Authentic Antiracist Action Starts With You.
Fight Racism, Part 2: Becoming Antiracist
In May 2020, a Black man named George Floyd suffocated to death after he was pinned to the pavement outside a Minneapolis convenience store by a white police officer. The brutality of his death and the irrefutable video evidence led to a global outcry, waking many white Americans to a reality that Black Americans know too well: that racist violence is still a regular occurence in our country.
Of course, we were motivated to act. To donate to action groups, vote for reform, and march in the streets. Some communities have challenged the basic structures of policing, and began to imagine new frameworks for public safety.
But big, structural changes like these depend on millions of individuals first changing internally. And as an experienced therapist and life coach, I know how tough making even minor internal changes can be. In this case, it requires us to acknowledge how we’ve benefited from a system that routinely destroys other people’s lives in hideous ways, and that we do have some power to make things better, but we haven’t always used it.
Here’s the good news: Taking on these difficult internal challenges is what will allow you to fight against racism in your everyday life. In honor of Martin Luther King Jr. day, we’re rereleasing our conversation about antiracism, and the internal growth work you can begin today on your journey to becoming a true ally.
I hope you’ll listen, and feel empowered to begin exploring your own opportunities to create a better future for all of us. You can find this episode right on this page, or on Apple podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you get your podcasts.
With love and gratitude,
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How to Fight Racism
After George Floyd’s murder, the outpouring of support for antiracist causes was a beautiful thing. It also needs to be said that true, meaningful change requires us to go much deeper than saying nice things or taking superficial action. True change will require all Americans — and specifically, white Americans — to take this fight on as their own.
In order for lasting, systemic change to happen, white Americans need to take on the emotional burden of racism, break the silence of complicity, refuse to accept the status quo, and shine the light of inquiry into all the spaces that racism hides and festers. It is vital for white people to do this work because…. I’m going to say it… white people are actually the problem.
Not all white people, but enough white people are collectively involved in systemic racist policies and institutions to make these systems very difficult for people of color to change from the outside in.
This is an inside job. White people need to be looking around themselves (and inside themselves) to see what's causing so much harm to others, and take meaningful, antiracist action to change what they can change. This sounds simple, but in reality, it's much harder to do.
Well-meaning white people are often eager to leap into action for the antiracist cause, but do so without first having done the foundational personal growth work that allows them to genuinely understand racism, and be confident activists in pursuit of change. Instead, white people often feel intense feelings of guilt for the abuse that people of color experience, shame for their own white privilege, and intense feelings of anxiety about doing or saying “the wrong thing.”
While these feelings are all understandable, not knowing how to work through them and get past them can prevent a white person from being the effective agent of change that the world so desperately needs.
Before meaningful change and social activism are possible, there needs to be a growth process of self-awareness and healing. This is hard to do, and there are not many sign-posts to guide you in this work. Most white families never talk about race, much less provide their children with a roadmap to develop a healthy, white racial identity. As such, white Americans struggle to cope with the emotional reality of racism and injustice. Defensiveness, silence, denial, tone-deaf “action,” and / or paralysis can ensue.
(Healthy) White Racial Identity Development
The good news is that, while white culture does not generally speak of such things openly, there actually is a map. In the '90s, psychologist and researcher Janet Helms built on the work of William Cross (Racial Identity Development in People of Color) and Derald W Sue (Counseling the Culturally Diverse) to develop a white racial identity development model that outlines the process through which white people can shift away from color-blindness and denial, work through paralyzing shame and guilt, take responsibility for understanding racism, and then use their authentic awareness to be part of the meaningful solution.
Until white people do this necessary personal growth work, it is difficult for them to be reliable partners in the fight against racism. However, the internal work of growing in their own racial identity and awareness lays the foundation for authentic anti-racist action that is motivated by a genuine desire for positive change — and an acceptance that the problem of racism is their problem too. In that emotional space, white Americans can shift away from being (even unconsciously) part of the problem, and into being part of the solution.
The Antiracist Personal Growth Process
In that spirit, on this episode of the Love, Happiness and Success podcast, I'm diving into Helm's White racial identity development model, and having an honest conversation about what the stages are really like. (Because I have lived them all!) We'll talk about what the work involves, the obstacles and opportunities in each stage of development, and resources to support you in your anti-racist development. Specifically, we'll address:
- Why “color-blindness” happens, and why something so prevalent (and seemingly well-intentioned) is so destructive.
- Why white people often feel so much guilt and shame when confronting race, and how to not let those feelings stop you from moving forward.
- How to avoid the mental and emotional pitfalls that can derail the anti-racist growth process.
- Why anti-racist action stemming from anxiety about “being a good white person” can be more harmful than helpful.
- How to dig into the realities of racism, the impact of racial discrimination, and the fact of white privilege in a constructive way that facilitates growth and healing.
- How white parents can raise anti-racist children.
