What people of color hold you accountable? That is a real question. Have you approached a person of color and had this very important conversation with them: "Yo. So I just realized I have to do something about this race stuff and I need some accountability. Can I form an accountability situation with you were I welcome your critique. Can you call me out when I am veering of the path?" If you are not in relationships with folks who are leading change in the communities you are in coalition with, you may be caused unintentional harm that you are blind to.
So what does accountability look like?
Folks who are oppressed because of their race and gender (among other intersections) have far less power than you. Engaging in a mentorship/accountability relationship with a person of color means that you are resisting the way that white supremacy socialized you. You are submitting to the leadership of the kind of person white supremacy say you are superior to. Accountability will look like you trusting the experiences your accountability partner communicate. It looks like opening yourself up to understanding the multi-deminisonal experiences you'll witness as you grow your connection with people of color.
- determine that you'll both be committed the process of transformation through the work you do together
- establish what you need with your accountability partner. what are the first steps you are taking to unlearn your whiteness and confront the ways in which you've participated in oppression
- remember this isn't a white guilt dumping ground! this relationship isn't for you to cry and feel bad. this is about mutual learning and communication
- agree to be open, honest, and clear with one another
- create a rhythm: be intentional about connecting on a week basis in ways that work for both parties
Waking up the realization that you've been complicit in the systemic oppression is emotionally devastating. Shame, guilt, and the wash of emotions that accompany the awakening that you are experiencing can result in intense emotional upheaval. It is your duty to take good care of yourself so that you can continue in this work. It i not a sprint-- it is a marathon. If you burn yourself out because you've not managed caring well for yourself, you are not good in the fight. Establish boundaries for yourself as you are growing in this process. Determine how you'll decompress when you begin to the feel the weight of your work.
Engage in History Self-Education
f you've been asleep in the comfort of white supremacy you'll soon learn that waking up means you are behind the curve in education. You'll come to understand that you've been taught history and narratives by a system that seeks to keep white folks shiftless and people of color oppressed. Take time to really dig deep and learn about actual factual oral accounts and histories of people of color. Be prepared to re-engage learning because you'll have to learn AS you do your work. You do not have permission to sit and do nothing while you learn. You can find a solid starting point here.
Start Where You Are
You can't exactly walk into the White House and destroy it and re-build a better system. When you evaluate the "To-Do" items on the list of dismantling systemic oppression it can become overwhelming. Don't try and save the world. Save one space at a time.
What you'll find is that Black folks, the texture of our lives, and our participation are absent from many of the spaces you move in and out of with freedom. Wonder why your church leadership committees are all white. Wonder why you school parent teacher organization has zero diversity. Do not make it the job of the marginalized to create their own seat at the table. Begin to disrupt business as usual by requiring that the spaces you occupy begin to intentionally seek to include and draw from people of color and their leadership. Assuage yourself of the inclination that any person of color should be responsible for reaching out to you to be included and listened to. Become incredibly critical of the folks in your spaces who are leaders. Schools, media, religious institutions, and other systems should be under inspection. Is your priest committed to antiracism in more than their words? Does the 2nd grad teacher at your child's school create curriculum that is inclusive and culturally competent? Start asking yourself this very important question over and over again: who is here, who isn't, and why?