It’s been hard to watch the world lately. When things go wrong for beloved people in my community, I guess I always come back to ‘Have I been involved in this? How have I done this much wrong, just like my fellow Americans – the ones that feel like they have been a part of change in this country? What more can I be doing to help this country and my fellow citizens evolve?’
Those are hard questions but I hope that every white human has had them, at one point or another. Now, I know someone is going to blow up and talk all about their good efforts and intentions, but neither is enough in dismantling systemic racism and intolerance. White people, as a whole, know how to weaponize their very existence with how ‘good’ they are, and the question ‘what does it matter if I’m white?’ which is itself a microaggrression, comes up.
“We white people make it so difficult for people of color to talk to us about our inevitable—but often unaware—racist patterns and assumptions that, most of the time, they don’t. People of color working and living in primarily white environments take home way more daily indignities and slights and microaggressions than they bother talking to us about because their experience consistently is that it’s not going to go well. In fact, they’re going to risk more punishment, not less.”
Good intentions are not change or reparations. Good thoughts towards others does not mean that you have examined your own accidental or intentional racism, and it hard to admit that this has happened. Nobody wants to be a blemish when change can present a newer, shinier version of yourself and your race.
So, it’s time to understand complicity. Complicity is the act of being involved with an/another illegal activity or wrong doing, but let’s break it down with an example or two.
Do you have a relative or coworker that’s basically everybody’s uncle. But you notice he makes a lot of racist jokes or is harder on women or maybe POC? Maybe one day he keeps commenting on how nice so&so’s breasts are and all anyone can think to do is laugh or say, ‘That’s just him! He never means any harm, people need to take stuff less seriously.’ The thing is that you might have laughed too. Or you certainly didn’t approach him about stopping or perhaps tell the boss he was engaging in sexism or racism. Because you feel awful about being the bad guy.
By not speaking up though, you ARE the bad guy. You are complicit. You allowed a bad thing to happen and did nothing, which is the same as participating. Silence here is a betrayal, it’s a wrongdoing. So the next thing you might say is, ‘I never know what to say when bad stuff happens.’ or ‘Hey, I was just going about my day! I don’t involve myself.’
That’s bullshit in our modern day where you can literally look up guides on what to say/do when something bad is happening. Your denial to educate yourself is also complicity. Here’s one now:
Maybe you think this was a really easy example, but I wanted to showcase those little moments that slide under the radar as ‘maybe not wrong.’ Questioning the idea of whether something is maybe not wrong usually means wrong. Here’s some resources for you: