Dear White People,
We’re writing this letter to you, as white people, because white people have a specific and important role in undoing racism. The failure to indict the police officers in the cases of Michael Brown and Eric Garner are the most recent events in a long history of enslaving, lynching, incarcerating, criminalizing, and shooting people of color as a brutal form of oppression. Our criminal justice system was designed to both uphold the ideology of white supremacy and control the bodies of black people and other people of color through racialized violence and oppression. As white people we often show up wanting to support racial justice movements with the best of intentions but we have a negative impact.
— If we find ourselves chanting “all lives matter,” remember our systems and institutions place value on white lives while deeming Black lives disposable.
— If we find ourselves looking forward to “business as usual,” and “peace” on the streets, remember the status quo we crave is continuously killing and exploiting people.
— If we find ourselves at a demonstration against racism following the leadership of white people, remember our role as white people is not to be out in front.
— If we find ourselves debating the facts of specific cases, remember our “objectivity” is biased by the fact that the systems we’re defending were created to serve us.
— If we find ourselves claiming people of color are using the “race card,” remember we are living in a racialized society and it is always about race.
Our bodies, minds and spirits carry the collective history of the slave masters, not the enslaved. Collectively, we have traded our humanity- our ability to fully feel deep pain and outrage in the face of these atrocities- for the benefits and privileges of being white. In this acknowledgement, we also see the way we have been broken by racism. Our fear and entitlement continues to prop up a system that is dehumanizing all people.
When we do not actively engage in uprooting and destroying racist systems, we fuel the well-designed machine that is killing Black and Brown people. In failing to challenge the system of white supremacy we actively create and perpetuate it. The same insidious systems that exist in Ferguson and New York are at work here in Seattle. King County is preparing to spend $210 million on a new youth jail, feeding more money into the criminal justice system and supporting the disproportionate incarceration of youth of color. Rather than deal with root causes, we’re focusing on cosmetic reforms, failed programs and body cameras. We need to systematically dismantle what we have created and work for complete transformation to eliminate racism and poverty.
We must educate, agitate and motivate white communities: our neighborhoods, schools, workplaces, and faith communities. We must move beyond theories, conversations, and process, to accountable action. What are WE willing to give up to undo racism? Control? Power? Comfort? Denial? If we do nothing, then it is our silence that is killing Michael Brown, choking Eric Garner, and brutalizing KoKo Durden-Bosley.
In the spirit of solidarity and love,
European Dissent is a group of white anti-racist organizers in solidarity with People’s Institute for Survival and Beyond, Ending the Prison Industrial Complex, Youth Undoing Institutional Racism, Black Prisoners Caucus, Career Bridge, and other organizations lead by people of color. In this growing movement to dismantle white supremacy and build racially just communities we must take responsibility, while taking direction from those most affected by racism.
To further engage in white anti-racist organizing, contact:
— European Dissent: Megan Wilbert (firstname.lastname@example.org) and Jenn Hagedorn (email@example.com)
— Coalition for Anti-Racist Whites: carw.org
— Showing Up for Racial Justice: showingupforracialjustice.org