When Black Lives Matter was gaining traction, I found myself going out of the way to not only educate myself but also my predominantly white family members. I had passionate discussions with my parents and friends because I felt a deep responsibility as a non-Black Person of Color to be as anti-racist as possible. After all, I understood how racism affected me throughout my life and wanted to do my part to help other People of Color.
Months ago, there was a very large boom of anti-racism work. As an engaged participant in many mom groups and online communities for parents, I saw white moms starting book clubs devoted to diverse reads, posting black squares in solidarity with their Black peers, or buying from Black-owned businesses. But over time, I have noticed a lag in support for Black Lives Matter and anti-racist work.
Even as a Woman of Color, I have found myself falling into the same pattern of educating myself with books, talking with my family, and then also forgetting to stay consistent in the work of anti-racism in my day-to-day mom life.
Being anti-racist should not be a trend that we go back to when we feel guilty or are reminded by something in the news. Black women and Women of Color have been discussing race for years within our homes, but in order for the movement to remain consistent, we need white moms to become better allies and work with Moms of Color to continue advocating together.
Here are five ways white moms can become more consistent allies:
1. Remember anti-racism is ongoing work, not just reserved for holidays or in response to trauma
As a Woman of Color, seeing only a frenzy of white support during holidays like Black History Month or in response to traumatic events on the news can be one of the most frustrating things to witness. Reading work by diverse authors, shopping from BIPOC businesses, and ongoing learning beyond what is taught in schools should not be kept for special occasions or when something bad happens.
In order to do the work and be truly anti-racist, white moms can integrate diversity into their family’s daily lives.
2. Stop centering whiteness
When a person, whether a stranger or family member, is telling you about their experiences as a Person of Color, it is not the time to center your white experience. For example, when I’ve discussed racism or microaggressions with close family or friends who were white, they often take the time to share ways they couldn’t possibly be racist or show microaggressions.
When a person, whether a stranger or family member, is telling you about their experiences as a person of color, it is not the time to center yourself.
When I am sharing my story with the people in my life, I am not looking for ways they can make it better or for them to share their anti-racist work, I am simply looking for support and empathy. And most of all, I am looking for someone to believe me and validate my feelings.
When People of Color share their experiences with racism, we are often told that the person didn’t mean it or was having a rough day, rather than the person owning responsibility for the impact of their actions. We are in 2021; ignorance can’t be an excuse. It’s time we support and believe People of Color when they share their experiences. Moms can help model this behavior for their kids.
3. Don’t avoid conversations about race
Conversations about race can be difficult, awkward, and even painful. For predominantly white families who typically do not discuss race until there is a situation in the news or at school, it can feel challenging to bring up race at home in your day-to-day life.
But if white children are taught from a young age about inequalities, racism, and white privilege, it can help educate more children to grow up and fight for equity and to help end systemic racism.
I understand how hard it can be to begin these discussions, especially for white families who may have never realized the prevalence of racism in present-day America.
As a Woman of Color from a predominantly white family, typically race is only discussed in worse case-scenarios when it makes the news. This puts the emotional labor and efforts on me to bring up race in our day-to-day family conversations.
‘As a Woman of Color from a majority white family, typically race is only discussed in worse case-scenarios when it makes the news.’
A quick tip to make these conversations a little more natural is by making sure to include diverse books, food, music, and movies into your day-to-day life. This can help facilitate conversations in a more natural way.
4. Use your voice to support BIPOC at work and at school
Being a “Karen” doesn’t always have to be a bad thing. White moms can use their voice and white privilege to help promote equity at work and in schools.
At work, does your company leadership share diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts? If you’re included in those discussions, look around the room (or the Zoom call): are diverse perspectives represented? If not, suggest ways to make sure more perspectives can be listened to and acted upon without asking for unpaid emotional labor from your BIPOC colleagues (many outside consultants and businesses are tailored to help facilitate these discussions).
At school, if you are part of the Parent-Teacher Association, make sure you’re including representative perspectives from families at your school. For example, you can encourage making meetings accessible for working parents, hiring a translator to send home notices from school in English and Spanish, as well as supporting low-cost lunch programs and after school activities. Use your resources to create fundraisers that support all students.
5. Be willing to sit with your own discomfort and make mistakes
Having biases is part of human nature. Sometimes the ideas we absorbed or were taught to us as children stay with us until we are willing to do the work to reprogram our misconceptions.
It wasn’t until I was in college that I learned about my own biases against other People of Color, and initially, I was ashamed and tried to avoid the truth. I wish I could tell you that you can become perfect at anti-racism by following a set of easy-to-follow steps, but the truth is that it will take continued efforts over time.
To be truly anti-racist, you have to keep having conversations and doing the internal work. Anti-racism is an imperfect journey—you will mess up and stumble.
Remember: when BIPOC are opening up a conversation with you about racism—even how you may have hurt them—it means that they care a lot about you and are trying to make progress. Listen and learn from the BIPOC in your life who take the time to point out your mistakes, and remember that it would have been easier for them to simply not talk to you about it.