How do you navigate this work as a White woman?
I have learned—and am still learning—that there are many things I will never be able to say as a White women. This is partially because I do not experience racism in the direct, visceral way that people of color experience it. There’s a lot I will never know or understand about racism—because I’m White. And yet in doing my own work and self reflection, there’s a lot I have learned about my own racism that supports other White people in doing their own work. There’s actually a lot I can say—and need to say—because I’m White that will help White people do the work it takes to move towards healing. I base so much of my work on the call from James Baldwin, who said, “Racism is not a person of color problem. It’s a White person problem. And it’s never going to change unless White people do something about it.”
How do you stay accountable to people of color?
I am most frequently hired by people of color who tell me, “I need you to come talk to my teachers because they don’t seem to hear it coming from me.” This reality—that White people sometimes listen to other White people better than to people of color—is about racism and about the devaluation of the voices and perspectives of people of color. But it is also about the developmental process that White people go through as they learn about racism in which they truly can’t imagine what it would look like for them to speak up and do something. Hearing from a White person who is attempting to live an anti-racist life helps White people to envision the path forward for themselves.
I also work collaboratively in my writing so that my writing and ideas are informed by perspectives beyond my own. I co-founded and now lead the Race Institute with a multiracial team and board of advisors. We do this because we believe the most persistent questions about race and racism can only be addressed through multiracial collaboration and community building.
Do you do workshops in schools?
I do. In fact, this is essentially all I do. I try to make myself available to work with school communities whenever possible.
AND… so do my colleagues! There are many great people doing similar work. Please check out their work and consider working with them to support your school's learning goals.
Here’s their information:
Dr. Marguerite Penick Parks
Dr. Chezare Warren
Dr. Eddie Moore Jr.
Toni Graves Williamson
How do you define racial competence?
I define racial competence as having the skills and confidence to engage in healthy and reciprocal cross-racial relationships;to recognize and honor difference without judgment; to notice and analyze racial dynamics as they occur; to confront racism at the individual, group, andsystems level; to cultivate support mechanisms for continuing to be involved in antiracist practice even when it is discouraging or conflictual; to speak one’s mind and be open to feedback on one’s ideas; to ask for feedback about one’s ideas and work; and to raise race questions about oneself and one’s practice.Racial competence correlates highly with the characteristics of a positive racial identity status (see Chapter 3)