46 Things NOT To Say If You’re Committed To Anti-Racism, Justice & Empathy

Art Credit: Shiloh Sophia

The votes for the 2020 US Presidential election are still being counted, but what is already obvious is that something close to 50% of the country is still voting for an unapologetically racist, white supremacist candidate. The hashtags have quit trending, but the inequality and white supremacy in our country is still rampant. This means that no matter who wins the election, we have BIG anti-racism work to do if we truly care about dismantling systemic racism. If we can’t do this in our spiritual communities, where can we? As such, I’m trying to do my best to collect resources for you all so we can get up to speed, let go of old “spiritual” beliefs that were actually hurting a lot of marginalized people, and commit to doing our own anti-racism work so we can become more empathic, helpful, supportive allies who put our compassion into action—compassion with feet.

Even when we have good intentions to support the anti-racism movement, we often say just the wrong thing, sometimes at the most vulnerable moment. I asked the people in my Facebook community to help us crowd-source the Cliff Notes of what NOT to say if you want to be a real social justice and #BlackLivesMatter ally.

1. “I see you. I hear you. I care. #BlackLivesMatter.” (Then you do nothing, change nothing, and risk nothing.)
2. “All lives matter.”
3. “I’m not a racist.”
4. “We’re all One. You’re being divisive when you talk about race.”
5. “I’m color blind.”
6. “You shouldn’t call me out on my racism. You should just do your own work.”
7. “Why fight with reality? You just need to love and accept what is.”
8. “You can talk about racism, but you have to talk sweet, or I’m going to [silence you/unfollow you/abandon you/reject you/delete you/not promote or publish you].”
9. “Take responsibility for your victim narrative and stop blaming others for your suffering.”
10. “You’re making the polarization worse when you call people racist.”
11. “But I voted for Obama.”
12. “But I have a BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People Of Color) family member (or friend).”
13. “But I’m poor/disabled/LGBTQIA+ so I can’t have white privilege.”
14. “You should go meditate if you’re this upset.”
15. “It’s only your negative thoughts that are a problem.”
16. “Fear is the opposite of love. Just choose love.”
17. “That’s just a story.”
18. “You need to work on your ego.”
19. “You manifested this.”
20. “Your soul chose this so you could grow.”
21. “You’re just projecting.”
22. “Other countries had slavery. Africa… Egypt. Blacks enslaved other blacks!” (So we’re not bad.)
23. “This stuff is too heavy. You’re vibing my bliss.”
24. “But rioting and wrecking property isn’t the way to get my support.”
25. “I don’t believe in interrupting other people’s karma.”
26. “Stop playing the race card.”
27. “Oh, you’re obviously ‘triggered.'” (This is code for: “You aren’t raising a legitimate point. The problem is with you and your irrational emotional reactions.”)
28. “I was Black/Indian/etc. in a past life.” (Which somehow opts you out of being white in this one.)
29. “Racism isn’t really the problem here, it’s [fill in the blank].” [Basically deflecting, whataboutism, and downright gaslighting – that reality isn’t actually reality, because they say so.]
30. “I know exactly how you feel.”
31. “I’m entitled to my opinion.”
32. “Good vibes only.”
33. “I always support my minority friends on social media.”
34. “But Denzel Washington, Morgan Freeman, and Candace Owens don’t believe in systemic racism.”
35. “But I’m [poor/LGBTQIA+/disabled/overweight/neurodiverse] so I can’t have white privilege.”
36. “Things happen for a reason.”
37 “Let’s agree to disagree.”
38. “I’m too busy working on myself to do anti-racism work.”
39. “I’m an empath/Highly Sensitive Person/overwhelmed, so I can’t handle talking about racism.”
40. “I don’t want to talk publicly about racism until I’ve done all my work and can get it right.”
41. “Just tell me what you want me to do.”
42. “The problem is too big. I won’t be able to change anything.”
43. “I don’t watch the news, so I don’t ruin my vibe.”
44. “I only listen when people use NVC (Non-Violent Communication).” [As a way to tone police, shut down your legitimate emotion, and try to control you.]
45. ”Stay in your lane.” (In other words, talk about health or finance or spirituality but don’t talk about politics.)
46. “Well, then what SHOULD I say?”

