Terminology

Let’s start with some basics about terminology.

One Thousand Arms uses the phrase “global majority people” rather than the more common phrase “people of color.” We do this because, in reality, white people are the minority when we are speaking globally, and we live in an increasingly global society. We understand and respect the rights of global majority people to refer to themselves however they want to. Here is some more information on the phrase “global majority people,” if you want more information on how the phrase is used. 

We use the phrase “white supremacy” to mean both individual hatred of, and violence toward, global majority people and the systemic white supremacy that characterizes all of society, historically and today. We acknowledge that all white people, regardless of how society treats us based on other categorizations, benefit from white supremacy. Here is some more information on the phrase “white supremacy,” if you want some more information on how the phrase is used.

 

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Principles

This action plan is motivated by the following principles:

  • White people often ask what we can do to dismantle white supremacy. We might want to do this work, but we feel helpless. This program is an invitation to consider that:

    • Our helplessness is often caused by a misunderstanding about what white supremacy is. Yes, white supremacy comes in the form of hatred of, and violence toward, global majority people, and many of us publicly disavow that, which is good. But white supremacy is also all around us. There are actually a ton of steps we can take to dismantle it.

    • Global majority people have been telling white people what we can do to dismantle white supremacy for centuries. The information is out there – our obligation is to listen, learn, and act.

  • White people need to develop a radical embodiment of the urgency of taking action. We need to feel the urgency in our bodies, and in our hearts. Our tendency to intellectualize white supremacy is an obstacle to our desire to take action. At this point, you might want to take a moment to reflect on that. How does that make you feel?

 

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Personal Work

These are steps that we must take in terms of our personal development if we are serious about ending white supremacy. It is impossible to emphasize how important this work is.

If we take outward action without doing the inner work, we are likely to cause additional harm. This is because so often white people speak and act in racist ways even if we don’t know that we are doing it.

One of the ways to do personal, internal, work is to contemplate some considerations that most white people don’t spend much time thinking about. The idea here is not to intellectualize, but to really contemplate these considerations and notice any insights, physical sensations, or emotions that might come up. To do these exercises, first allow the considerations to sink into your head and your heart. It’s good to just pay close attention to any reactions you might be having – not to judge yourself, but simply to notice what comes up. It’s also a good idea to write down our observations so that we can return to them.

Consider the following:

  1. All white people in a white supremacist society have picked up racial attitudes along the way that center and value whiteness. Global majority people have always known this. Contemplate that reality at least once per day, and write down any thoughts you might have about it.

  2. Start to notice racial stereotypes and attitudes that might arise in your mind. If you see a news story about a Black person committing a crime, do any particular thoughts arise? If you see a news story about a Muslim terrorist attack, do any particular thoughts arise? When this happens, get used to noticing it, and write down any thoughts you might have about it, including deeper understandings of where these attitudes come from (e.g., negative images of Black men in the media). If you feel guilt when doing this, write that down too, and ask yourself whether your guilt is productive.

  3. Educate yourself by reading the works of global majority authors and historians, as well as movies, television shows, etc., that center the experiences of global majority people. Here are some examples, and there are many others. All you have to do is Google "works by Black Americans," or something similar. For the most part, white people are ignorant about these works, because we are taught not to value or pay attention to them. Commit to reading one resource per month – it doesn’t have to be a book; it could just be a blog post or article.

  4. When you learn about an overtly racist incident like a police shooting of an unarmed Black person or a racist demonstration, do you feel surprised? If so, ask yourself why, given that global majority people have been calling out white supremacy for centuries. Record your observations about this.

  5. Know that this is a life-long journey, and don’t get discouraged. Global majority people do not have the luxury of turning away from white supremacy, and neither should we. Commit once a day to remain on this journey and to follow these steps.

 

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Interpersonal Work

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:

  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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.