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Role of White Bodies in Liberation Work

I started my racial identity deconstruction when I was 17. I was lucky enough to be put in situations that shocked, scared, and infuriated me. Situations where I could never again deny the existence of racism and the experiences of Black, Indigenous, and People of Color. These experiences changed my life forever and were the beginning of a twenty-year process of studying, learning, failing, deconstructing, and decolonizing my body and mind from the sickness of white supremacy culture—or what we call at L4L, the sick collective consciousness.

While I know this journey never ends, I hold on to the belief that white bodies can be liberated from this sick collective consciousness. The problem is there isn’t a precedent. While there are many white bodies working for justice and change, we are still deeply colonized and our blindspots are evident and very often harmful to Black, Indigenous, and People of Color. Often we white bodies are learning at the expense of Black, Indigenous, and People of Color. Therefore, currently, there is no precedence of communities of white bodies being liberated from white supremacy culture.

In the work of liberation, we are beginning to imagine a world we have not yet seen. A world where all bodies are safe, a world where Black and Brown bodies are honored and revered, and a world where white bodies are liberated from white supremacy culture’s programming that has been thousands of years in the making. In the work of liberation, we envision what is possible and move towards it with courage and commitment.

My challenge for myself and for the work of liberation is to better define processes by which white bodies can decolonize and heal, to clarify what is needed and quite frankly expected from white bodies in order for liberation to be possible, and to identify and intervene in the ways white supremacy culture continues to be normalized and ignored in our culture.

Recently, I completed a course called, “Disarming Whiteness.” During my time in the course, they offered “5 Roles of White Bodies,” a list that outlines what is needed and expected from white bodies who are committed to the work of liberation. In the class, they offer five roles. I adjusted the language and added two more based on my takeaways from another class (Somatic Abolitionism) that I recently took with Resmaa Menakeem and my personal practice of disarming myself:

  1. White bodied folks must be willing to redistribute the burden and consequences of white supremacy culture from Black, Indigenous, and People of Color to white bodies.

  2. White bodied folks must understand and reorganize ourselves in ways that center the needs, voices, and demands of Black, Indigenous, and People of Color.

  3. White bodied folks must become fluent and precise at observing and naming the moves that uphold white supremacy culture and intervene as a result.

  4. White bodied folks must invest their time, talent, and resources in solutions that materially improve the conditions for Black, Indigenous, and People of Color.

  5. White bodied folks must be willing to lay down their personal agendas, positions of power, and the ways they benefit from white supremacy culture. Instead, they must center the voices, needs, and requests of Black, Indigenous, and People of Color. White bodied folks must all be willing to design with and for the people who are intentionally excluded from opportunities to thrive.

  6. White bodied folks must be willing to invest the time, energy, and resources into healing their nervous systems, decolonizing their cells, and rewriting their ancestral DNA.

  7. White bodied folks must believe the felt, somatic experience of Black, Indigenous, People of Color and be willing to be heard and incorporate difficult feedback over and over.

White folks, it is time. We live in a country that systematically murders Black and Brown bodies and has for its entire existence. Those of us who are in white bodies and are committed to social justice have been willing to build our awareness, acknowledge our privilege, and in some cases set down our defenses. We have been willing to invest in some diversity and inclusion initiatives and learning. It is not enough, it is only the starting point. If we want to co-create liberation, we have to be willing to lose and redistribute our unearned power, privilege, and resources in order to rebalance the scales.


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