WomenEd Blogs

Me and White Supremacy


by Claire Nicholls @bristol_teacher

In the @WomenEdBookclub chat led by Angie Browne (@nourishedteacher) on Layla F. Saad’s ‘Me and White Supremacy’ workbook, we discussed key learning, silence and complicity, the discomfort of white privilege and how feminism neglects Black women and other women of colour. My reflections on this were very personal and made me realise how far I’ve come on the journey of anti-racism but crucially, how far I’ve got left to go.

Unlike some of the other participants, I didn’t feel any discomfort with the phrase ‘White Supremacy’ in the title, nor with concepts such as white fragility. These are terms that I’ve grown to be comfortable with as I engage with this work. I’ve also reflected, before and during the completion of the book, on how damaging White Feminism is to many minority groups but especially Black women, as it ignores or co-opts Black feminism and concepts such as intersectionality (see Kimberlé Crenshaw: Kimberlé Crenshaw: The urgency of intersectionality | TED Talk)  in favour of discussions around kindness, empowerment and ultimately comfort. This is explored brilliantly by Rachel Cargle: What Is Toxic White Feminism? - When Feminism Is White Supremacy. I tweet about equalities issues regularly.

I understand whiteness as a concept and that racism is about power. I work to try and challenge inequality and call out racism; both on a systemic level and the microaggressions I see. However, the power of Saad’s workbook (cemented by Angie’s thoughtful questions) is the focus on the individual rather than the systemic. Along with many of my white peers in education, I have found myself falling into the trap of believing that I’m ‘doing the work’ by reading, tweeting, boosting Black voices and asking difficult questions to those with the power to change the system. This doesn’t make me immune to perpetuating racism though. I’m white, and my whiteness makes me unable to see my privilege in many ways. My Black partners have pointed out how my words or actions are harmful on numerous occasions and I’ve been ashamed to not have realised.

A key question was “How does your fear of loss of privilege and comfort hold you back from asking white leaders to do better?” This really made me reflect on how little power white educators (and I include myself here) are willing to give up in order for people of colour to progress.

Boosting their voices on our own platforms is still self-promotion. Running workshops when we have no lived experience isn’t showcasing the right voices. Even as I write this blog, I’m guilty of taking up space. What are we doing quietly, unseen and without demanding recognition? For most of us, the answer is ‘not enough’.

Angie finished by asking what reading the book inspired us to do, or commit to do and my commitment is to look within myself at least as much as I challenge others. This work is ongoing, and always will be. I commit to that.

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Me and White Supremacy
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Thursday, 08 June 2023

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