How do you begin to dismantle white supremacy? It starts with you

How Do You Begin to Dismantle White Supremacy? It Starts With You.

No Soy De Aquí nor from there

A series centering on the search for belonging, healing, and fumbling towards liberation!

By Christine Leone

Send questions about the self, healing from racial trauma, and liberation to [email protected]. Include your name and location, or a request to remain anonymous. Letters may be edited.

How Do You Begin to Dismantle White Supremacy?

Q. Hi, Christine- As a white person, I’ve focused a lot on getting more People of Color into the “center” of things. Like volunteering with my organization’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) committee and trying to help People of Color get the same privileges I have. But now I’m wondering if I’m just trying to bring People of Color into the Matrix instead of promoting change. What can I do to help? –White and Wondering

Dear White and Wondering,

Thank you for asking this question. I have witnessed many people such as yourself begin to do this work without questioning the harm they may be doing in the process. I have observed how some white people are so deeply embedded into the matrix that they have convinced themselves anti-racism work starts with focusing on “those people” from “that community.” However, that is not where the delusion of white supremacy began. Thankfully, people like you are beginning to pause and ask critical questions about how they may be contributing to the very problem they are trying to address. And if you listen to Black and Indigenous people in this Movement, you will hear again and again how it starts with you. If you have not extracted the delusion of white supremacy from within you, you will continue to replicate it.

In my own life, despite my mixed heritage, I have generally been viewed as a person of color in the workplace. I have been that Spanish-speaking counselor who is asked to proofread google translations, asked about my views on Latino, e, or x, and vehemently recruited to provide input for DEI projects. 

Before I knew better, I thought getting involved in this work with white leadership might create change. I quickly realized that most leaders I worked with had not done their inner work. They were so focused on ‘helping’ others that they could not see how their racism made equity work performative and retraumatizing. Or rather, it was too uncomfortable for them to focus on their own racism that they chose to focus on pain of others. As a result, the DEI work devolved into ticked boxes, self-appointed white allies, white tears, and People of Color feeling betrayed yet again.

So, if you are a white person on the path of anti-racism: before you attempt to bring a Black, Indigenous, or Person of Color into any DEI or anti-racist cause, please do your own inner work. Otherwise, you will continue to perpetuate the delusion that literally kills folks. 

Educate yourself. Donate to Black and Indigenous-led causes. Buy their books, pay for their workshops and incorporate the plethora of Black and Indigenous knowledge that has been repeated time and time again. Then when you have begun to extract the tentacles of white supremacy from yourself, turn your attention to your fellow white folks. 

The delusion of white supremacy was created by your forefathers. So it makes sense that you must first dismantle it among yourselves. As someone who is half-white, I know it’s easy to say, but it can feel terrifying to do. I have been on my own journey of seeking out and identifying the white supremacy delusion within myself. 

I embody both/and in that the delusion of supremacy was created by and inflicted upon my ancestors. I also know that white supremacy has provided me with generational privilege and trauma that I am just beginning to unpack. I have gained more awareness of when my whiteness steps forward and when the Brown parts of me fall back into the shame of imposter syndrome. This deeper understanding has made it easier to care for myself and others. It has been an imperfect and cyclical process with no end in sight, requiring deep trauma work. 

Yes, it is scary and ugly, but I have no choice. I am clear that as long as there is someone who is not free in this world, none of us can ever truly be free. History has shown that freedom is precarious when you choose not to pay attention.

So if you want to do this work and limit your replication of the white supremacy delusion, donate to and learn from the people directly affected by it, then focus on yourself. Heal yourself and then the world.

Still wondering? Stay tuned for Part 4.

Missed last week’s post? Check out The Matrix and White Supremacy.

Christine Leone, LCSW, ICDVP

Christine Leone, LCSW, ICDVP

Hi, I'm Christine, and I'm a counselor who helps people explore healing through liberation practices. I currently offer counseling services here at Chicago Compass Counseling and specialize in EMDR, anxiety, and Race-Based Traumatic Stress. If you're interested, you can read more about me on my about page.