On one level it can’t be helped. Humans are competitive by nature. It’s only natural that there would be a degree of one-upmanship, even over something as important as ending racism. But enough is enough. Because it’s looking increasingly like winning the battle of virtue is going to lose us the war against racism.
To win this war we need allies. We should rejoice when people of any colour are willing to speak out against racial injustice in our society. We should be focusing on their intent to do good, not tripping over ourselves to point out any failings in how they express themselves.
Yet that’s exactly what’s happening. And the cost will be people who would otherwise have joined the fight staying silent for fear of repercussions. People who feel this way are accused of “white fragility”, people who don’t understand how they’re supposed to contribute are dismissed with injunctions to “educate themselves”.
And where does this leave is? It leaves us with people feeling like this man who wrote into the New York Post:
I am a senior-level leader in an organisation and I feel compelled to speak up about racial injustice. But I’m afraid too…as a white man, I’m afraid that I will say something that will e misinterpreted and I will do more harm than good — for my career too. Staying silent seems wrong but safer. Am I alone in this?
We have to do better than this. We have to be clearer. We can’t continue to dismiss people who are confused about what they should do when it’s our community that’s confusing them. This person wants to help, and the environment that we’re creating makes them afraid to do so. If you’re unable to understand how this person feels, maybe it’s time you educate yourself.