Resources for Fighting Racism
In addition to all of the above, in this episode, I mention a number of resources that have been personally helpful to me in my own journey of anti-racist growth. These are just a tiny drop in the bucket; a big part of the work of stage five is to read / watch / listen / attend / learn from anything and everything that adds another piece to the ever-evolving puzzle of your own understanding and empathy. A few resources mentioned in the podcast (know there are MANY more):
- White racial identity development model (Helms)
- Multi-cultural models of racial identity development
- Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack
- Our Living Languages: Royal BC Museum
- Guns, Germs and Steel
- Oak Alley
- This American Life: Our Town (Parts 1 and 2)
- White Fragility
- The Other Slavery
- How to Be an Antiracist
- The History of White People
Antiracist Resources For Kids (Toddlers to Tweens!):
Fight Racism, Part 2: Becoming Antiracist
Dr. Bobby: This is Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby, and you're listening to the Love, Happiness, and Success podcast. And welcome to part two of our discussion. Today, we are talking about how to heal racism, and now we're going to turn our attention to the healthy anti-racist developmental process for hopefully a little bit of direction and guidance to how to cultivate this perspective and orientation in our own lives.
So we talk a lot on this show about matters of personal growth, and self-development all related to love, happiness and success. And, I was thinking recently that I can't remember how many times I've said on this show. No one teaches you how to have a great relationship. And that's why we have to have these conversations about it.
Or no one teaches you how to be a happy person. These are all skills and strategies that we are all individually responsible for learning over time in order to be a mentally and emotionally and spiritually well person, right? And there is education and investment into developing these abilities like through couples counseling or through individual therapy or coaching to really help you learn and develop these aspects of yourself to help you achieve these poor, important, personal goals.
And I was reflecting recently, especially in light of this sort of new tide, new awareness in our country, in our culture about the impact and legacy of racism in our society. And I think what I've also been hearing from everyone, from clients to personal friends, to family members, to colleagues is a real desire, particularly in white people to do something, to help and to be a force of good in the world.
That is an effective way of beginning to really, and meaningfully solve some of the destructive racist patterns that we see in our. And, nobody teaches you how to have relationships, right? But certainly at least when it comes to white culture, there is zero conversation about how to develop a healthy, white, racial identity.
That becomes the foundation of being able to cultivate a real and true anti racist approach to the world where you can become an active partner in creating positive change related to systemic racism and the acts of violence that shock us all in moments like these. In order to think about what would be most helpful in service of that conversation.
I began combing back through my mind and honestly, my personal process of doing that work and why it was so difficult and being able to tie it back to some of what we know about how healthy racial identity is developed and what gets in the way of it. And so again, this is me talking for a few minutes on a podcast.
And so I'm going to certainly drop a few ideas that I hope will provide you with some understanding and direction, but please know that listening to this podcast or anything else for that matter is a drop of what this work really involves. For me personally, this is a journey that I'm probably on. 25 at this point.
And I am still very much in the process of figuring things out. And and also I would like to, before I even launch into this deeply ask in advance for your grace and patience, if, as, a person who is still developing herself and who does not have all the answers says, so something, I don't want to use the word wrong, but you know that I might perceive down the line as being like, dude, did I really say that?
I don't have all the answers. I am still figuring this out and I might say, or do something even over the course of this conversation that rubs someone the wrong way. And this, that anxiety right there is the anxiety that we all have to fight through and be brave around and do it anyway and say things anyway, in order to change our world.
I'll be a role model for imperfection in action. Okay. But a really helpful idea for me that I was not introduced to, until I went to counseling school, when I was 26 years old, was the idea of racial. Identity development and how it happens in stages over a period of time. This concept was introduced to me in a wonderful multicultural counseling competency class, right?
And this class was designed to help primarily white counseling students, which are absolutely the majority in every counseling program, to understand racism and how it impacted them personally and their worldview so that they could genuinely be of service to everyone grappling with this issue. But in particular to clients who identified as people of color, so as to not inadvertently damage them.
So that was really like the purpose and intention of the class. And there were all kinds of things that happened in that class, in service of it. But the idea that one of the ideas that really hit home for me, and I think launched my process in a new way was this idea of racial identity development and racial identity development is true for people of all races.
And the process is a little bit different for people of all races. So if when black people go through a racial identity development process, it is obviously going to be a little bit different from the ones that white people go through. But I'm just going to run through these with you really quickly, and then we'll go back and discuss, okay.
And this comes from home's work and I will be posting links to these handouts that I have here on the post for this podcast. But very briefly, there are six different stages and they may not be linear as always people can go back and forth or have these in different order, but they are, the first stage is called contact.
The second is disintegration. The third is reintegration. The fourth is pseudo independence then comes immersion and then comes autonomy. So six different phases. Very briefly. The first stage of contact is where there is a lack of understanding of even racism. This is like where white people are, colorblind everywhere.
The next stage of disintegration is when people become confronted with the reality of racism and how it is very much part of our society. And it generates a lot of bad feelings. The third stage of reintegration is something that happens particularly with white people who are trying to make themselves feel better, where disintegration has brought up a lot of big, horrible feelings.
Reintegration is how can I soothe these feelings oftentimes by doubling down in defensiveness and denial and even a reliance with racist ideas that seem. The fourth stage is something called pseudo independence, which is still very self-focused. It is a positive stage of racial development. And the stage people are moving into white.
People are moving into taking racism seriously and wanting very much to be a force of good in the world and to help change this. But it is often a lot of activity focused on how can I figure out how to be a good white person so that I'm still denying that I am a racist or have subconscious racist beliefs.
And I'm looking to other people to help, okay, what do I do? But it's very it is very it feels very fragile and unconfident and. Very much in service of how do I feel better? I like to feel better, please help. Okay. When people work through that, they can come into an immersion phase where they've worked through the feelings of shame and guilt and are settling in to the emotional experience of empathetically connecting with the realities of the world, a racist world, and actively investing in educational opportunities and growth opportunities to help them understand for their own.
So it's self-motivated because they want to know and they want to understand and they want to develop. So there's that fifth stage. And then finally, the sixth stage of autonomy is when God, he works some things out and understands the world a lot differently as a white person and your place in it, and feels like you can genuinely be a partner in changing it.
So those are a brief summary of the phases. We're going to talk through them deeply now for the purpose of understanding them and understanding how you and I, and we can work through these different stages productively in order. The very first stage of the white racial identity model. And this was a model created by Helms in the mid nineties to explain this process as it relates to white folks.
The first stage is called contact. And in this stage, there is a colorblindness in white people that is often characterized by a denial of racial differences. It is, we are one everyone is equal and everyone is the same and almost a refusal to participate in. Seeing the world through a racial lens, there is a disowning of it and.
I was certainly in that phase for a big chunk of my life. And there are reasons for that. Personally, I never had a conversation about race, racism, anything like that in my Lily white family. I personally did not know it at the time, but I was raised in a very segregated environment. I went to a very segregated
There was like one black kid in my entire school who, seemed nice enough, lived in a similar neighborhood, just wasn't exposed to any of those ideas. And what I was taught was like, you know what on Sesame street or the Muppets. Different Sesame street characters. They might have different colored skin and they all had similar life experiences and we need to respect and support people no matter what they look like.
And there were certainly ideas around that to be mean to people based on how they looked was not good. And we didn't want to do that. Like at a very elementary school level. We need to be nice to everyone. We went on a field trip. I grew up in Southwestern, Virginia, went on a field trip to the Booker T Washington plantation, where we were taught that yes, slavery was a thing that happened a long time ago and it was very regrettable and bad things happened.
And thankfully we're all past that now and stuff like that doesn't happen any more. And, there, there was also Booker T Washington who was a bright, hardworking boy. And he went to school. He tried really hard and he pulled himself up by his bootstraps and made something of himself. And even for anyone who comes from a difficult background, if they work hard enough and try hard enough, they can have a nice life and that's the American way.
And we should all feel good about that. And so those were the ideas that I was raised with and I think that is true for many white Americans. Don't be mean to people based on the way they look or where they come from. And this idea of colorblindness we're all the same. And we're not going to think about people in terms of their racial differences, because we all have the same opportunities and it's all going to be okay.
Now what I didn't know at the time, but came to learn is that stance right there, the color blindness is very problematic because when you grow up in a white world with white people and white cultural ideals, what it means to be a person is what it means to be a white person. That what is normal is a white.
Cultural identity is a white view of the world. It is going to history classes that world history means white European history. And then we can talk about some of this other stuff too, but it is extremely insular and most white people by virtue of their white privilege are never in a situation where they need to think otherwise.
There is no other information. This is just the way that the world is. And what happens is that. If this is the model for the way that the world is and the way that people should be, if bad things happen to other people who are not white, it must mean that they did something to cause that they were behaving badly.
They were acting in ways that aren't really appropriate, particularly when we compare them to our cultural ideals and that if they are living in poverty or having, regrettable things happen to them, it's because no, maybe they weren't trying hard enough or they weren't working hard enough or they weren't doing what they should be doing because why else would they be getting those kinds of outcomes?
That is the danger and the risk of that very insular colorblind model is that it fails to see the reality of people in other cultures, in other racial groups and the forces at work that are very actively and deliberately trying to bring them down and standing on them and making it much more difficult for them to achieve and be healthy and well in our society.
And similarly along those same lines in a colorblind world it fails to take into consideration or account the impact of white privilege and how white people are benefiting in very real and material ways from this racist system. If there are no races, if there are no colors, then white people are getting the results that they're getting because they earned it.
Not because they have invisible advantages that not everyone does. There's no recognition of that in a colorblind. So that is the first stage of white racial development. Is that we're all the same. It's no, I don't see color. And also that goes along with that, is this sort of low key anxiety that if I am talking about race, that is a problem that we just need to like, pretend that's not a thing that'll make it better.
