Be a point of light to bring change in the world.
“You can be a point of light in this and nobody will know,John Amaechi
except things will change.”
If you are white, I hope this post makes you uncomfortable as it does for me to reflect on what it teaches us.
It is time for white people to lead change against racism. Change. Change only comes through having an open mindset. Change only happens through being willing to get uncomfortable.
Change starts with awareness, and awareness can only happen when we are willing to be open and uncomfortable. When we choose to do all of this, only then can we become more aware of our own racist biases and of those people around us, particularly those close to us.
So, what can each of us actually do? It is not enough to be uncomfortable for a few days, it is way past time to act. The quote above is one of numerous powerful ones from John Amaechi in an interview yesterday. John is the voice that resonates with me more than any other right now, he speaks to me as to what I can get uncomfortable with as a white person, what I can be aware of, then what actions I can choose to take, consistently, to play my part in changing this deep-seated and systemic cancer in our society.
I’ve shared both parts of the interview below and also transcribed two sections giving tangible things you can do as a white person, being:
- Be anti-racist, particularly with your family and friends
- Embrace the wince
- State where you stand on racism and demand that the people around you hold YOU to account.
Change is a systematic and step by step process. Change like this is boring, unseen, moment by moment, awareness by awareness. Once the news moves on, once the protests stop, please continue to commit to being aware, then to being of integrity in leading change in yourself and others.
Be Anti-Racist with your sphere of influence
At around 6 minutes into the first section, after a discussion on how John is tired of symbolism and how nothing will change through this, when asked what white individuals need to do, John says:
It’s really boring, I’m sorry. What needs to happen is for you to look around at your sphere of influence..and say “I will dedicate myself to not just being not racist because that’s not enough anymore, but to being anti-racist and demanding that my sphere of influence behaves accordingly, my family, my friends”.
Now, for those of you with loved ones who are bigots, I understand that pain. Love is unconditional and that is true, but proximity isn’t. You don’t have to co-sign with their racism by sitting at the table and breaking bread with them. They do have to meet some standards in this world.
Nobody will recognise that work that you do, to cleanse your sphere of influence, to educate your sphere of influence.
Nobody will recognise that. Nobody will put “likes” or “tweets” or anything else. Your work will be invisible and it will be invaluable. That is what you must do as an individual.John Amaechi, interview on LBC, June 6th, 2020
Embrace the Wince
From the second section of the interview, this:
Education is something that shouldn’t have to be done by black people for white people, there are some steps they can take. Here you go.
They can recognise that it’s not enough to not be racist, I’ve mentioned that before, that you’ve got to be anti-racist, right? and then, the good thing that people can do is that they can reflect and embrace the wince.
They can embrace those moments when they know they’ve screwed up. The people that have walked towards me and crossed the street. They can embrace the wince of that because the pain of knowing you’ve done wrong is a really good teacher. All those moments that you’ve slipped, those moments that you’ve abdicated your responsibility to be an ally.
Then you can educate yourself. I have posted a reading list, I have posted a link that gives you films, documentaries and all kinds of things that you can watch to learn about inequity and privilege.
And then, it’s very simple, you can declare where you stand on this issue, without equivocation. Don’t say “well, I don’t believe in racism, but these riots aren’t good, or these protestors aren’t good”, or whatever else.
State where you stand on racism and demand that the people around you hold you to account. Not demand that they do the same as you, demand that they hold you to account, and then after that, you choose who you surround yourself with. You choose to influence and educate and demand that those people reflect on their own winces.
This is a boring process. That’s why change doesn’t happen very often. It is an inglorious process that leads to a glorious end.John Amaechi
“You can be a point of light in this and nobody will know,
except things will change.”
Also published on Medium.