My white people – it’s time to resign. And not simply to exit our C-suite positions, our board directorships, our chiefdoms of staff -- but to ensure that Black and Brown colleagues in our midst, leaders in our networks – take over the positions of power we have completely botched.
It’s past time.
Our cities would not be burning if we had actually read Black and Brown racial justice thinkers and organizers over the past 20 to 40 years and seriously considered the deadly impacts of our racist power and resource hoarding.
The planet is dying of white supremacist extraction. Of the rigged white Ponzi scheme we call banking. Our Black and Brown neighbors (let's be real, most of us don’t have any—we live in super-segregated white neighborhoods) are dying of white supremacist health care systems that have ignored, failed to treat, and blamed them for their illnesses. Many white people seem shocked by the death profile of COVID-19, but Black health disparities data has been tracked for decades, year in and year out. All along, our health care system’s racist shortening of life has been chalked up to Black “behavior,” not white dismissal of Black pain, our refusal to treat Black patients with dignity and respect, our dumping of Black uninsured folks at bus stops in the cold middle of the night.
And let’s not forget our companies and organizations: Our workplaces have built monuments to white supremacy in whom we’ve elevated to top positions; what products we’ve developed; what issues we’ve prioritized; what and to whom we’ve marketed; and, above all, what we have failed to elevate, prioritize, and develop.
My white people—it’s time to go.
I’ve been a racial justice consultant for colleges, nonprofits, and advocacy organizations for over 20 years, and most of my work has been utterly useless. I’ve created tailored leadership auditing programs, interviewed hundreds of frontline and senior staff, and led dozens upon dozens of trainings about how to hire and promote for social justice. Over nearly three decades, I’ve written painstaking, specific memos outlining the path to change and made endless targeted recommendations. All for naught.
I’ve begun each consultancy with this framework: I don’t do “difficult conversations” and “feelings” diversity work, because it burdens the few staff of color you have. I do structural interventions on racism. Each organization has dutifully completed its structural intervention audit to find: They have white supermajorities hoarding institutional power and (“unwittingly”) creating white supremacist work cultures. And in the aftermath of the audit, each institution has done nothing.
Several years ago, I decided to stop doing these consultancies. First, because they were giving white people in power “cover.” White executives could check the box of having hired a “diversity” trainer and then continue on their path to upholding white supremacist leadership configurations and cultures. Second, because I often undertook these consultancies with a Black leadership training partner, the extra weight and aggression my Black colleagues had to carry in the work was increasingly horrific. Unacceptable. Not worth a fraction of the pitiful gains.
The very last one of these trainings I did was for a major political candidate’s campaign staff. The campaign was nearly all white at the top, with its rank-and-file staff on the bottom in furious revolt. They brought us in to “address racism,” which really meant calm the waters long enough to go back to business as usual. They earnestly took in the information about their racist leadership structure. They harmed my Black co-trainer with their horrified resistance to our only real, substantive conversation—a hotly contested hour over the suggestion that a meaningful, daily action white “allies” can take in any community is to commit to not calling the police. The organization’s leadership weathered this “courageous” conversation, thanked their staff of color for being “so honest,” and, wait for it: did nothing to change its leadership structure (And, I suspect, nothing to change their reliance on police violence to “keep them safe”.).
I wonder what these folks are thinking now, as they look around at the fury and the righteousness of everyone in the streets. Are they there too, raising their fists? Putting a “Black Lives Matter” sign in their windows? Pushing their candidate to do more than a few appallingly tepid “police reforms”? Because I see a lot of rebranding of ourselves in this moment, my white people. I see, again, the intense desire to have “meaningful conversation” across race that will make us all feel better about the suddenly undeniable deadly outcomes of having hoarded power and resources throughout our long, successful, accolade-laden careers.
In the next several months, I’m going to turn over my most beloved consulting gig to Black and Brown peers who have been doing this spectacular work with me as collaborators for the past decade. It’s a sexual liberation and justice job I love best of all the work I do. It’s my “baby”—I’ve nurtured it diligently, in a joyful, expansive community of friends and co-trainers—and it has had a profound impact on the people who have partaken of our offering at major conferences around the country. The reality is that I have many Black collaborators who can easily step up to the leadership of this project and take it to the next level. All I have to do is stop hoarding the leadership berth. All I have to do is let go.
My white people: Speak less. Critique less. Read Black radical writing. Follow young leaders on the ground. Resign.