And certainly to be identified as a white person, that feels really dangerous because then there are these differences and what does that mean? And if I'm a white person talking about race, does that make me like what a Nazi, like also kids, white kids growing up, like we see the movies, we see, Alma, Stott, or other movies that, that highlight the terrible things that were, have been and are being done to black Americans and other people of color.
And that. The villains in those movies are horrible, racist, white people who are doing bad things. And so then we need to also reject that concept of white racial identification, because that is evil and reprehensible and wrong. The worst thing that you can call someone, a white person anyway, is a racist.
That's it's like calling somebody a Nazi or a pedophile. It's saying you are the most despicable type of human that could possibly exist, that you would absolutely support harming someone or oppressing someone or damaging someone because of this sense of racial superiority. And so there is a huge rejection of that in, in particular the first stage of white racial divide.
The second stage though, is a part called disintegration. And at that stage white people are confronted with some of the reality that people of other races of their experience. So while the first space was I'm colorblind, everyone's the same. Then there is new information around, why is this happening to people?
Why are the families of immigrants being separated and Mexican children being put in case. Why are people being killed by police officers? When they're suspected of some trivial petty crime, but they're being shot or shot jogging down their street, like, how is this possible then? So there's this new awareness in white people that bad things really do happen to people of color that we do not typically experience.
And those moments become a fork in the road. Either we can let that in and yeah, why is that happening? And what does that mean about what's happening in the world or, and what is often more common is this idea of what's happening? Why is it happening? And the fact that it is happening to other people makes me as a white person feel so much shame and guilt that this kind of horror is happening to, to people who maybe are like me.
That is such a bad feeling that I need to do whatever I can to protect myself internally, emotionally from that feeling of shame and guilt and horror. And so to do that, I need to blame someone outside of myself and find a reason why that makes sense. So in this stage, depending on the way that fork in the road moment goes, a white person can go into a phrase or a phase rather that Helms termed reintegrating.
Which is a way of a white person putting themselves back together and their own self concept back together, which is bad. Things happen to people of other races because they deserve it. And because they are failing to behave in a way that would be consistent with their being successful in this country, in this environment.
And so they're really into law and order. And if people could just assimilate and be more like us, it would really go better for them and coming into a place where, you know maybe white people do have privileges and maybe there's a reason why maybe there's a reason why that makes sense.
So it's very easy for white people to get stuck in that place where yeah, bad things happen in the world, but there's a reason why, and all of the reasons why are reasons that I tell myself that so that I don't have to feel anxious and guilty and ashamed that these terrible things are happening to people in the world.
And that at the same time, I am experiencing exactly the opposite. I am experiencing a lot of benefits and advantages in this culture, in a society because I am white. That can feel really bad for a white person. I know I have certainly struggled with that. And when we talk about the phrase it's getting tossed around lately, it's is white privilege and that's been in the media and the consciousness, which is a good thing, but I think that it's really difficult for white people to take on board what this means.
And it's also easy to reject. And white people, particularly in the stage of development, there is a lot of defensiveness and there's a lot of denial. My family were recent immigrants. I did not have a single relative in this country at the turn of the century. And my family did not participate in any of this badness and it's not my fault that maybe I do have privileges in the society.
Maybe it is easier for me to get a home loan, but I'm not a bad credit risk either. So a lot of rationalization or a lot of denial of The fact that other racial groups in our society are really actually getting worse treatment, a shorter end of the stick than we are. And there can be a lot of I'm a woman and I know what it feels like to be discriminated against because of my sex or, I had Irish immigrants in my family and they were parlor maids and they were discriminated against.
And it's really not fair to lump me into this big, like that I'm a racist because I can't be a racist because first of all, I'm a good person who loves other people and I would never hurt anyone. And, I know I also know what it's like to suffer, so that does not apply to me.
So there's a big pushback and it comes from, again this discomfort and anxiety and pain that we feel when confronted with the truth. The reality that there is white privilege and that we are actively benefiting from it. Another thing that I first encountered in the counseling class that I went to, that I mentioned right around the same time, it's like, there's a white, racial identity development, but there's also this thing called white privilege.
I had not ever heard of that before. And I'm 26 years old. Okay. I did not know that was a thing. I also didn't know that native American boarding schools were a thing until that class. I remember learning about this and being like what really happened. Like I had no idea, but so let me share with you.
One of the things that I came across around that same time, and this is, this has been around for a while now, but it was enormously impactful for me at the time. And it really helped me begin to understand that White people do have enormous privileges in our society because of racism and to begin to like understand what that meant for me and to begin to see the world differently.
The article is by a woman named Peggy McIntosh. It's called white privilege unpacking the invisible knapsack. So the idea is that there's like this backpack of stuff and resources that white people get to carry around with them, that people of color don't. And she very helpfully put it into a list, which included things like if I want to, I can arrange to be in the company of people of my race.
Most of the time. Just true. To, if I need to move, I can be pretty sure that renting or purchasing housing in an area which I can afford in and which I can afford and in which I want to live. So I can find a nice place in a good environment that is attainable for me, that is not true for everyone.
