On hashtags and fleeting white outrage

Here we are again. We just got through another week filled with horrific brutality against Black men and children by the hands of the state. Blogger Awesomely Luvvie wrote about The Stages of What Happens When There’s Injustice Against Black People in December 2014 and we’re back to square one.

I’m angry that more people suffered senseless deaths due to systemic racism. I’m angry that the majority of my white friends only share their concern over race in America when tragedies occur. Why does it take egregious levels of brutality against people of color for white people to come to the table and talk about racial injustice?

I’m a part of this pattern myself. I was moved to act only after theCharleston 9. I started a blog, A Striving Parent, that explores strategies around how be an anti-racist parent and raise socially conscious children. I’ve been aware of my privilege and systemic racism since I was a child and always self-identified as a person who deeply cared. But I was passive. Through my inaction I let the world know I was good with the status quo.

It’s easy to feel outraged and move towards action when a person or group of people is unjustly killed or physically brutalized. It’s even easier when this injustice is captured on camera, making the wrongs hard to ignore.

But, for me, the hardest work as a white person has been during moments of perceived stillness. When injustices are happening, but remain hidden from my vantage point as a person of racial and class privilege. When there isn’t a hashtag to attach to, national news is quiet, and I have access to the false narrative that all is well and I can easily slip back into my life-as-usual routine.

It is in these quieter moments — quieter for me — that the risks are higher and my true work lies. I must examine the ways my life choices are perpetuating white supremacy on a day-to-day basis.

Do I talk to friends and family about race? A year ago, I did not, unless it was around national news coverage of a tragic death like Oscar Grant, Trayvon Martin or Michael Brown.

Do I talk to my children about race? A year ago, I did not. I was raising my children to be colorblind, without even making a conscious decision to do so. We did not name race or discuss race. Our toys and library contained items that reinforced whiteness, heterosexuality and upper-class living as the norm.

Am I exposing my children to multiracial and multicultural experiences and narratives? A year ago, I was not doing this intentionally. I have a relatively diverse friend group when I factor in everyone from high school, college, grad school and adult life. But here in Atlanta, we live in a segregated neighborhood, we sent our son to a homogenous preschool and we were not thinking about how these choices mattered.

Yes, I’m moved to tears and outrage watching the video of Terrence Crutcher being gunned down and left to die. But how can I ever expect to help address systemic racism and police brutality if I’m unwilling to address race, racism and the ways in which my life choices preserve and protect my privileges?

The answer is, I can’t. While it’s scary to admit, white supremacy touches just about every aspect of my life (and yours) in different ways. It touches my generational wealth, the educational opportunities I received, the neighborhood we live in and much, much more.

For the past year, I’ve been striving to dismantle white supremacy from the inside out. This is not as daunting as it sounds. I started small, with actions that were compatible with my life as a parent raising young children and have built capacity over time.

Here are some of those actions:

I incorporated books and toys that showed diverse, multiracial, multicultural characters and story lines. Check out EmbraceRace’s crowdsourced list,Children’s books featuring kids of color being themselves (because that’s enough), their piece on Where to find “diverse” children’s books, Charis Books & More’s recommended book list, My Reflection Matters, Little Proud Kid and We Stories for tons of recommendations.

I started naming race with my children and speaking about injustice in developmentally appropriate ways.

I read and listen to media outside of mainstream outlets to get my news.Colorlines, Color of Change, The Root, EmbraceRace, Huffington Post Blackand Latino Voices and Shaun King are some of my go-to resources.

I took Raising Race Conscious Children’s webinar, completed the Raising an Advocate course, and just registered for Everyday Feminism’s course Healing From Toxic Whiteness.

I’ve connected online with other parents and activists addressing race across the country. EmbraceRace is an invaluable resource for parents wanting to address race within the context of their families. Showing Up For Racial Justice Families has also provided wonderful community.

I joined a social justice book club.

I helped form a race-conscious parent collective in my community.

I donate to Black-led racial justice organizations, bail funds and local elections.

The above actions are not static; the work is on-going. There is always more to do, more to learn and lord knows I make mistakes. I’m also well aware that many parents, most adults, don’t have the time or means to do all that I’ve been able to do as a stay-at-home mother with financial privilege.

And of course, there are plenty of actions I have not yet taken. I haven’t spoken with the administrators at my children’s school about how race and differences are addressed in the classroom. I haven’t attended a protest. I need to do a better job supporting Black-owned, local businesses.

I don’t pretend to be perfect. I am not an expert on race or racism or parenting. I feel deep insecurity and fear with every step I do or do not take on this journey. I question myself, feel lonely, feel angry when I make a mistake, feel like a failure. But I also feel powerful and believe in my ability to affect change within my family, if nothing else.

None of this work happened overnight. But it grew out of a moment of intense emotion following the Charleston 9. I have to force myself to take risks and dive in to the work again and again. And I have to fight the hardest to stick with it when national news is not a galvanizing force towards action.

For my white friends and family expressing outrage over the deaths of Terence Crutcher, Tyre King and Keith Lamont Scott, my hope is you translate those emotions into personal reflection and commit to doing the work, especially during the moments of perceived stillness. Dismantling white supremacy within ourselves is a step that cannot be skipped if we want to help stop brutality against our Black and brown brothers and sisters.

This piece was originally published on EmbraceRace. Join EmbraceRace on Facebook; sign up for their biweekly newsletter.


4 thoughts on “On hashtags and fleeting white outrage

  1. Mary Ann Cofrin says:

    Dear Shannon, I’m so proud of you. Your latest column was so well written and certainly made a deep impression on me. It made me realize that there is much that I could do to advance better race relations in a limited way. Keep up the good work. I’m still hoping that you,might come for a visit. Loads of love to you and all the family, Gran

    Sent from Mary Ann’s iPad



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