Racism throughout America is as prominent as ever in the twenty-first century. Due to recent political leaders promoting discrimination amongst those who don’t fit the cis-white-male uniform, minority groups have banded together to protest. However, their fight for equity is not always recognized by media, or even our peers. While their disparities are real and need to be taken into consideration, minority groups are not valued as high as the white society. This needs to come to an end. For this to happen, white people themselves need to take action. We need to be more than just allies, but co-conspirators.
Before We Begin:
The first thing white people need to realize before supporting people of color (POC) is that this movement is not about white people. When you are a white person supporting a POC, it is imperative that you recognize your privilege before entering a protest or conversation. In order for POC to be heard, white people cannot make themselves the center of the conversation. We are here to support, not to take away.
What is a Co-conspirator?
So, what is a co-conspirator, anway? And if I’m already an ally, why do I need to transition to a co-conspirator? To put it simply, being an ally is lazy. While yes, it is great that white people are willing to give their support to people of color, we need to do more. This is where the term co-conspirator comes to play. By definition, a co-conspirator is a person who is engaged in a conspiracy with another or others. Violet Rush, an If/When/How Legal Intern, explains what it means to be a co-conspirator perfectly.
“To be a white co-conspirator means to deliberately acknowledge that people of color are criminalized for dismantling white supremacy. It means we choose to take on the consequences of participating in a criminalized act, and we choose to support and center people of color in the reproductive justice movement” (Rush).
Often times when white people are exposed to the term co-conspirator, they assume that it is in relation to criminal law; for example, a co-conspirator in a crime. “However, the issue of conspiracy is often less emotionally burdensome for white students because conspiracy implies separation from direct harm caused to others” (Rush). Supporting the conspiracy is different than taking part in it, which is exactly why white people need to make the change from being an ally to a co-conspirator.
White people can no longer be just “allies.” We need to advance further in order to dismantle white supremacy. And, as white people, we are less likely to be criminalized for protesting against it, for the legal system was created for and by white people.
So, What Can We Do?
Listen, but don’t make it about you.
There are a million things white people can do to dismantle racism. One of the easiest things we can do is to listen. Listen, and try to understand the point of view of a person of color. Do not include your personal experiences or your emotions into their experiences, for your experience as a white person is not the same as a POC. As Jennifer Loubriel puts it, “there’s no room for white tears.”
“Rather than focusing on how People of Color feel on an everyday basis from having to deal with racist institutions, interpersonal relationships, and ideologies, the focus goes to white people just beginning to confront how they benefit from racism on many levels” (Loubriel).
It is crucial that white people do not take away the focus on people of color. They, POC, should be allowed to have a safe space where they can freely talk about their experiences of discrimination without having a white person flood the room with white tears. Our emotions as white people cannot be the center of attention for a movement that revolves around people of color. Though the experiences you may hear are heart-wrenching, it is key to learn how to process your own emotions before listening to someone else’s struggles.
2) Have a talk.
Growing up, white kids do not receive a talk about their race. We are not warned of the horrors that could potentially happen to us because of our skin tone. We are not told to act certain way around police, to be respectful and keep our hands up at all times. We as white people are not pulled over at the same rates as POC are for reasons that are often minor or unknown. We do not have to be told from a young age how to behave around white officials.
Although white people do not grow up with this talk, that does not mean we should go without a talk. With the internet and 24 hour news, there are resources readily available for parents and their children to discuss race and how it affects not only themselves, but people of color, as well. America is a predominantly white country, with 62% of the population being white (not Latinx). Only 13% of Americans are black. Black Americans in particular are extremely misrepresented in the media and are not given the same opportunities as White Americans. Here are some visuals below for a better understanding. Hopefully, by looking at a visual representation of the discrimination that is constant among POC, one may begin to have an understanding of the disparities in America. This is a perfect place to start for a white person to learn and get involved with their activism. Learn of the casual racism that has founded our nation and look for new ways to dismantle it.
3) Go out and protest!
Now that we know of the injustice amongst POC, now it is time to make the transition from ally to co-conspirator. While believing in equality is great, believing alone won’t make a change. Allyship is tied with inaction, and inaction won’t get us anywhere. Find local protests, or even travel for one. Meet like-minded people and gather to celebrate diversity and equity for POC. Provide support for POC and provide a platform for them to speak on. However, remember to not take away from them. We must not speak over them (POC), but be behind them while they speak to show that we stand with them.
“Co-conspiracy is about what we do in action, not just in language,” says Garza, “It is about moving through guilt and shame and recognizing that we did not create none of this stuff. And so what we are taking responsibility for is the power that we hold to transform our conditions” (Alicia Garza).
America is in dire need for co-conspirators. Allyship is no longer an option. We as white people need to be active members for communities that receive discrimination on levels we won’t ever experience. The time for us to make the transition is now. Listen to your peers, educate yourself on the disparities they go through daily, and make a change.