If you really don’t understand what we’re talking about here, check out my posts on Facebook from the past week and find the reading list to bring you up to speed on what you CAN do. If you can stand the heat, I recommend starting with Me and White Supremacy by the Black Muslim woman Layla Saad. She invested big emotional labor in trying to help “spiritual white people” understand how we’ve been complicit in racism because of our white privilege, white fragility, willful blindness, white silence, white apathy, and many other common mistakes otherwise caring people make. If you can, read this with a study partner. There are lots of journal prompts that make for deep, rich, uncomfortable but intimate conversation with a trusted friend.

If you’re finally getting what NOT to say but you don’t know what is helpful, try listening and validating the emotions someone is expressing, not as an empty gesture, but as a sincere attempt to be part of the change. Read all the books on the book list we collected. Examine your own implicit biases. Do your own work. Take a class. Join a book club. Talk to a therapist. Participate in anti-racism activism. Invest your money in it. Google search “white allyship” and get involved. Learn from the countless BIPOC leaders who are devoted to this work. And please, avoid telling people like me that my posts are too heavy when you feel helpless. This sh*t is heavy!!! There’s no way to lighten it up and we shouldn’t try. If this feels heavy to you, imagine what it’s felt like to Black Indigenous People of Color for centuries! I’m trying to help the white people in this community—because I’m in this with you and I care and I’m trying to use my power, privilege, and platform to make a difference. But this is a time when each of us needs to take personal responsibility for figuring this out for ourselves and not expect someone else to do this hard work for us.

*Some of the quotes you all shared with me here were real jaw drops. No wonder people are pissed! Thanks everyone for crowd-sourcing what I missed in my first iteration of this.

 

 

 

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2 Comments

  1. Anni Barsoum

    Maybe some people you think are being inconsiderate are just unable to express the pain their racist parts felt when this great continent was conquered by the Europeans. I know, it’s unlikely, but worth a try.

    Maybe they are so afraid of losing their privilege by admitting that war & taking prisoners (aka slaves) was a convenient and cheap way of forced labor for plantations and industry. Now they are so used to being the privileged classes, and can no longer envisage living without their servants.

    Maybe a land without its people was the easiest way of stealing new territory, and gold, whether in the old world, or the new world.

    Just some thoughts that come to mind as I watch a world that has lost its moral compass, and mourn with you that the world’s greatest democracy, and symbol of human rights to the rest of the non-US nationals, has become so blind to the plight of its own people and the downtrodden of the world.

    There is so much work to be done. I too was hoping this election would be a watershed. The planet cannot take another four years of Trump. Sadly, even if the Democrats win, their mandate will be limited.

    Thanks Lissa for speaking up and doing all the healing work you do. Your Inner Pilot is a Goddess.

    Reply
  2. Cindyann Wood

    Thank you, Lissa, for bringing this deeply messy topic up and inviting us to dive in. I learned through teaching Mark Twain’s, “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn,” that we need to first value what it means to be a human being. Currently, I think Gregg Braden is attempting to teach us about that. The first problem with teaching Twain’s book, is confronting why the use of a word, that immediately confronts the reader, of its dehumanizing use, as it refers to a human being. And Twain’s book confronted the reader 214 times, which demonstrated a common use, that bred a desensitization, that paved political policy, and still does. He did his best to accurately represent this time period, mid 1800’s, understood as realism. The best way I learned how to teach this book was through a PBS documentary called, “Born to Trouble: Adventures of Huckleberry Finn 2000.” I bought the film for our library. The film does such an excellent job of out ling the complicated layered issues regarding our history and the success of the industrialization period. It arched my curriculum for the school year. When I retired, the librarian gave it back to me, and said I was the only teacher for the past 10 years who checked it out. It stunned me. I gave it to another teacher, who had at least another 10 years to go before she retired. That was just 2 years ago. Students get a different education depending on where they live. Our current president is working on making that more difficult. I was lucky to be teaching in California.

    Reply

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