The Sap Conundrum: White Women, Racism, and Living Powerful Lives
Where is there space for white women in America?
The simple answer to this question is everywhere. American culture grants white women a multitude of privileges.
I know many conscientious white women who are aware of this. They understand privilege. They know terms like white fragility and white tears. They know what it is like to self-reflect on their own biases and racist beliefs and actions.
I say “them” like they are separate from me. They are not. I am a white woman as well. I still feel like I have a long way to go in educating myself and dismantling racist aspects of my thoughts and behavior.
It’s a process, but one I am intentionally doing. I know many other white women who are intentionally doing the same thing. This looks different for each of us. For some it means stepping back so people of color can have a speaking opportunity.
For others it means rethinking what jobs they accept, such as roles in diversity and inclusion. Many are having deep soul-searching conversations with themselves.
One question I hear from white women who are intentionally doing this work is: in what ways am I allowed to take up space now?
This is a unique question. It’s not one I’m hearing my white friends say. It is one I am hearing my white therapy clients whisper.
It is being whispered because white women are very VERY afraid of getting it wrong. They’re afraid of having this conversation because it will show once again their inherent racist ways of being. They’ll just prove their white fragility.
They are stuck in this sap. They are caring, powerful women who want to live lives of intention. They want to contribute to the world in meaningful, purposeful ways. But with all they have learned, they are not sure how to do that without taking up space that should go to a POC.
I’m not writing this essay because I have the answers. I am writing this essay because I like naming the patterns that I see. I like bringing the whispers of the collective consciousness to the foreground. I like turning them into concrete words so that we can begin to discuss them.
I am writing this essay to present the conflict. If more space needs to be made for POC, how should intelligent, skilled, white women expand and build? How are they to create lives of significance, meaning, and impact without causing harm to other groups? Or without taking opportunities away from others?
I’m not sure I am even phrasing these questions “correctly” or in a way that isn’t harmful. But I’m trying. And I’m willing to risk doing it wrong, so that we can have some movement forward.
White women are not the victims here. But I don’t think this sap serves them or our world either. We need more empowered women taking bold actions. So it’s time we talk about the sap.
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