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5 Ways to Be a Better Anti-Racist

by | Feb 7, 2023 | Blog | 0 comments

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How I Confront my Privilege as a White Mexican Through the Lens of Anti-Blackness

My Racial Identity

In my life, I have been perceived as both white and Brown. What I look like to others varies based on the time of year, where I am living, and who is perceiving me. That is the nuance of race. There is one very important thing to note about my experience as a racialized person. 

I experience whiteness. 

This has not always been completely  true for me. Before I moved to the PNW I had a different experience. I grew up in southern CA where the sun shines most days and I was surrounded by other Latino people. I had white “friends” who reminded me frequently of my otherness through  slurs and jokes. My culture was everywhere and my family was Brown.

That being said, I am still Mestiza, which means I am a mix of indigenous and European descent due to the colonization of the land of my ancestors. I also have Cuban ancestry that is undoubtedly Spanish. I have always had fairer skin with more European features than other Latino’s. 

This grants me privilege.

Living in the Pacific Northwest

Since I moved to the PNW, a place where it rains most of the year, the pigment in my skin that existed in LA does not exist. When I am more Brown, I am more visibly Mexican. In the PNW, my features are not recognized. To white folks, I am white. 

So what does that make me? It makes me white. It makes me white to people who hold power. With whiteness comes privilege. That is not something I can ignore, especially working at a Black owned company challenging white supremacy. 

I have other identities that influence the way I walk through this world as well. I am non-binary, queer, neurodivergent and first generation. As a facilitator, it can be easy to lean on these identities to tell my story and to justify why I do justice work. This is something that challenges me and can be difficult to interrupt. 

In the last year, I’ve had a few moments that have been reminders of why it is so important for me to constantly be considering how my race shows up in my life and my work. Before I started at Construct the Present, I spent a lot of time focusing on advocating for Black and Brown femmes. I spent my time intentionally in spaces with other femmes of color. I didn’t do anything without considering how someone who was Black, darker skinned, bigger bodied, and disabled might experience what I was experiencing. It was a practice I didn’t have to think twice about. It was the most important thing to me and frankly what led me to this role. 

Again, moving to the PNW changed how I interacted with the world. Here, it is easy to be white. Finding yourself in primarily white spaces is the norm. Growing up in LA it was not hard for me to be in diverse spaces especially since my home life is Mexican.

Confronting my Privilege 

Recently, I was speaking with my boss who is a Black woman.
I shared that in the last year or so, because my job is justice work my commitment has changed. I have lost my commitment to spending my unpaid time intentionally considering how my race shows up in my experiences. She said to me, “Don’t take this the wrong way, Liana, but the reason you can do that is because you are not Black. You can turn it off but Black people can’t.” It is such an obvious thought that I have understood to be true for a long time. I had the privilege to forget to think about it. Throughout my life, I have been lucky to be surrounded by Black and Brown women who have given it to me straight in my moments of privilege. Nobody is entitled to that emotional labor. 

A few months ago a colleague of mine said some things to me that were extremely anti-Black. I asked myself how I signaled that I was the type of person you could share with in this way.  How do I position myself and work so others feel empowered to say overt racist shit to me? My next steps were to pause and confront this with my coach and therapist.

I am not sharing this because I want to brag that I am an ally who confronts my racism. I share this because this is extremely common and a symptom of white supremacy.

 White supremacy enables me to be a part-time anti-racist person.

It reaffirms the thought that I can show up for the people who share my identities and that is enough. I teach about white supremacy and I still get trapped by its primary function, anti-Blackness. This is a perfect example of why understanding theory is not enough, change requires action. 

Being Honest with Myself

I will admit that it is more difficult today to talk to people about race than it was 3 or 4 years ago. Today the collective consciousness seems to have moved on. I understood the importance of demanding attention for anti-Blackness and being anti racist. Today, it is easier for me to talk about the oppression that relates to me. But that won’t work. No one is liberated if Black lives are not protected from state-sanctioned violence and receive reparations. 

I often doubt myself with questions like am I the person to be leading conversations on anti-Black racism. Not directly, no. But that question is a cop-out. Compensation for facilitation on topics of anti-Blackness should go to Black folks. That is for sure. But everything I facilitate has to be through the lens of anti-Black racism and white supremacy. Especially when the mission of Construct the Present is directly tied to the Black community. 

Liberation is Tied Together

This is my truth. I think and talk about anti racism every day
. I still live in the comfortable space of whiteness when it is convenient for me. This is a reminder for you to ask yourself how you might be doing the same thing. This is a common story. It is something I have to name constantly to ensure that I don’t lose sight of what it is I am doing. I am chipping away at white supremacy to get justice for the Black community that the United States has consistently and brutally abused and profited off of since its inception. 

I will never fully understand the Black experience. That is not necessary for me to be an anti-racist. I feel anger and pain merely as a witness and know what is just and what is unjust. Nothing about justice feels more obvious or important than confronting anti-Black racism. My job as an employee, sure, but it is also my job as a person who knows that all liberation is tied to justice for Black people. 

5 Strategies for Confronting Anti-Blackness

  1. Understand the function of white supremacy and identify it in your life. 
    If you can recognize when white supremacy is popping up in your life, you can confront it more frequently. Learn about the characteristics of white supremacy and name them often. Anti-Blackness is a symptom of white supremacy. Without understanding white supremacy you can’t fully understand and confront anti-Black racism.
    Contact Construct the Present to learn about our training on Confronting White Supremacy.

  2. Create a practice of asking yourself how your privilege might be showing up in any situation. 
    We all experience some privileges and some disadvantages. Knowing what parts of your life are privileged is key to confronting when you may be missing context in a situation. It can be hard to know what privileges you hold if you’ve never known a life without those privileges. Understanding what power your privileges grants you allows you to make an impact against white supremacy. Find a quiz online that tally’s up your privileges and keep those at the top of your mind. The Harvard Implicit Association Test is a great place to start. When you are making a decision or about to speak, slow down. Be curious if your experiences may be influencing your perspective and then act accordingly.

  3. Be real with yourself. 
    We all want to believe that we are good people that are not racist. My values are anti racist, but I exist in a racialized world which means there will be moments when I am practicing racism or am engaging in a racist thought. Being honest that I am not immune to racism or anti-Blackness despite my intention and values allows for self compassion in those moments. We live in a world designed for racism and white supremacy to thrive, therefore it will happen. How we react and confront it is more important than being perfect. Perfectionism is a characteristic of white supremacy!

  4. Continuing learning, engaging and talking about anti-racism. 
    This conversation is ongoing and iterative. It is important to continue to attend panels, engage in interactive workshops, and listen to Black people. Use what you learn to create accountability and action plans for your life. Reading books is great, but learning alone is not enough. Commit to being an anti-racist and find different avenues to practice that.

  5. Practice Self Compassion
    In the past, there has been a lot of shaming and blaming in the world of social justice. While everyone should be holding themselves and their peers accountable for their behavior, shame is not the best avenue for change. Practicing self compassion creates an environment for correcting behaviors and learning from our experiences. 

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