Speed. Silence. Shame.
White supremacy is designed to thrive and flourish on speed, silence, and shame. An essential part of racial equity work to understand that injustice, inequity, exclusion and domination are happening right now in our systems, in this very moment. There is no neutral in systems of oppression.
White supremacy asks all of us to comply with status quo, smooth sailing, business as usual norms as a form of compliance. It seeks to oppress action towards undoing systems of oppression in many ways. Here are three central ways white supremacy seeks to preserve itself and enforce compliance.
Be so busy that you don't have time to think, much less differently or with an equity & belonging lens. We are so overburdened by the volume of work, back to back meetings that don't leave time for even a bathroom break, we fail to recognize that the current system is designed to sideline the essential processing, thinking, feeling, and resilency-building to move racial equity forward. It makes it feel like this work is separate from our "normal" work and takes "extra time" that is just not available.
We are so busy we don't have time think of what to say to disrupt the status quo (with love). So we stay quiet, we question how to say something, what to say, if we are the right ones to say it, when to say it, etc. And the result is silence. And silence is consent to the status quo system. Remember, there is no neutral.
When we do speak up, shift behaviors, ask new questions, white supremacy says "shame on you. How dare you interrupt me? Make me feel bad... Make me cry... Call me out... Speak beyond your pay grade... Challenge authority/wealth/patriarchy, etc..." In my racial equity coaching work, I hear stories of this all the time. We feel bad for naming the status quo. It's by design, and the outcome is often we feel helpless.
So what can we do?
Practice creative reflection.
Our work is so deeply urgent, it calls for vastly different thinking and doing. Take an extra 15 seconds to reflect about the words you use, to breathe, to stretch. Take 10 minutes before a meeting you know might raise racial equity or power issues and prepare yourself with notes, questions, inspiration, allies. Take the time to center yourself on racial equity, justice, belonging, liberation, to reconnect to your purpose in this work. Practice responding to urgency not with the tools of the status quo, but the tools of liberation, belonging, and equity.
Develop a practice of curiosity. Asking better questions can help us unveil white supremacy in systems, norms, and business-as-usual. Ask why 5 times. Why do we do it this way? Who decided this? Investigate who benefits from complex systems. Ask not only about what you are giving, but what you are withholding. Ask more truthful question to more deeply investigate systems and norms.
Action counteracts helplessness and shame.
The shame white supremacy wants you to feel is not real. Consider different ways to interrupt the status quo so it is not always feeling confrontational, but rather feels effective and purposeful. The helplessness is by design - the only antidote is action. What is one immediate next step that feels purposeful to equity and justice? Take that one next step.