Three is I can be pretty sure that my neighbors in such a location will be neutral or pleasant to me. Four is that I can go shopping alone. Most of the time, pretty well assured that I will not be followed or harassed five. I can turn on the television or open the front page of the paper and see people of my race widely represented.
And also I'll just add largely positively represented, right? Six, when I am told about our national heritage or about civilization, I am shown that people of my color made it what it is. Seven. I can be sure that my children will be given curricular materials that testify to the existence of their race.
Eight. If I want to, I can be pretty sure of finding a publisher for this piece on white privilege nine, I can go into a music shop and count on finding the music of my race, represented into a supermarket and find the staple foods that fit in with my cultural traditions, into a hairdresser shop and find someone who can cut my hair.
- When I use credit cards or cash, I can count on my skin color, not to work against the appearance of my financial reliability 11. I can arrange to protect my children most of the time from people who might not like them. Yep. Another one that stood out for me. I can take a job with an affirmative action employer without having coworkers on the job suspect that I got it because of my race.
I can be sure that if I need legal or medical help, my race will not work against me. I can choose blemish covers or band-aids in flesh color and have them more or less match my skin. I can be pretty sure that if I asked to talk to the person in charge, I will be facing a person of my race.
I am never asked to speak for all people of my racial group. I am seen as an individual, not as an Emissary of a whole racial group. And so there are a lot of other really significant points that are made in this article. But I remember thinking about that and white privilege in a different way after being exposed to those ideas.
But even then, like the primary emotional experience that I had as a white person in my own white racial development was one of an enormous amount of guilt and shame because if this is true, and if I am benefiting as a result of this, then I am an active participant in a racist culture. I am benefiting from a racist culture.
And because of the way that racist is defined, which is being a bad, evil, horrible person, that means that I must be a bad, evil, horrible person. Because there wasn't another idea to counterbalance that. And so what I think is a much more helpful idea about racism and what it is this system that creates a value hierarchy of who people are categorized by race and how they should be categorized by race.
And that these differences are not equal. They are. Ranked in order of how like good or bad they are relative to each other with a white supremacist, ideal being at the top and that people of other races and other cultures are compared to this white ideal. That is really like the core of a racist ideology is that we're evaluating other races based on a sort of subjective.
Like what is normal based on this very unconscious white identity. Colorblindness creates an in our society. And then because of that sort of unconscious bias, that some ways of being are Biver to better than others. And the whiter you are, the whiter you act, the whiter culturally, you match this ideal.
The more rewarded you will be from that culture, like going back to Mr. Booker T Washington, like he was the good. Former slave because he worked really hard to assimilate himself into white cultural ideals. And also there is another very, I think, dangerous idea that goes along with that, which is that of assimilation that people who come here from other countries or people of other races need to work hard, to be more like us, to be more mainstream, to be more normal.
What is not said in those conversations is to be more white. But that is the implied kind of undercurrent of that. That is what Indian boarding schools were all about is we're going to take people away from their native indigenous cultures that an anti-racist would view as being not just legitimate, but valuable and beautiful and worthy of celebrating.
And we're going to take them away and we're going to teach them how to be so that they can have opportunities in this culture. So we're going to reform them by taking away their cultural identity, their belief system, their language, their family structure, their way of being, and try to assimilate them, which is really making them more, more white.
These are all very powerful forces at work in our culture and white people on the path of racial identity development can see these things going on, but get really stuck in either this sort of paralyzing guilt and shame that they need to fix by either blaming the victim or saying they have a point about assimilation and the differences between cultures, maybe some things are better than others, falling into that. Or there is another space that people can go into, which is just denial and saying all people have struggles. All people are oppressed. All people go through hard times. And because I also have done this and my family has done this. I am not this bad, evil, racist person, because I am a good person.
I would never hurt anyone. And so it's like, how do you reconcile being a white person with being a good person? It is an emotional crisis. Now the next stage of racial development, if you can keep getting through that, pushing yourself along, there is one that is called pseudo independence. Again, a term developed by home, through her research.
And this is the first stage of positive racial identity. Although an individual in this stage does not feel that whites deserve privilege. They look to people of color, not to themselves to confront and uncover racism. They approve of these efforts and comfort the person as these efforts validate that white person's desire to be non-racist.
And although this is positive, the white person in this stage does not really have a concept of how they can work to be part of the solution. And this is what I see. And probably what you see happening in our world right now with it. And it's a positive thing in many ways, as some of the protests and white people putting signs in their yards and blacking out their Instagram accounts and all of this and it's this, I want to be your ally in your fight because this is your problem, black person.
And I see how destructive and awful this has been for you. And I feel really bad about what you're dealing with and I want to be a good white person. So I just want you to know that I think what you're doing to protest and try to make things be different is great. And you should totally keep doing that.
And let me know how I can help, but I think you're doing a really good job. Keep going. There is still this idea of racism. And prejudice and racist policies are someone else's problem. They are not the problem of a white person. And I think going back to white privilege that they don't have to feel like your problem.
