In my experience facilitating anti-racism workshops, I find it very difficult to address unconscious racist belief in the Pacific Northwest which is ripe with Liberal folk who believe they are “Woke”. Let me just say the Pacific Northwest (PNW) is the most racist place I have every lived and I am from Texas. I know Texas has a rep for horrifying acts of hate but not unlike the horrible acts of hate that darken so many other states history. Somehow Texas is seen as the most brutal and racist place.
Texas is not trying to hide its racist practices. Texas is not trying to pretend to be all inclusive. It’s messed up but it is true.
Seattle is on the DL (down low: something you want kept secret) pretending to be anti-racist. Seattleites have perfected the art of microaggressions and act surprised when you call it to their attention: the expectation of privileged comfort. Liberal White folks want to believe they are open to anti-racism conversations until they aren’t.
Some of the most challenging in anti-racism workshops is the White Liberals who have not accepted their white-body privilege. News flash, Liberal does not mean anti-racist.
The other challenging dynamic I find in my work is the Biracial or Multiracial individuals who have yet to unpack how they identify. I’m sure you might ask, “why do they have to unpack how they identify?” Because group identity is important to the work. Group identity is at the foundation of who you believe yourself to be. You don’t get to code-switch when it suits your comfort. I am using code-switching as a euphemism for “passing”. The question then becomes, how are you showing up in anti-racism work: as a white passing BIPOC? Everyone’s personal work is to unpacking the complexities of their identity prior to or in conjunction with stepping into anti-racism work.
True anti-racism work requires an honest self-assessment of who and what you value. If your values are steeped in white dominate culture, the internalized aspect of that needs to be examined with radical honesty. The kind of honest self-assessment that shakes your foundation and gets to the truth.
Emergent Strategy introduced this term “radical honesty” and I believe it needs to be practiced on a personal level first. Get radically honest about how you show up in anti-racism work and examine whether or not your stance is lowkey psychological warfare of the passive aggressive kind.
Radical Honesty means simply to report out loud to another what you notice in front of you, in your body, and in your mind in the present moment.
Radical honesty is not a pass to be unkind in your thinking and expression of your feelings about what is going on for you internally. Radical honesty is in deference to building trust and a positive relationship with the other person. Being honest with yourself and taking responsibility for your feelings and getting to the root of your discomfort. It might just be that you are uncomfortable because you believe yourself to be racist and all the posturing and defensiveness is a cover up. Bring that truth to the anti-racism table and unpack it. Own what you find and commit to transforming and leveling up with positive action steps.
I acknowledge that I find some Liberal folk challenging inside race conversations and maybe I should ask myself why I believe Liberal means enlightened? That is my internalized shit. Okay, noted. I will check my judgments and expectations of Liberals.
Note: Please do not bomb me with “you don’t know anything about Liberals” and you would be right. What I do know is who is problematic and who insnt inside race conversations. I will state it again, this is my perspective from my experience doing anti-racism work in Seattle. I know how quickly the wrong word or groupings of words will cause a negative reaction so please read this with an open mind. I will say one final thing.
Anti-racism work is challenging anywhere but here is Seattle it can be a total mind suck trying to get past the defensiveness of Liberal good intentions.