Dear White People,
Hello, my name is Justin Schleider. I am a white male. I am writing this specifically for the white people who are participating in the #ClearTheAir book chat for White Fragility, by Robin DiAngelo. We are entering a journey together that will change us. I have read the book, and was ready for the book. Some of us may be ready, while others may not be ready. Regardless, this book will change you.
Our students of color are being harmed by us. This occurs because of our actions as well as our inactions. Please keep this central during our journey. I will operate under the assumption that the rest of you, much like myself, did not get into education to hurt people. That is called intent. Our intentions were good.
However, WE ARE HARMING ALL OF OUR STUDENTS when we do not understand the roles history, discrimination and race play out in our classes. That is called impact. Impact matters more than intention. To put it in a common phrase, “Hell was paved with good intentions.” To put it bluntly. It doesn’t matter that we aren’t intentionally hurting our students, it simply matters that we are harming them.
I used to think that I was not a white supremacist. I do not use the n-word nor do I wear a white robe with a hood to meetings. It is easy to understand those actions are hateful. We can proudly say, “that isn’t us.”
We are the ones who have biases hidden so deep that we aren’t always aware that we have them. This quote from Robin DiAngelo allows us to understand how this happens. “While one may explicitly reject the notion that one is inherently better than another, one cannot avoid internalizing the message of white superiority, as it is ubiquitous in mainstream culture”. (link)
WE ARE ENTERING THIS JOURNEY AS WHITE SUPREMACISTS. Get comfortable with that uncomfortable idea. This will help you not feel judged as a person because all white people are already white supremacists. All we are doing is finding out where it lies in us and then addressing it.
Here is my final quote from Robin DiAngelo, “Whites have not had to build tolerance for racial discomfort and thus when racial discomfort arises, whites typically respond as if something is “wrong,” and blame the person or event that triggered the discomfort (usually a person of color).” (link) This journey will be tough on us. I have already watched as white people I like have had their thoughts scrutinized and pushed back on in a way that has to be uncomfortable. It feels like being attacked. I have been there. I have felt attacked.
Instead of feeling attacked we should do what Tyler states in this tweet:
I’ve been chewing on this, and I want to reframe. We need to look at critical feedback as gifts. I apologize using the word “you” in my previous tweet. I separated myself out. #cleartheair
— 3_DLeadership (@3_DLeadership) August 28, 2018
This feedback that makes us defensive is actually a gift that will allow us to help be better teachers and educators for ALL of our students.
My charge to all of my fellow white people out there is to remember first and foremost that by participating in this chat, we are trying to better ourselves. This means putting our egos second to our super-egos. We need to allow our social consciousness to be penetrated to the point that we will see what others have seen for years. We have come here to be pushed in our thinking. Allow that to happen! Listen when people are spending their resources on you. Don’t be mad, be glad!
Secondly, let us white people hold each other accountable for our words and actions. Why should the PoC (People of Color) do all the heavy lifting? We need to start stepping up and saying why the words and actions of our white peers are align with white supremacy. This public action will continue to create a wave of change that is necessary throughout all of education.
Watch this video where Jay Smooth explains how to properly do this.
Lastly, let’s not become another example of white fragility. I have included myself in this letter because I have been fragile and I may become fragile again. It will be as hard for me to do this on our journey as it will be for you. Together we can make some real progress in our awareness of how we are harming people in this world. Let’s not waste it.