It does not have to feel like your problem. You can go for days, weeks, months at a time without talking about these things, without thinking about them without being put in situations where you're confronted by them. It is very easy to just put all that stuff back in the box. And I think a risk too is in service of managing your own guilt and anxiety and shame when these things are coming up in the world is figuring out, what can I do?
To help myself feel better as a white person. Should I donate money? Should I go protest? Should I put a sign in my yard, but it's not so much about what can I do to make this my problem and begin actually healing the racism and changing the racist policies in my culture. It is. And I hate to say this, but it's very self-focused, it's about, I need to feel like I'm a good white person.
And so what can I do to make myself feel better? Because these things are happening. And it really oftentimes creates this dynamic where people of color then put into the situation where they're like needing to soothe the feelings of anxious, white people who are worried that they're bad people because of being white and not really knowing what to do.
Which does not help. And I think it probably damages relationships further. I think a different stance and, once a white person has, I think gone through and done the work of cultivating a healthy white racial development identity is this idea that this is actually my problem.
This is something that I am profoundly uncomfortable with. This is something that I perceive my life as having been impacted by very directly. And what do I need to do to be part of a meaningful solution, having uncomfortable conversations with other white people about racism and what we are going to do to address this.
Those are difficult places to go, and they are really impossible places to go into until you have done the work of recognizing these different stages of development and the emotional obstacles that there are to working through it. So in a pseudo-independence phase of white racial development, there is a lot of awareness that there is a problem of racism, but looking to people of color to solve that problem and passively supporting you at a distance kind of desires to be an ally.
But, do not do anything. I just, I see you. Okay. The next phase, and this is a really important phase is one that is called immersion slash immersion slash immersion. So in this stage, a person makes a genuine attempt to connect to his or her own white identity. And be anti-racist stage is usually accompanied by a deep concern with understanding and connecting to other whites who are, or have been dealing with issues of racism and in another.
A resource I have here that this stage is characterized by discomfort with his or her own whiteness yet unable to truly be anything else. The individual may begin searching for a new, more comfortable way to be white in this stage, learning about white people who have been anti-racist alleys allies to people of color can be an important part of this process.
Whites find it helpful to know that others have experienced similar feelings and found ways to resist the racism in their environments. And they're provided with important models to change. I think that there is also something else that happens in this phase. That has been my personal experience in moving out of a preoccupation with not wanting to be a bad white person and doing things that are supportive of non-racist causes.
But because of me wanting to feel better as opposed to actually making meaningful change in other lives for me, what this needed to involve was a very, and instill is a shift into personal responsibility for how do I, as a white person seek out information and educational experiences to help me develop a more clear understanding of what happened, why it happened, why we are such a racist culture in the United States, why does systemic oppression and racism occur in our society in this day and age?
And for me, this is still ongoing. Was a lot of, again, I talked about this in other podcasts, but I am a card carrying nerd. So reading books, listening to podcasts, doing more digging into some of these ideas that were presented to me in counseling school. And also I think doing some almost accountability work to understand how I did and do currently benefit from white privilege and some reflection around how my experience would be different if I wasn't a white woman.
So for example books that I have found to be really helpful going way back guns, germs, and steel I think at one, a Pulitzer prize, Big prize for exploration around how geographic factors impacted the way that different cultures developed and started to make sense of colonialism and how that happened.
That was helpful to me, I think, going to a lot of educational experiences. So for example and this come comes back to something else, I am now a mother of a white son who is going to grow up to be a white man, but how do I change his growing up experience so that he is introduced to the ideas and realities and things that I did not know about as a child growing up.
There were never conversations about it. So for example, this past year I wanted to take him to the deep south so that we could go to a plantation and talk about the reality of the lives of enslaved people and why that happened. And the economic forces that led to the enslavement. Of Africans from their country and bring them here to work on these plantations.
And this is what was going on. And I think experientially bring him there and see this is what life would have been like for you as a child at this time because of a slave economy. And that is what the United States was built on. And I think helping him emotionally connect, but also me to, connect with, wow this is why there is so much discrimination, is that in order for people to be able to do this to other people, they had to believe that the people that they were enslaving were sub.
And to be actively going into educational experiences, like for example, what is voodoo, right? And we went to an exhibit around voodoo and looked at how that was a sort of continuation of African spirituality that enslaved people were finding ways to, to practice and cultivate in their new situation, but really looking at it as an uprising of African culture.
And certainly I've had a lot of opportunities recently to go and learn about indigenous people and certainly in the. The United States and in Canada, but first nations people and the experience that they had when your pee and settlers and colonists came in and the decimation of their cultures, and, standing with my son at a big exhibit around what it was actually like to be taken away from your family and sent to a boarding school and being with him and watching him empathically connect with that emotional experience in a way that he was like, ah certainly talking as a family about what has been happening around immigration and how people who are trying to come across the border from Mexico, what is happening to those families and talking about why.
