White people who have not done the important personal work described earlier often cause harm in our interactions with other people. In our interactions with global majority people, we might inadvertently cause harm (this is often called a “microaggression” in anti-racism work). This is a problem because it causes global majority people not to trust us (which is completely understandable). In our interactions with other white people, we might ignore racist speech, which furthers white supremacy and can also put distance between ourselves and other white people.
But we can take action to prevent this:
Consider the likelihood that, as a white person, you have probably already caused racial harm multiple times in your life. There are resources that you can use to understand how speech can be racist (from The Root, follow them for more resources). Commit to reading these resources and to stop committing harm in your interactions with global majority people. Record any observations that you have about this.
At the same time, because we are so steeped in white supremacy, it is unlikely that we will be able to stop causing harm immediately. Global majority people know that we are likely to cause harm. Most do not tell us when we cause harm, because they are tired of having to educate us. What do you think of the observation that global majority people generally do not tell us when we have caused racial harm? Record any reactions you may have to this suggestion.
If a global majority person tells you that you have done or said something racist, stop immediately and wait before asking for clarification. It is fine to feel defensive if that is your reality, but it is harmful to speak or act defensively. If you would like further clarification about why the thing you said or did is racist, ask the person if he or she is interested in providing clarification. If the answer is no, simply apologize and move on. If the answer is yes, once the person has provided clarification, thank them, apologize, and move on. If a global majority person is willing to educate you, you are the recipient of that person’s generosity. Be grateful and gracious. If you need to discuss the matter further, do it with a white person who is also doing anti-racism work.
In your interactions with other white people, confront racist statements and behavior. There are multiple ways of doing this, and different contexts call for different approaches. Sometimes it is a matter of calling out racism directly. Other times it is a matter of opening up a conversation about racism. We all know this isn’t easy, but it is necessary. When global majority people call out racism, they put themselves in danger, so it is incumbent on white people to do it. Commit to calling out racism committed by white people, and then practice doing it. We will not always be successful, but it is important to make the effort. Record your interactions and how they made you feel.
We must acknowledge that this is hard work, and that it takes a tremendous amount of courage. White people always have the option of opting out – that’s one of the evils of white supremacy. But it is possible and necessary (of course you already know that if you came to this program and have gotten this far!).
We suggest doing the personal work and the interpersonal work for a while, as you continue along this journey. When you are ready to take more concrete steps, continue to Part 2.