“If you have come here to help me, you are wasting your time. But if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together."
I'm still working on fully understanding the meaning of the quote and making sure I understand it in practice, not only in theory. I wrote last time about my conflicted feelings about helping (and I'm continually learning more about how problematic a 'helping' mindset can be), so the part I struggle to fully comprehend is the part about my liberation being bound up with the people who are being oppressed. I had never thought about how racism might be affecting me as a white person and I couldn't quite wrap my head around it.
Paul Kivel is someone I had the opportunity to learn from at an event in San Francisco recently. I find so many of his resources to be incredibly helpful, and one resource relevant to this topic is his checklist of the costs of racism to white people, from the book Uprooting Racism: How White People Can Work for Racial Justice. Here's a snippet from the section:
He then provides a checklist to help you evaluate the costs of racism to white people and see which ones apply to you personally. I'll provide just a few that apply to me and I encourage you to check out the full list to see what applies to you.
- I don’t know exactly what my European American heritage is, what my great-grandparents’ names were, or what regions or cities my ancestors are from.
- I have sometimes felt that “white” culture was “wonderbread” culture — empty and boring — or that another racial group had more rhythm, more athletic ability, was better at math and technology, or had more musical or artistic creativity than mine.
- I have been nervous and fearful or found myself stiffening up when encountering people of color in a neutral public situation (for example, in an elevator, on the street).
- I have felt racial tension or noticed racism in a situation and was afraid to say or do anything about it.
- I have worked in a job where people of color held more menial jobs, were paid less, or were otherwise harassed or discriminated against and I did nothing about it.
- I have seen a person of color being attacked verbally or physically and did not intervene.
It makes me so uncomfortable to look at that list but it helps me understand why I'm not here to "help". As Paul Kivel says, it is sobering to see "what it really costs to maintain such a system of division and exploitation in our society".
Are there any resources that have you helped you understand the quote? Any ways that you see how racism affects you as a white person?