They are putting their lives at risk and putting themselves in so much danger to come hear what is happening in their countries. It's making it so important for them to do this. So not just looking at what people do, but why are they doing it? And, having recognition for the fact that when my family was worried about another war in Europe, they, my grandparents had gone through two world wars at that point.
And they came over in the fifties when Stalin was the next crazy person. Saber rattling on the horizon. They were like, no, this doesn't feel safe for us and our family. And they wanted to come to the United States. And what did they have to do to not just emigrate, but to be accepted and have the opportunity to become naturalized citizens.
They had to say, we were thinking of moving to the United States. Would that be okay? And the response was, yeah, come on in. Yes. Why not? Compared to the experience of ethnic minorities, trying to come to the United States and be accepted as citizens. And again, an earlier stage of white racial development might jump to the conclusion.
They were. A good solid family of people who would contribute to our culture and be good taxpayers. And that is an assumption. My family was a bunch of Belgium, Bohemian artists. My grandfather was a musician. Chain smoking cigarettes and cafes and talking about art. So just in case you went there, I just wanted to have that as a little reality check and the criteria for them being able to come to the United States, they had to know one person here who was able to vouch for them.
And I actually found this out over the past year, the person that my family knew and vouched for them was a suspected Nazi sympathizer who skedaddled out of Antwerp after the end of world war two, I don't know where that relationship went or what the involvement was of my family in that whole chapter of history.
It's lost in time now, but so that's who they knew, and that was perfectly acceptable by the government as being a valid character reference. For me as a white person, to be able to coming to grips just with all of that and thinking about how easy it was for my, flawed family is just flawed as any others to come here and to start a life of opportunity and all of the small daily things that I have that not other people can expect.
My mother passed away. I am now having to transport her car from her house to my house. And along the way, realized that her tags are expired. And I was worried about that. And I said to my brother-in-law like, what do I do if I get pulled over and her tags are expired because I can't get her registration updated because she's not alive.
And I don't have the title to her car. And he was like, they'll just explain to them. They'll understand. But in that moment, I was also like, would I get that same understanding and response if I were a Latina American or a Black American woman driving a car that wasn't mine and trying to explain to an officer that pulled me over, it's my mom's car and she died, but I wasn't able to update the register, would I get the same grace and the same patience?
So I just wanted to share these experiences with you because in this stage of white racial development, there needs to be a lot of personal reflection and personal responsibility and the ability I think to manage and reconcile the guilt and the shame, and to be able to move away from that and understand that everyone in the United States, possibly the world has been impacted by.
Race racially significant values and ideals, and that we are all brought up in a racist culture and that without a lot of very deliberate reflection and
intentional education and grappling with these ideas a white person in this culture does not have to think about it. It's very easy to just dismiss it and push it away. And as long as you're not a bad white person, that's all we can do. And the next level of development is really like sinking into it and allowing yourself to be heartbroken at the experiences that people in our culture have had allowing yourself to be.
Outraged about what has happened, what is happening? Another great resource. In the past, I don't know exactly when it came out. It has been a number of months out, but there's a podcast called 1619 that was produced. I think in conjunction with the New York Times, but talks about the 400 year history of slavery in the United States through the lens of of black American and, so many times listening to that podcast, I became aware that I was like, like feeling really like anxious, almost shaking, and to be able to not just tolerate, but seek out those kinds of experiences where we as white people are being emotionally impacted.
Not in the same way because we get to step in and step out again if we want to. So it's not in the same way as people of color in our culture have to do. But voluntarily going in there in order to allow yourself to feel and understand the reality of systematic oppression, racist policies, because when you're able to go into that place, it starts to feed.
Like your problem. And you begin to become very aware of the differences that are around all of us all the time and what is being taught to our children. And how do we, as a family, need to step in to be able to educate them around how to be a white person in a highly racist culture and what it means to be anti-racist.
And so here we come into the sixth and final stage of white racial development, which is the last stage. It’s reached when an individual has a clear understanding of and positive connection to their white racial identity, while also actively pursuing social justice. Home stages are as much about finding a positive racial identification with being white and also becoming an active anti-racist.
And another definition over here the autonomy phase can be an externalization of a newly defined sense of self as white as the primary task of this stage, positive feelings associated with this redefinition energize the person's efforts to confront racism and oppression in daily life alliances with people of color can be more easily forged in the stage because the person's anti-racist behaviors and attitudes will be more consistently expressed.
And they're not self-focused either. I think there's an emotional difference from someone who really takes the problem of racism in our culture, on as their own, as opposed to a white person who doesn't want to be a bad white person. So that's how Holmes describes that, that final stage.
And, and that's hard to figure out how do I love and appreciate things about European culture and also actively prize and see, and value the differences in other cultures as being similarly respectable and worthy and important and valuable. And that is seeking out cultural experiences of, the music of other cultures, the literature of other cultures, worldview, the art of other cultures and doing a lot of that with my son too, around that there's beauty in all things, but also how do we as white people and as a family understand and not forget what is happening in the world around us and act in such a way to Help other people who don't have the same privilege in our culture that we do and be active forces of change.
