The #MeandWhiteSupremacy Challenge and Why White People Need to Examine Their Privilege
Admittedly, I had no idea what I was getting into when I first decided to do Layla Saad’s #MeandWhiteSupremacy challenge. I’d been following Layla for a while, silently observing - sometimes stewing. Making myself the exception to the white women she so often mentioned. Feeling butthurt whenever she established boundaries and made a post for black, indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC) only.
But a commitment to the truth led me to her space, and I know it’s a commitment I need to keep if I truly want to find peace.
I've always believed in equality and justice for all. My meditation and yoga practices are done for the benefit of ALL beings - regardless of race, religion, or sex. But lately, I've felt a disconnect. My spiritual beliefs were out of alignment with my actions, and I've felt a strong urge to get more involved in fighting for equality on the physical plane.
I’m very late to join the movement. People of color have been fighting for their lives for centuries in this country. Us white folks just have the orange demon-in-chief to thank for finally waking us the fuck up. It's taken the threat of our own rights being stripped away for white women to finally get off the sidelines. I 100% fall into this category, and I’m not proud to admit it.
But this isn’t about adding more guilt and shame. It’s about acknowledging the harm we’ve caused and making a plan to ensure we don’t repeat the same mistakes. We need to learn to sit in the discomfort rather than running away. It’s asking the question: What will we do now that we know better?
This isn’t something that can be easily answered. It takes time and commitment to examine your deep-seeded white supremacist beliefs and actions. This work does not take place on the surface. One woman in the challenge described it as extracting poison from deep within. I 100% agree with that sentiment.
Each day, Layla outlined a different concept or aspect of white supremacy with journal prompts and questions to help us go in. I can’t tell you how many times my ego screamed out with defensiveness. My white exceptionalism made me question whether anything she was saying actually applied to me, while my white fragility had me feeling sorry for myself whenever the ugly truth reared its head and I realized that I was not exempt from absolutely anything. I finally found a name for my silence and fear around speaking up about racism - white apathy. My whole definition of white supremacy completely shifted.
White supremacy is not just lunatics in white hoods or angry little man babies with tiki torches. It is not just overt prejudice that makes black bodies less than and forces them to the back of the bus. It also includes being overly friendly to a black person to prove “you’re one of the good ones” or fetishizing mixed babies by obsessing over their cuteness. And don’t even get me started on touching a black woman’s hair.
By definition, it is the belief that white skin is superior to other races, though that doesn’t even begin to cover the ways it has seeped into the fabric of our existence. From the criminal justice system to housing inequity and every institution in between, white supremacy reigns supreme. It is a system that has solely worked to help white people thrive at the expense of everyone else.
If we truly want equality and justice for all, we must examine the ways we benefit from this system. Which is exactly where the #MeandWhiteSupremacy challenge comes in.
For months, I’ve been trying to uncover the source of the debilitating guilt and shame that seem to rule me. I’ve repeated my mantra (I am a warrior and I’m free from guilt and shame) every day in meditation since it came to me last November, and constantly ask the universe/my guides/anyone out there in the ether who will listen to set me free from the chokehold of constantly feeling like everything I do is wrong.
At the beginning of June, I made a commitment to finding the truth. To removing the illusions and bullshit that was keeping me in the dark. I was exhausted from the guilt and shame that plagued me, and decided then and there I would do anything to get down to the roots.
This whole process led me to the #MeandWhiteSupremacy challenge. I started following more POC and educating myself on the grave inequalities they face. For a month, I quietly stayed in the background, learned, and listened. Then Layla announced the challenge.
Because of that month of listening, I felt ready to dive in. I want to say here that I know all of this can feel very intimidating. But the more you learn about BIPOC’s plight, the more empowered you are to get off the sidelines. I knew enough to no longer stay silent.
Some days I wanted to. Some days I just cried. Some days I couldn’t post what I said in Layla’s comment section to my own profile because I was too damn embarrassed of my behaviors and actions. I didn’t want you all to see the vile racism within me.
#MeandWhiteSupremacy took me into the pit of everything I’ve done that I should feel ashamed of. It’s illuminated darkness I’ve done everything to forget. It’s made me sit in the guilt and shame without drinking, dancing, or fucking it away. I learned about the atrocities POC have had to face in this country each and every day rather than just skimming an article and bowing out when it got too uncomfortable to keep going. It opened my eyes to the burning racism that is just as alive in America as it was in the Jim Crow era, and it held me accountable for the ways I’ve contributed to upholding our deeply flawed, white supremacist system.
This is something I believe every single white person should do. I’ve always thought of myself as an open and accepting person with a love for all beings, but this challenge really showed me my unconscious biases. I never would have called myself racist before this, but I’ve awakened to the ways systematic racism has manifested itself within me. You can’t grow up under this system without it having an effect on you. You can’t walk through this world with white skin without benefitting from white privilege.
There’s so much more that I could say, but I’ll leave it here for today. For now, I highly recommend checking out this list of black activists, writers, leaders, and teachers to follow to get started with anti-racism work. Diversifying your spaces is a great place to start! Just be sure you show up in their spaces with respect and a true commitment to doing the work. And don’t forget to sign up for alerts to get Layla’s #MeandWhiteSupremacy Workbook. She won’t be hosting the challenge again in her space, but will be offering it in a book with online guidance.
black women TO FOLLOW
1. Layla Saad
As the creator of the #MeandWhiteSupremacy challenge and an amazing sacred activist and spiritual teacher, Layla is someone you need to follow if you're interested in the intersections of spirituality, race, feminism, and leadership.
2. Leesa Renee Hall
Leesa is an author and facilitator who helps spiritual leaders use the art of self-inquiry to question their unconscious biases. I can't wait to dig into her Expressive Writing Prompts on Patreon.
3. Rachel Cargle
Rachel describes herself as the "Beyonce of Academia," creating syllabi and hosting discussions on a range of subjects to educate people about racism and feminism. She's on tour with her signature lecture "Unpacking White Feminism" for the academic year in 2018-2019. I'd love to bring this talk to Los Angeles!
4. Catrice Jackson
Catrice is a speaker, author, educator, and racial justice activist that serves up realness with NO chaser! If you're looking to hear the truth with no hand-holding, Catrice is the teacher for you. She is NOT afraid to deliver the hard truths. She leads workshops to inspire productive conversations about race. Check out her website to find a talk in a city near you.
5. Alexis P. Morgan
Alexis is a writer, artist, consultant, and professional opinion-giver devoted to truth, justice, and liberation. I love getting her Patreon updates in my inbox and learning more about her journey with divination and ancestral healing.
Please let me know who I missed in this round-up! There are so many people out there doing groundbreaking, life-changing work and I'd love to keep this as a running list to continue learning. Let me know on social media or in the comments below.