Want to be a Down Home White Anti-Racist? 5 Things You Should Know

So, you are a Southern, white, female who hates racism and genuinely wants to do something? Congratulations, you just signed up to be a target. There are some folks who will not get past this sentence without commenting “centering whiteness” or “fake martyr.”

In reality, challenging white family members, friends, co-workers and neighbors, especially down South, is not easy. It is painful and it is dangerous. You will be confronted by everyone from multiple directions. Your motives and methods will constantly be questioned; prepare for accusations of crocodile white woman tears, threats, harassment and exclusion.

There will be days when you sincerely wish you had Rachel Dolezal’s phone number so you could ask her to do your hair and makeup. You too will want to be orange and give up the fight in the skin you are in.

Welcome to Outsider-Ville.

You always have the option to simply stop. That is the true definition of white privilege. Women of color do not have that choice. Read More

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Independence Day and the Dukes of Detroit–Freedom, Race and Regionalism

southernEver venture into the world of social media and feel like you’re that kid in The Emperor’s New Clothesfearlessly and without apology, stating, “But he hasn’t got anything on?” We live in a world of competing narratives and have become so socially narcissistic that we can’t see things from another perspective or stand and say that doesn’t make any sense.

Just wondering, how many Americans descended from white English folks decided to fly the British flag on the 4th of July in honor of your ancestors–the ones from the original 13 colonies that chose to remain loyal to the crown? I know they lost, but it’s your heritage. That’s how crazy the Confederate battle flag debate probably looks to those beyond our borders.

I love the United States of America–even when we are anything other than united. Our identities however as one, big dysfunctional American family (along with our evolving definitions of freedom, independence and equality) are complicated. Until we learn to confront the good, the bad and the downright absurd, we will keep having the same stale, worn out, going nowhere conversations.

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The ‘Other’ White Women Were Invented in 1691

capitol1On a recent field trip with my 8-year-old daughter to the Virginia State Capitol, I felt such joy watching her walk in the rain holding hands with her friends. As we visited the Virginia Civil Rights Memorial on the grounds and read about plans for the Women’s Monument, I felt hopeful.

But what about inside? All of the statues and tour narrative were about influential, elite white men. I couldn’t help but consider the metaphor in the midst of my frustration—want to learn about people of color and women during the last 400 years? Please step outside.

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Make It Happen–Cross the Boundaries of Selective Sisterhood

makeithappen

The theme for International Women’s Day this year is make it happen. It’s a call to action. For me, it’s also a powerful reminder that sisterhood is not about membership; it’s a relationship—an active, radical, empathic bond based on shared experiences and concerns. And it isn’t singular. Women share all kinds of “sisterhoods” –connections based on day-to-day life interactions.

I remember being taught as a child that food, shelter and clothing were necessary for survival. Everything else was want—and it was optional. It informed my view as I learned to navigate the world, deciding who needed or wanted me in their lives.

My own journey beyond the boundaries of selective sisterhood required a new understanding of the difference between sympathy, empathy and compassion. My definition of “need” was forever altered in the process.

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Silent Sisterhood—The Space Between Blackness and Whiteness

My raw, emotional response when I see the words Dear White Woman (or something similar) is to feel defensive, resentful, hurt or misunderstood. Before I even read it, I suspect the seemingly friendly salutation holds no real affection since the implication is we are all just alike.

Perhaps I would be more open to it if there were some specifics: a letter to the white woman who did or said __________. Instead, I feel like a preschool child who loses recess because one kid wouldn’t stop talking. Group discipline is not for grown folks.

Yes, I take it personally. In that moment, I’m 8 years old and my Dad just called me out by my first, middle and last names—a surefire sign that what comes next is not going to feel good. I want to put my fingers in my ears and pretend to shut out the sound. In reality, I can hear you loud and clear–so I come anyway with my heart in my hand.

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The Sisterhood of Poverty

mosaicbwasAccording to the Poverty Data Fact Sheet, there were almost 18 million poor women living in the United States in 2013: White, 8.62 million; Black, 4.08 million; Hispanic, 4.17 million; Asian, 0.78 million; Native American, 0.34 million; and Foreign Born, 3.78 million.

If you isolate heads of household, there were 4 million: White, 1.34 million; Black, 1.36 million; Hispanic, 1.11 million; Asian 0.07 million; Native American, 0.08 million; and Foreign Born, 0.77 million.

Most articles citing poverty statistics focus on disproportionate rates by race and gender. Of course that is a critical concern, but in terms of sisterhood, there is one core truth to keep in mind—a person is not a data point. Read More