Racism is a white people problem

Written by Rorri Geller-Mohamed, LCSW

October 25, 2019

A few weeks ago, while I was in a meeting with the Racial Equity & Liberation consultant, who I hired to help me build U Power Change, LLC in a way that aligns with my values and models my beliefs in practice, she reminded me that racism is a white people problem. It wasn’t that this concept was new to me, as I have heard it in various racial equity training over the years and through self education, but it reminded me to re-examine it in my life and the way that I help and work with people.

When we acknowledge that racism is a white people problem, we then have to look at what we as white people can do to dismantle it. We have to critically examine our role. We have to think about what that looks like for us both personally and professionally. We have to think about the spaces that we occupy and why they may not be racially equitable. What can we do as individuals to fix that? What conversations might we need to have? We have to not only think about the actions that we must take to change that but also take those actions.

Being racially conscious as a white person also means that you experience many feelings when issues of race show up in your life. These feelings can show up in so many ways and sometimes without you realizing it. You may feel guilt, shame, embarrassment, hurt, helplessness, and/or pain. It may show up differently in various situations. For example, you might feel hurt when your white family doesn’t acknowledge the experiences related to race and racism that your child of color has experienced. You might feel shame for missing an opportunity where you should have said something at your child’s school and you stayed quiet. You might feel guilty for being so overwhelmed and depressed by how terrible everything is in the news when you know that BIPOC are experiencing the trauma directly.

For most of us, we never learned how to navigate these emotions so that we could use them effectively to work together in challenging and dismantling racism. Even if you went to therapy to discuss it, it’s likely that your therapist might have been lacking the skills to provide what you need. This also means that you may be limiting your potential to actively dismantle racism because you haven’t fully recognized how to process and effectively use these emotions in your life. You may also not have spaces that are safe to work through these issues, talk out some of these challenges, and gain support and ideas. Unfortunately, this means that we are likely dealing with it in a way that isn’t helpful to the BIPOC in our life and can even be unintentionally hurtful.

The good news is that we have the ability to change that. We need to really look critically at our life and find areas where we should be showing up more, speaking up more, and working for change. By acknowledging our emotions and using them as a catalyst to create change will help us show up more and do the work.

I’m working on a new webinar right now to teach the skills, knowledge, and tools to address this and would love to hear exactly what type of support would be most helpful for you. What is the #1 challenge racially conscious white people face in talking about race and showing up to challenge racism? What questions do you have on this topic that you would like to see addressed?

(Please contact me and let me know)

To addressing the problem.

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