By Bill Proudman, WMFDP co-founder and CEO

This is the question of the moment for many whites, many who are awakening for the first time that their Black and brown colleagues are having a “different” experience than them. Much of what do I do usually centers on organizational and systemic change. This is absolutely critical. 

What often gets missed is what do I do personally. This is foundational to the large scale structural and institutional change that is needed for true racial equity in society.  

If you want to do something, start with yourself about how you are being rather then what you are doing. Being is about how you think and, from there, behave. 

Start with these five things:

  • Get more comfortable being uncomfortable and/or confused. Learn to be in this difficult place more often to help drive your curiosity.
  • Do not remain silent. SPEAK UP and OUT. As you rediscover your voice, spend more time in inquiry rather than advocacy. Educate yourself and realize your education will be ongoing, even never-ending, and is not a fixed destination.
  • As you speak up, don’t OUTSOURCE your learning about race and racism to people of color. It is not their job to be your coach, teacher, or guide. You are responsible for directing your own learning. Start the work with yourself and other white folks. Then, engage with colleagues of color but do not expect them to speak for their entire racial group. Doing your own personal work with other whites will positively impact how to come to partnership with people of color.
  • Expect to make mistakes. Expect your good intentions to impact others in ways you did not intend. When this happens (and it will), do not immediately rush to defend your “good GUYNESS” or “good GALNESS.”  Breath, lean in, ask questions and listen to what others say about how they are being impacted.
  • If you start to feel guilty or even shameful about what you are coming to understand, remind yourself that racism is NOT YOUR PERSONAL FAULT AND you are also responsible for understanding how these historical patterns of systemic mistreatment and inequity impact how you are hearing another right now and how they are hearing you. Work from there.  

Learning to partner across racial difference is a never-ending journey. How will you sustain yourself to stay engaged over the long term?

Additional resource: Watch Bill speak to these steps in this FOX 5 DC Race to Equality series segment.