One of the spiritual practices that I have is to practice considering and interrogating my ideologies and then to allow room and space for new information and ‘aha’ moments. For me, this looks like walking in accountability with community and investing in mentors and therapists. It means allowing my ideologies to be challenged and learning to acknowledge my blindspots. It means owning my mistakes and allowing myself to be called in and out.
To be honest, I’m not great at this. In fact, I fail a lot. I like being right, and I don’t like failing publicly. Sometimes, my feelings get hurt. Sometimes, I want to be defensive, and sometimes, I am defensive.
Maybe you can relate.
And yet, I am convinced that the enduring call to love my neighbor insists that I prioritize courage over comfort and bodies over feelings. Because we know what is at stake.
This past summer, I stumbled across this Twitter thread by Ijeoma Oluo, author of “So You Want to Talk About Race” and “Mediocre: The Dangerous Legacy of White Male America” about pay disparity in anti-racism work.
In it, she invites other folx to share how much they charge for various events, and she also shares how much she usually charges for an event.
While, I am not usually surprised by pay gaps, I was deeply disturbed to see how much whyte folx charge for “anti-racism” work particularly because, in my opinion, divesting from whiteness should also mean divesting from systems of oppression which includes capitalism.
Here’s what I know, thanks to Audre Lorde: the master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house. And, whyte folx cannot dream of, or participate in, Black liberation until they begin to divest from capitalism. And here’s why:
- What, if any, systems of power are disrupted when whyte anti-racist educators maintain the power structures?
- What, if any, systems of power are disrupted when whyte anti-racist educators profit off of white guilt and Black Death?
- Who and what systems of accountability are used when making the determination if whyte anti-racist educators should be profiting off of Black trauma and/or writing for-profit educational resources at all?
- What, if any, systems of oppression are being maintained or perpetuated by whyte, for-profit, anti-racist educators?
Or, to be even more precise: why do whyte folx think that BIPOC communities are saying: “Please write a book about anti-racism and make money off of our trauma and dead bodies instead of redirecting your power to amplify BIPOC writers that have lived experience of racism and have been writing with nuance and complexity about anti-racism for centuries.”
See, whyte folx, no matter how “good intentioned,” have been making money off of BIPOC trauma and death for decades.
It’s striking when it’s laid out bare like that. No one says explicitly: “you are buying a book from a whyte person who has zero lived experience of racism instead of a BIPOC person who has already written this book with less funds and less social clout…maybe you should interrogate why you are buying from a whyte person.”
Because, to say that would make people uncomfortable. Discomfort is absolutely part of this work. And, it goes back to what is at stake: whyte feelings or BIPOC bodies.
And, sure the critic would argue that we need a multicultural movement, and that our current world still demands capitalism. While I believe we need a multicultural movement in order to do this work well and move towards transformation, I also believe that the multicultural movement should never come at the cost of more racial harm.
Whyte for-profit anti-racism work is harmful.
And, BIPOC folx have been checking whyte for-profit anti-racist educators for decades. It’s why, in part, we have movements like #CiteBlackWomen, #PayBlackWomen, #ProtectBlackWomen and #BuyIndigenous.
Recently, Austin Channing Brown created this hour long Instagram Live with Rachel Ricketts, author of Do Better: Spiritual Activism for Fighting and Healing from White Supremacy, and made this post about Robin DiAngelo’s new book: “Nice Racists: How Progressive White People Perpetuate Racial Harm.”
I was heartened to hear both of them challenge the notion of white for-profit anti-racism work and to also discuss divesting from capitalism.
We need to have these conversations. We need to challenge one another about whose voices we amplify and why. We need to discuss why folx pay “articulate” educators over “ratchet” ones. We need to be honest with ourselves and ask ourselves the hard questions. We need to be honest if our “anti-racism” work is actually just racism fronting as liberation.
Here’s what I know: Liberation cannot come from lies. Liberation cannot come from building the same house with the same tools.
Liberation can only come with love and the truth.
What lies do you need to let go of today? What truth can you own?