White people, it’s time to act

By Tamara Lucas Copeland
President, Washington Regional Association of Grantmakers

Racism and racists have been put on the table in a powerful way since the recent events in Charlottesville.

When WRAG embarked upon the Putting Racism on the Table learning journey, we made a conscious decision to focus on implicit bias, white privilege, and structural racism. Our intent was to educate those who might have been blind to the ways in which society advantaged or disadvantaged one group of people over another. We wanted to work with those with a social conscious and a philanthropic platform to change their way of engaging on racial and social justice.

The death of Heather Heyer and the recent venomous statements from neo-Nazis and white supremacists have revealed a different side of racism. Personal animus, personal hatred, have been given permission to be publicly, proudly displayed.

What has been revealed is neither unconscious nor structural. This racism is personal. The hatred is primal. We cannot let what has been unleashed go unaddressed.

MLK silence quote. placardIn our work, we have talked about the importance of white allies. Allyship is not what is needed now. The white community must lead this charge. These white supremacists are from your communities, your churches, your schools, your work places, your families. They will listen to you, observe your actions, and possibly respect your opinions with a receptivity that I would never receive. You must use your voice to speak up, not simply in reaction to racists’ actions or statements, but proactively. You must discuss the ways in which people of color contribute to the good of our country. You must seek out doctors, lawyers, house-painters, mechanics – all types of service providers who don’t look like you, or love like you, or worship like you so that those around you can better understand the good and the talent that rests outside of the white, “Christian”* race. You must look for opportunities to proactively celebrate differences while being vigilant and counterbalancing the venom that is being openly spewed today.

No one can be silent.

*I put Christian in quotes only because I do not believe that these individuals practice Christianity in the way that I was raised, but they do put their Christian faith above all other faiths.