And I tell my son all the time, I say you don't have to feel badly about being white. And I'm sure that as he gets older, he will go through all of these stages of white racial development too. But I tell him, you don't have to feel badly about being white, but you do have to be aware of what is happening in the world and how you fit into that picture and to see what is going on in the lives of other people and be actively working to prevent the systematic oppression of other people in our country and recognize your privilege and not abuse it, but help use it for the betterment of the.
I don't know if that's the right thing to tell him or not, but that's what I got. And so
I don't know if this was a really uncomfortable conversation to have, or to hear. I don't think that I would have been able to do this with you at a podcast version even a couple of years ago. I think that I would have been too afraid of saying the wrong thing or having people be mad at me or some kind of backlash.
So I, that was probably enough to silence me, but I think continuing in my journey and understanding more and more, I think finding a role in all of this. Feels positive for me as a white person who is actively fighting a racist indoctrination in the way that I was raised and who is actively working on becoming a more active anti-racist in my own life.
And also helping my son develop an anti-racist identity as he goes through his formative years has helped me, I think, feel more comfortable talking about issues like this on this platform. And also I would like to acknowledge that being uncomfortable and feeling defensiveness and feeling rejection of these ideas and feeling shame and feeling guilt is all part of this process.
And it is too easy for us as white people to say, oh, this feels bad. I do not like this and push it away. And because of the privilege of not having to deal with it. And so I hope that having this conversation with you offers some kind of guidance and some conversation around a topic that we as white people never have to have.
I will also share with you some resources that again, have been super helpful for me on my journey. The book white fragility by Robin de Angelo has been magnificent. It has really helped me find. Words, I think to understand the emotional experiences that I was having along the way of my own development process.
And I think an increased recognition for how the feelings of shame and guilt and defensiveness have been active in my own life over the years and why, you know why that is. So that's wonderful. Another more recent book that I really appreciated and once strongly recommended is called how to be an anti racist by Ebrum X Kendi.
He did such a nice job of talking about how racism can impact all of us and the different miss lake areas in which people are. Judged, according to racial that racial hierarchy model and offers wonderful strategies from being able to move away from that kind of basic stance and into a more anti-racist stance that is more positive.
Also I mentioned Guns, Germs and Steel, the 1619 podcast was wonderful and there are also so many educational opportunities, I think in many communities and, some I think are more emotionally impactful than others. But to be able to go to museums, go to a native American powwow, show up in places that you might.
You might not usually learn about the culture of others and to be able to, I think also not just receive, but seek out the stories of what it has been like and what it feels like for people of color in our culture to be here and contrast that with your own experience. And again, it's not for the purpose of making you feel bad.
It's for the purpose of expanding your awareness to help begin this growth process and reconcile it and make this problem, your problem. Because at the end of the day, this problem will be solved and resolved by people who have the power to change. And certainly there are a lot of very powerful leaders of color in our country, and I'm so happy about that.
And there needs to be more. And that is not enough in order to really change the system. It requires the involvement of white people to see and understand the way that racism is impacting everyone in our culture, and to be able to change racist policies that perpetuate that. And it is only people who have power, who can do that, and it is time.
And it's also promising. We recently, at the time of this recording, saw the governor of Virginia. Finally remove a statue of Robert E. Lee from Richmond. I don't know if you guys have spent much time in Richmond. I've been there, there are Confederate statues all over the place. And just want to run a little parallel.
Imagine going into downtown Dusseldorf, Germany, and there are statues of Hitler and Himmler, a Googler like standing there, on their horses and in a posture of being worthy of respect. It's the same thing. The Germans do not have statues of Hitler and they're really working to try to educate people about what happened hopefully, so that it doesn't happen again.
But the analogy is the same. And I think it was just last week that somebody was like, oh yeah, maybe we should take down that statue of Robert E. Lee, the statue that represents genocide and enslavement of innocent people. So hopefully we're getting there, but again, it requires a lot of inner strength and awareness and the process is not just an outer one.
It is an inner one. And the inner process is one that the white people need to go through.
I hope that this conversation was instructive and helped you. I'm going to link to the resources that I shared in the post for this podcast. Thank you for the researchers and the authors who first developed these ideas and put them in front of me. And thank you for all of the amazing teachers that I have had over the years.
I have been fortunate enough to have people of color as my professors and my clinical supervisors. And also my friends and my colleagues and, I'm deeply appreciative of the patience and the kindness that people have shown me as I have been working through and continue to work through my own process.
I know I'm very much a work in progress, but I'm grateful that people see. I have enough hope and care to try. And my sincere hope is that by all of us doing the hard work we'll get through it together and hopefully create positive change. That's enough for one episode.
Thank you so much for listening and I will be back in touch again soon with another episode of the love, happiness and success podcast.
Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby is the founder and clinical director of Growing Self Counseling and Coaching. She's the author of “Exaholics: Breaking Your Addiction to Your Ex Love,” and the host of The Love, Happiness & Success Podcast.
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