A starter guide to unraveling a white supremascist world

Illustration by Sadie Favour

Last week, I critiqued the anti-racism training put on by St. Olaf. My biggest grievance with the training is that it did not provide concrete examples of how to be anti-racist, instead opting for abstracted scenarios and a jargon dump.

Below, you’ll find practicable skills intended to deconstruct racist behaviors and effectively augment the shortcomings of the anti-racism training. The section headers are features of a white supremacist society, and the bullet points are actions to become more anti-racist.

The list was compiled by my Art 229 class, Digital Filmmaking, and published with the permission of visiting assistant professor of Art and Art History Kelsey Bosch.


Perfectionism:

Be willing to accept when people make mistakes.

Be more understanding.

Think of a solution or suggestion to the mistake — do not ostracize the mistake.

Expecting perfection doesn’t allow for everyone’s truth to be told.

Accept that perfection is an unrealistic standard.

Spread appreciation to everyone involved.

Don’t make assumptions about who should receive all the credit and appreciation.

Mistakes should be viewed as a valuable part of the process.

Recognize that there is no one right way to do something and that the right way is often associated with a history of established privileges.

Sense of Urgency:

Make sure to pace yourself; you do not want to become overworked.

Regularly check in on group members to understand where they are for timelines.

Come up with work schedule and places to check in

Take the time to have conversations about inclusivity and inclusion; don’t let the pace of projects get in the way of the human element of a classroom.

Don’t rush the process.

People work and create at different paces — that’s okay!!

Have patience with others

Defensiveness:

Be willing to take criticism; don’t take it so personally.

Be willing to feel comfortable with others offering advice and criticism.

Understand when to defend our actions and when to take accountability for them.

Accept and be willing to hear criticism.

If you’re being cruel let people tell you you’re being cruel and grow from it.

Be open to having difficult conversations and knowing that there is no shame in voicing concerns or pointing out inequalities and injustices.

Quantity Over Quality:

Be more understanding with people’s emotions.

Meet goals for growth rather than results.

If we value quantity more than quality, we will not tell the right story, and it is likely that we won’t take the time to have equal representation.

Value process!!!

Do not feel pressure to follow conventions or to please others while creating.

Worship of the Written Word:

Look at the product instead of the explanation of the product.

Understand that there are more ways to be productive in a community or group than academic communication.

Rules and policies that might have worked in the past do not necessarily apply to us, and allowing us to decide what works best for everyone will allow room for improvement leading to an evolution to who we would like to become.

People can, will and should tell, share and articulate their stories in different ways — do not have to be expressed in the same way as others.

Only One Right Way:

Be open to other peoples’ ways of doing things and their ways of thought.

Understand that there are several correct processes to get to the same goal.

Value creative differences, different methods and trying new things.

Know that your way isn’t always the right way; you may not know what is best.

Be able to approach topics in a complex manner; understand the costs and benefits of all perspectives.

A binary right/wrong approach is often limited, especially when it comes to artistic works, where there is often no one correct answer.

We are all going to show up differently and create things differently. We all have something different to express!

Make a classroom environment where people can feel comfortable to branch out and create things that are unfamiliar or out of their comfort zone.

Paternalism:

It’s important to have communication between people who are in charge and those who are not.

In a group, share responsibility with a given task.

Don’t be afraid to speak out against paternalism.

Allow more room for individual creativity and freedom of expression to radiate without the need or desire to impose certain restrictions or limits.

Develop a better awareness of the presence of white privilege within person-to-person interactions.

Either/Or Thinking:

Know that there isn’t good and evil or right and wrong — there is only human behavior; things are more gray than black and white.

Look at more complex issues with a degree of acceptance and understanding; knowing things are more complicated than they may seem.

Give people time to make their individual decisions.

Understand the context of every situation because things are never just good or bad.

Take criticism as a source of positive growth.

Give criticism with the intention to help someone grow.

Notice when people only allow two alternatives in the classroom.

Encourage people to do a deeper analysis under less pressure.

Power Hoarding:

Try to distribute power; give people equal input and opportunities in a community or group.

Practice good leadership that includes the members of a group and takes into account their emotions and ideas.

Be willing to accept changes in power or in group dynamics.

Understand the power that each of us has and to not use that power unfairly — use this power to uplift those without it to create the most equal playing field.

Be able to communicate and collaborate with others.

Accept other people’s ideas and perspectives.

Actively involve and engage everybody within a group or community and recognize that power is a renewable resource that has traditionally been treated like currency in a whiteness-oriented world.

During classroom discussions, let other people talk first before jumping at it.

Allowing others to express their ideas in group projects.

Fear of Open Conflict:

Don’t be so defensive — understand that your way isn’t always the best for the group or for the product.

Have open and constructive conversations about ways things can change.

Try to understand peoples’ points of view; starting conflict isn’t an attack.

Embrace discomfort when it comes to having difficult conversations.

Be open to criticism in order to grow, and also give criticism to help others grow.

Learn to not fear discomfort; instead, see having uncomfortable conversations as a way to grow and better yourself.

Do not view your non-reaction to an issue as some heightened sense of objectivity. Debating someone on an issue that affects them more means that they will be more sensitive and the discussion will have a greater emotional toll on them than it does you. Your unbothered state is a symptom of privilege, not level-headedness.

Do not tone police.

Silence = death. Do not stay quiet just to avoid saying the wrong thing. Speak up and voice your opinion, and if you make a mistake and are corrected, do not take it personally. It is a chance to grow.

Individualism:

Work as a group because you are working towards the same goal.

Know that the responsibility doesn’t all fall on you.

Share responsibility with group members and understand the several aspects of work that may need to go into a project.

Do not isolate yourself; keep up good communication.

Just because a project is primarily an individual endeavor does not mean one must cut themselves off from cooperation and collaboration.

Pop your own bubble! Be comfortable working with and listening to others.

Work to help everyone be their best.

Create an open and collaborative creative community.

Recognize, value and credit all of the unique talents and experiences that each individual brings to the larger group.

Progress is Bigger, More:

Be aware of the consequences and ultimate outcomes of your actions.

Think of progress as a goal of inclusivity.

Realize that not all progress is visible or that it has a product.

Understand what is lost in the name of progress.

Make sure not to leave others behind for your own benefit.

Recognize alternative manifestations of progress as it relates to personal growth and artistic or professional growth.

Develop long-lasting values that can help cultivate long term sense of community in the classroom.

Objectivity:

Recognize emotion; it plays a huge role in group processes.

Understand that people have different ways of thinking.

Don’t undervalue the way people feel about things.

Make an environment where people can feel comfortable sharing and expressing their emotions.

Be open and accept the stories and experiences students have had from their backgrounds, cultures and different perspectives.

Right to Comfort:

Don’t take things so personally; understand that your point of view isn’t always right or that your point of view could be harmful.

Value peoples’ emotions and their points of view.

Create an environment where people can be comfortable to be uncomfortable. Not every story is going to relate to you. You should still be able to adapt and listen and learn from these different experiences and perspectives. Just because you’re uncomfortable doesn’t mean you can or should shut down or shut other people down.

It is important to challenge others and be challenged in order to expand your perspectives.