To All The Nice White Ladies I Know

It is so important to recognize that we are taught a history of our country that always allows white leaders to be heroes. Everything. From something as obvious as George Washington did not have wooden teeth — he had teeth pulled from slaves — to Jefferson (I was told as a kid Jefferson and Sally Hemings had a love affair they had to hide — um… nope.) — to how white leaders did so much good for POC — all while erasing their sins. A few things are intertwined here.

1. Our very understanding of America is based on white supremacy. Every event, law, regulation, policy, school lesson — has been created through the lens of making sure white people are heroes and stay in power.

2. This means that when we are told “our structures are racist” we as white people often don’t see it — and, more frustrating for me personally, when I start to pull back the curtain on that for other white people, they think I hate America — because if what I am saying is true, all of America is based on… well, white supremacy. And no one wants that to be true.

3. This rewriting of history also makes saints of our founders and leaders. If our founding fathers are infallible, we can never address the atrocities they committed. If women’s rights depend on the sainthood of past women leaders, we are forced into silence in order to keep the few rights we have won — which is no small moment because…

4. As white women we are being used to uphold white supremacy. There are those white women who are consciously supporting white supremacy (I see you, Amy Coney Barrett). And then there are those who are a step-down — they voted for Trump, they vote in their own interest, they buy into the fear that “those minorities” will bring crime to their neighborhood (you know, not the white-collar crime they and their husbands partake in). They don’t care to understand that they actually believe in segregation, they only believe in “better schools”. And often they use Jesus as a shield or donate to “the kids in Africa” to release any guilty feelings that bubble up. (This scene in ‘The Help’ is still very much playing out today).

5. Then we have next level white woman racism. This next level is the one I know very well. The one I almost was, and still discover that I am. I call it “Nice White Lady Racism”. In some way, this one is more dangerous. This is the racism where “but I’m nice” or “but that’s not what I meant” is the shield — and it is backed up by tears, and hurt feelings, and a woman suddenly in need of protecting, and there is almost no way to hold her accountable — and when you do… she disappears.

This level leaves Black and Brown women silenced, given the label of “Angry”, discredited, disrespected, and often removed. This level justifies the murder of Black men to save the nice white lady. Nice white ladies take the lead of all the organizations — they charm their way through the volunteer ladder at school until they run the PTO/A, they lead a nonprofit for animal rescue, they lead their local Dem club — and they do not keep space for Black and Brown women to be in leadership — leading to… white feminism. The nice white lady believes only her priorities matter, all others will have to wait — wait until when, exactly? When do we circle back to those other priorities? In the 30 years I’ve been watching, we don’t. The answer is “after we fix these top 3 priorities”. You’re not being mean, after all, you’re a good person, you’re just prioritizing…

We grew up being told our country was the best in the world, so how can it be so broken? If our country is so broken, it’s too much — how can we ever possibly fix it? If this is racist, does that mean I am racist? Where does that thread even end — have I been fighting FOR racism in my own community? Have I harmed Black and Brown friends and neighbors? How do I even act now? Should I act guilty?

Or — what is easier than answering all of those hard questions — we let it go, to consider at a later time. We are generally ok with how things are. I just want to be happy. I just want to enjoy time with my family, I can’t change any of this. I don’t know where to begin. It’s not my fight. I have to focus on work right now. I went to the Women’s March…..

And that is why I am so against sainthood for our leaders and founders — RBG included. Because if we have to be at a saint level to make a difference, there is no way any of us can do anything to make this country better, and that is how the country stays racist. But that’s a lie. EACH OF US can help fix this. Each of us can own our racism, own our reeducation, speak up against injustice, make a difference in our communities, and uplift and support Black and Brown women. We each can do that. We don’t need to wait for the next Ruth Bader Ginsburg, we can continue her legacy, own our own failings, and we can start right now.

We can relearn our own history.
We can acknowledge racism in our schools, society, justice system — all of it.
We can believe Black women when they tell us something is racist, and hold space for their truth.
We can make space for Black and Brown women to be in leadership — and support their leadership!
We can stop supporting the patriarchy, and relying on our whiteness, and closeness to men to advance ourselves, traitors to our own needs, interests, healthcare, and sex.
We can break these pieces down for our family and friends, creating a wave of understanding.
We can be active in our communities for actions that do not directly benefit us.
We can do a great deal.

We don’t need another saint. We don’t need to wait for things to be fixed. This country was racist before Trump, it will be racist after — what we need is all of us working together to stand up for human rights. Now.



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