Notes to a White Student Who Wants to Get Involved in Racial Justice Movements

By Chris Crass (November 11, 2015)

Notes to a white student who wants to get involved in growing racial justice movements on campuses around the country, but is nervous, scared and confused:

1. These are monumental times and it makes sense that you feel this way. Often the most important experiences in our lives are defined by moments when we move through our fear, and we choose to act from our values and join with others for what is right. On campuses all over the country, the struggles against racism are erupting and now is the time to get involved with all your heart, mind and soul.

2. Remember, structural racism and the death culture of white supremacy have been working overtime to prepare you, as a white person, to denounce, reject, and fight against students of color working for racial justice, and to see racial justice progress as a threat to your “way of life”. And you will see white people, in the hundreds, all around you, act this way. And for white students who have begun to question the lies of racism, who are moved by the stories and experiences of students of color, and want to do the right thing – racism and white privilege have nonetheless prepared you to feel inadequate and confused in this moment, undermining your efforts to get fully involved. Do not let the death culture win. Show up, listen to the voices of students of color leading the way, listen for ways they talk about getting involved, listen for how they talk about what this fight is for, and move further into the work.

3. The truth of white supremacy and structural inequality reveals itself in moments like this. You will learn more by taking action for racial justice in these times, then you would in any of your classes, and will in fact give more meaning to all of your future studies. This is also a time where the truth of people power to generate living, breathing democratic values, reveals itself. We must remove the cynicism about social change that ruling classes always want the majority to inhabit, and replace that cynicism with hard earned, life enhancing, lessons about how we make a better world and become the people we want to be. Take inspiration from seeing people step into and create liberatory power, even in the face of violent and evil racist threats and denouncement, and before you know it, you’ll be inspiring people in your life.

4. Find your courage in the collective struggle and begin to recruit any and everyone you can, to be part of it. There is a great need in white communities for anti-racist/racial justice leadership that amplifies the voices of student of color leaders, and speak out against the racism directed at those student leaders and this movement. There is a great need for white anti-racists to share why these struggles matter to them and to help other white students understand why it should matter to them too. Again, white supremacy works to keep white people trapped in the death culture, our job as white anti-racists, is to help other white people get free – the other white people on the sidelines, confused, sacred, curious, oblivious, these are the ranks to recruit from, rather then get obsessed with the most vocal racists.

5. There will be defeats, setbacks, frustrations, and mistakes, but let them teach you, and help deeper your commitment. The most important thing, right now, is to get involved as much as you can, listen for guidance and feedback, and look for ways to bring more people with you. Quite the voice of fear in your head, and let the voice of your heart, muted by the death culture, regain it’s strength by being part of the movement to restore a life-affirming culture, which Black Lives Matter is currently leading.

6. Show up to the student of color-led efforts with the goal of being of use and learning more. Show up in white spaces with the goal of sharing from your heart and leading other white people to join and support the Black-led, multiracial, movement catching fire on your campus and across the county. And if it hasn’t caught fire where you are, look for where this work is being done, and get involved. Even if a place for you isn’t obvious at first, show up, be helpful, and listen. As white people, we have, for far too long, been groomed to know our place perpetuating the nightmare of structural inequality and violence, and it’s time to wake up and build the dream of beloved community and collective liberation.

8 thoughts on “Notes to a White Student Who Wants to Get Involved in Racial Justice Movements”

  1. Beautifully stated. Typos/errors that need correction: in #4 (scared vs. sacred) and #5 (deepen vs. deeper; quiet vs. quite; its strength vs. it’s strength).

  2. Very clearly put. Two more trivial nits, both in paragraph 5: “Quiet the voice…” not Quite. “…regain its strength…” not “it’s”.

  3. White people need to work under African leadership. This isn’t about racism; it’s about colonialism. Changing the ideas in our heads is not going to change the conditions of the black community. This system is built on slavery and genocide, and cannot be reformed. White people also must pay reparations. It is fundamental if we truly support the black community. Whites can join the Uhuru Solidarity Movement, work under the leadership of the African People’s Socialist Party (which is leading the worldwide African revolution), and pay reparations.

    Antiracism keeps white people at the center and results in articles such as these telling us to “show up”. We are complicit as white people. We need to do more than show up. We need to work in our own white communities for reparations and to end our complicity with colonial violence and terror. Real action is required.

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