18 Apr

An Open Letter to Us White Folks on Engaging in Race Work

Reprinted with permission

Photo Credit Liz West

Photo Credit Liz West

Recently, I was participating in a professional development session on microaggressions on our campus. As the conversation moved from theory to the lived experience of those in attendance, powerful and painful stories flowed from many of the participants regarding their experiences on campus and in the broader community, as did stories of intervention and hope from those who have been able to interrupt instances of microaggressions. Towards the end of the session, a white woman colleague expressed her fear of mistaking a mistake (good) but then added: “I might as well just not say anything to anyone any more!” (not good). We had previously engaged in good conversations on privilege, systems of oppression, our campus climate, and what we could do to make a difference. She could have been sharing her frustrations at how to be an ally in the struggle and how to use her privilege to interrupt the cycle of oppression on our campus. But she wasn’t. She was voicing the fear common to White people when we talk about race. And she was running away.

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