Since the election of Donald Trump as President in 2016, it’s become increasingly clear that racism isn’t a thing of the past in the United States. White supremacy remains rampant and it’s a real threat. Most of the domestic terror attacks perpetrated on U.S. soil are the work of white supremacists, who are considered one of the most significant domestic terrorism threats facing the U.S. today.
What can you, as one person, do about white supremacy in your community? You may not be able to bring a stop to white supremacy or end racism on your own, but you can work with others in your community to end racist policies and protect yourselves from white supremacists.
Much of the work we need to do to end white supremacy is work on ourselves. You can do the work to recognize your own privilege, and de-center yourself from the fight for racial equality. Use your power as a constituent to pressure your representatives to take steps to end white supremacy. Learn to listen actively to people of color, and show up for the marginalized groups in your community that have already been working to end white supremacy. Take responsibility for your own social justice education,
Recognizing your own privilege isn’t easy, because we all face obstacles and hardships in life, and it can be hard to see the ways in which you are privileged in society when you’re struggling with illness, poverty, and other hardships. But having privilege doesn’t mean you don’t have obstacles in your path. It means that certain things, such as your race, religion, gender, level of education, citizenship status, or socioeconomic status aren’t among the things that are holding you back.
As a white person, it’s important to recognize that you benefit from historic systems of oppression that affect marginalized groups, like black and indigenous people of color (BIPOC). If you’re white, a man, a college graduate, middle class or wealthy, have a college degree, are able-bodied, or are a citizen of the United States, you have advantages that aren’t shared by others who do not have any of these traits. You can be privileged in some ways – by being a white person, for example – while at the same time being underprivileged in other ways, such as by being a woman or being poor.
When you’re fighting white supremacy as a white person, remember that it’s not all about you. Center the lived experiences of marginalized people in your community. Make space for their voices and contributions. Follow their lead in choosing the ways in which you fight back against white supremacy. Gently encourage other privileged people in your group to decenter themselves, too.
As an advocate, you shouldn’t aspire to speak for marginalized persons, but to instead support them in speaking for themselves and being taken seriously. Learn active listening techniques so you can give BIPOC in your community space to share their experiences and needs and so you can really hear what they’re trying to say.
As a constituent, you have the power to contact your representatives in Congress to agitate for change on the state, federal, and local levels. Confederate statues are coming down all over the country – petition your local city council to take down Confederate statues in your community. Contact your representatives and encourage them to pass the Domestic Terrorism Prevention Act. Many communities already have ongoing constituent campaigns that you can join, so do your research and don’t feel like you have to take on these issues yourself.
You probably don’t need to start your own antiracist groups in your community. Most communities already have organizations that fight domestic terrorism and white supremacy and have been doing so for years, if not decades. Instead of trying to start a new group, show up for one of your community’s existing groups. Attend meetings, ask questions, listen, and be respectful. Do your research into the history of a group before you attempt to join. Ask how you can support upcoming events and follow through with your promises – if you promise to bring a certain number of people to the next protest, for example, do it.
It isn’t marginalized people’s responsibility to educate you about racism, and it’s not fair to expect them to take on the labor of educating you when they are already doing the labor of living with and fighting racism. Educate yourself about historic systems of oppression, modern systems of oppression, and the obstacles that BIPOC face every day. Watch documentaries like 13th, read books about antiracism, and examine your own biases.
When someone in your community makes a racist joke or comment, don’t let it slide. Say something. You can try asking the person to explain the joke or you can say something along the lines of, “I know you’re just joking, but here’s what it means when you say things like that.” Racist jokes and other microaggressions perpetuate racism, and by calling them out, you’re letting community members know that white supremacy won’t be tolerated.
Fighting white supremacy can feel overwhelming, especially as it seems to be on the rise in 21st century America. Do what you can – it will make a bigger difference than you can imagine.