Friday, July 8, 2016

Whitefolks Anonymous: We need to talk

The conversation about white privilege, racism and white supremacy has to start somewhere. 

The thing that we cannot talk about is the thing we MUST talk about.  It will be embarrassing.  It will make the heat rise up under your collar and your white cheeks flush with emotion – anger, shame, recognition.  But unless we acknowledge the problem and bring air and light to this festering infection, committing ourselves to treatment and healing, this sickness is going to kill us.  It already is.  Hundreds of black people gunned down by police officers is just the beginning unless we take steps NOW to acknowledge our complicity with a system that, granted, we did not create, but for which we are held accountable.  Because it is on the verge of catastrophic eruption.

In order for me to move the conversation forward, I need to share what part I play in this country’s racism and white supremacy.  This is not blackfolks’ responsibility.  It is not up to them to instruct us.  The onus is on us as whitefolks to do this work and to do it now. 

So let me suggest that whitefolks like me need something like Alcoholics Anonymous.  Only this would be called, perhaps, Whitefolks Anonymous (I’m open to a better name and would welcome suggestions in comments).  We need groups of whitefolks to meet on a regular basis to grapple with our addiction to white privilege, a racist system, and our own demons of white supremacy. 

This is and will be a work in progress.  But we have to start somewhere.  I have to start somewhere.  So here it goes:

Hi, my name is Leah.  I am white.  And I am a recovering racist. 

I live in a house that I did not build.  But it is the house I have inherited and for which I am responsible now.  I have a story to tell about how I got here and what racism and white supremacy have done to me and others.  You have a story, too.  And we need to talk to each other, to share openly, to hold each other accountable.  We need something like a 12-step program based on the Alcoholics Anonymous model.  It might look something like this:

1. We admit that we are powerless over white privilege, racism and white supremacy, and that our lives and our society have become unmanageable.

2. Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to racial healing and sanity.

3. Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of that Power.

4. Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves regarding our addiction to white privilege and our complicity with a racist system.

5. Admitted to that Power, to ourselves and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs, stereotypes, micro- and macro-aggressions toward blackfolk and other people of color.

6. Were entirely ready to renounce and remove these racist defects of character within ourselves, our families, institutions, communities, and the larger society.

7. Made a list of all persons and communities we have harmed as a result of our addiction to white privilege, stereotypes, and a racist system, and became willing to make amends to them all. 

8. Humbly asked to be forgiven of our wrongs against people of color.

9. Made direct amends to such people and communities of color wherever possible, except when doing so would injure them or others.

10. Continued to take personal inventory of our assumptions, preconceived notions, acts of aggression, and failure to address the sources and effects of white privilege, racism and white supremacy, and when we were wrong, promptly admitted it.

11.  Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with that Power, praying for knowledge of healing for ourselves and our sisters and brothers of color, and the power to carry that out.

12.  Having had a spiritual awakening as a result of these steps, we carried this message to others addicted to white privilege, racism and white supremacy, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.

How does this sound to you?  Would you be willing to engage in a conversation?  Would you invite a group of your white friends to your home or your place of worship or your local community center to discuss this?  Would you engage in an online conversation?

I welcome your feedback, your comments, your suggestions.

Let’s start the conversation.


  1. Love the 12 step program. I'll be using some of your blog in my sermon tomorrow (giving you credit of course)

  2. Thanks for that feedback, Debbie. I'd be interested in hearing how your parishioners respond to the sermon. You can email me at I'll be praying for you as you preach!

  3. I have thought long a often about how I should respond. As a woman of color I am not sure I should except I promised my friend I would.
    I too have benefited from the systemic racism. The overwhelming need to be the balm of the conscience..."the not too Black black representative.
    Hi, my name is Stephanie and it is vital that this conversation happens.
    Racism is learned. Not a genetic predisposition that must be passed from one generation to the next. Individuals can choose to be aware of the price of privilege and seek to help those harmed. The conversation and these steps can help us. At the end of the program racism has lost an ally. One day one pro use at a time.


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