To White People Who Think You’re Woke…

Guess what? You’re probably not.

Cover of Book – Graphic of Authors Holding Pencils

Privilege. Woke. White Supremacy. White Nationalism. Racism. Critical Race Theory. Indoctrination.

We’ve all heard these terms in the last few years, and for many of us, they send ripples of anxiety (which they should). But what do they mean, and how do they pertain to us?

In Do The Work!: An Antiracist Activity Book, authors W. Kamau Bell and Kate Schatz explain how systemic racism evolved in our country and how it’s been “whitewashed” to become unrecognizable. The book is “a bridge between essential reading and critical action.” This workbook is not just for white people but for anyone wanting to learn about hidden prejudices and institutional racism — and how to eliminate them.

History books are only as accurate as the authors who write them. I didn’t learn about systemic racism in school or for many years thereafter, but I got a small understanding of what the term means from Alyssa Cole’s When No One Is Watching. Although a thriller, the novel explains how various factors (products of white privilege) drove Black people from their homes in Brooklyn, eventually allowing gentrification to take over. Reading Cole’s book was eye-opening for me — and sobering because I didn’t already know these things.

Do The Work! defines important terms:

  1. Racism “is prejudice plus power.”
  2. Privilege is “unearned access to social power accorded by the formal and informal institutions of society to ALL members of a dominant group.”

Bell and Schatz include the historical facts behind white privilege and systemic discrimination in the U.S., including a timeline explaining how the institution of slavery was first created in America, and how the government passed laws to keep people in bondage. From voter-suppression tactics (such as requiring people to pass insanely hard literacy tests to qualify to vote) and the redrawing of real estate and electoral maps, to the way advertising has been skewed toward white cisgender people, racism is embedded in our nation’s fabric.

Read the rest of my article at Washington Independent Review of Books.