Waking Up to White Supremacy

Don’t Let Your Outrage About Charlottesville Slip Away

The process of waking up to our country’s racial reality can feel incredibly uncomfortable for many white people, so much so that they may be tempted to go back to sleep. Unlike people of color, white folks can pick and choose when we think about and deal with racism. But continuing to hit the snooze button is at our own peril.

Activist Alicia Garza warns us against the temptation to believe that racial injustice only impacts some people, saying, “… white people need this movement just as much as black people, because they are being sold a bill of goods, too.” Being involved in systems of oppression is dehumanizing for all of us.

What we witnessed in Charlottesville sparked interest from many people about doing more to dismantle white supremacy and racism. While Charlottesville had a certain “waking-up” effect on many white, liberal-identifying folks, those feelings often fade as the media lens shifts to other events.

Before Charlottesville gets buried under other concerns competing for your attention, I’m asking that you continue to place “dismantling white supremacy” at the top of your to-do list in the months and years that lie ahead.

Michelle Alexander, author of The New Jim Crow, describes the process of becoming more engaged as a series of steps, the first of which is to say, “‘I am willing to be awake.’ That I’m not going to tell myself the same old stories or be lulled to sleep by the mainstream media. I am willing to wake up to our current racial reality … and I’m also willing to acknowledge my own complicity in the system.”

Showing Up for Racial Justice, Santa Barbara, offers the following resources for people interested in joining us in continuously learning and waking, especially as Charlottesville slips from the spotlight.


The following short articles compactly explain racism, including its hidden forms: “7 Reasons Why ‘Colorblindness’ Contributes to Racism Instead of Solves It” by Jon Greenberg; “It’s My Job to Raise Children Who Are Not Only ‘Not Racist’ But Actively Anti-Racist” by Mandy Hitchcock; and “What I Told My White Friend When He Asked For My Black Opinion on White Privilege” by Lori Lakin Hutcherson.

If my use of the term “white” is bothering you, these articles widen the understanding of racial identity and its importance in understanding racism: “Why Talk About Whiteness” by Emily Chiariello; and “Why It’s So Hard to Talk to White People About Racism” by Robin DiAngelo.

Articles are useful, but systemic racism is too complex to be explained in 1,000 words or less. Here are two books we recommend that break down what you need to know: “Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria?” and Other Conversations About Race (2017) by Beverly Daniel Tatum; and Uprooting Racism (2017) by Paul Kivel. Also, Waking Up White, and Finding Myself in the Story of Race (2014) by Debbie Irving; White Rage: The Unspoken Truth of Our Racial Divide (2017) by Carol Anderson; and Is Everyone Really Equal? An Introduction to Key Concepts in Social Justice Education (2017) by Özlem Sensoy and Robin DiAngelo.


Follow racial justice and anti-racism groups on social media to catch stories overlooked by mainstream news outlets. If you use Facebook, start by liking and following these groups: Southern Poverty Law Center, White Nonsense Roundup, White People Challenging Racism, The Movement for Black Lives, and Central Coast Alliance United for a Sustainable Economy (CAUSE).


If you can, sign up to make a recurring monthly donation to the well-established organization Southern Poverty Law Center (splcenter.org), which researches and reports on hate groups in the United States. (There are currently 917, and over 50 are in California.) Make sure part of your monthly donating goes to a group led by people of color so these voices continue to be at the center of racial justice organizing. We recommend The Movement for Black Lives, a collective of more than 50 organizations with a detailed platform for change. (Read the platform at policy.m4bl.org/platform.)


Taking meaningful action against racism involves more than one-time actions. Anti-racism organizations are committed to this work for the long haul, and we need your help. Showing Up for Racial Justice (SURJ) is one of these groups, but there are many from which to choose. Follow our Santa Barbara chapter on Facebook (SURJ SB), or email us at sbsurj@gmail.com to learn more. The SURJ national webpage is showingupforracialjustice.org.

Michelle Alexander reminds us, “Failure to act is a choice in itself.”

Ready to act? In the next 10 minutes you can order a book, set up a recurring donation, and email us to get more actively involved. You can find these ideas and more at NotesFromAWhiteAlly.blogspot.com.

Please don’t lose sight of the emotions you felt after Charlottesville. The systemic racism that allowed for these events to occur is alive and well, and will not go away on its own. We are here to help you channel your emotions into dedicated action for real and lasting social change. I look forward to acting alongside you.

Carrie Hutchinson is cofounder of the Santa Barbara chapter of Showing Up for Racial Justice.


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