” page on her website for linked articles.
I bought My Grandmother’s Hands last year and it’s next on my list to read, seeing as it is directly linked to the Somatic Experiencing work I do.
On Instagram I am following Rachel Cargle who also does thegreatunlearn, and the #meandwhitesupremacy hashtag, which has led me to follow #shecolorsnature and privtoprog among others. It has been really helpful to get those messengers into my feed to hear what they are saying on an ongoing basis, and I add more as I find them.
There are so many threads in this fabric- the deep and inherent flaws in our criminal justice system, the long-term effects of discriminatory lending for housing which then cascades into issues around environmental exposure (like Flint) and therefore health outcomes, with schooling and job opportunities, etc. It’s pretty overwhelming and hard to know what to do as an individual.
One very easy thing to do that helps break down implicit bias is to enjoy media that shows the full spectrum of black life in America. I LOVE the HBO show Insecure and have really enjoyed the Netflix show Dear White People. In one of the “extras” the creator of DWP talks about how growing up he was well aware of all facets of white culture in America because all of the TV and movies are about us, and in this show he is attempting to fill the substantial gaps between common black stereotypes and turn the tables on us. I appreciate that!
I am only just figuring out how to tangibly contribute to change beyond educating myself. It seems like we can have the strongest impact by taking action in our own communities, so this week I wrote to our mayor, Jenny Durkan and asked that she take the pledge that the Obama Foundation is recommending to address police use of force policies. I also made a donation to the Persist PAC to help women of color get a seat at the legislative table in our state, where their voices are sorely needed. And I am sharing my process with you, so that you and I can work together to figure out what to do next.
Please feel free to reach out, to collaborate, to educate, to tell me what you are doing that feels useful. I am always up for a compassionate conversation about white privilege and what we can do to dismantle it.
Changes to entrenched and inherently racist systems will be driven at the local level. In my community there are people of color already telling us what they think will make the biggest difference, so I have subscribed to the Black Joy newsletter put out by the folks at King County Equity Now. They have outlined several actionable requests and are asking for support in the form of money, calls, emails, and petitions.
I spent the weekend listening to this excellent series from 2017 about whiteness, what it is, where it came from, how it persists: Scene on Radio Season 2: Seeing White. We also watched the first half of When They See Us, and it was unsurprisingly difficult. My son at one point said, “Why did you think I would enjoy this?” and I replied, “I didn’t think you would enjoy this at all, I just think it’s important for us to know.” I look forward to the second half, where I believe the men are exonerated.
I’m interested in what you are learning as well, so feel free to let me know. Thanks for reading!