Me and White Supremacy is one of eight books I’ll be reading and reviewing as part of my overdue reeducation on racism. I’ve reviewed more than 500 business books for The Hamilton Spectator since 1999 and worked in public relations for 27 years.
A colleague disparages a Black coworker behind closed doors. He accuses her of playing the race card and says she needs to tone down her anger, aggressiveness and negativity.
A long-time friend is a fan of racist memes on Twitter and believes there are some very fine people among tiki torch-wielding alt-right white nationalists.
Calling them out won’t be pleasant or easy. It won’t be comfortable.
And it’ll be tempting to fall back on the adage of “if you can’t say anything nice, then don’t say anything at all.”
But white silence is violence, says Layla Saad, author of Me and White Supremacy. Layla is a writer, speaker and podcast host on the topics of race, identity, leadership, personal transformation and social change.
“On the surface of it, white silence seems benign. But white silence is anything but neutral. It is a method of self-protection and therefore also the protection of the dynamics of white supremacy. It protects you, the person with white privilege, from having to deal with the hard of white supremacy. And it protects white supremacy from being challenged, thereby keeping it firmly in place.”
Layla says our voices are needed. “Not as a white savior, but as someone who recognizes that their privilege can be a weapon used against white supremacy. The Black and Indigenous people of colour around you need to know where you stand and whether they can be safe with you with their experiences.”
Based on her #MeAndWhiteSupremacy Instagram challenge, Layla calls her book a “one-of-a-kind personal antiracism tool”. Meant to be read over 28 days, each chapter ends with reflective journaling prompts that’ll help reveal how white supremacy shows up for us and works in our favour.
On the chapter about white silence, we’re asked to answer prompts such as provide examples of how we’ve stayed silent when it comes to race and racism, list the types of situations that elicit the most white silence from us and reflect on how we benefit from white silence?
Answering the prompts in all 28 chapters will be overwhelming, intimidating and unrewarding, warns Layla.
“But if you are a person who believes in love, justice, integrity, and equity for all people, then you know that this work is nonnegotiable.
“If you are willing to dare to look at white supremacy right in the eye and see yourself reflected back, you are going to become better equipped to dismantle it within yourself and within your communities.”
While we’re part of the problem, Layla says we’re also part of the solution. Everyone’s contribution will matter. If you’re wondering what you can do to help, calling out colleagues, friends and family for off-hand, intentional or unintended racist remarks is a good place to start.
“And as someone who holds white privilege, your contribution to this work is of the utmost importance. No matter who you are, you have the power to influence change in the world. The choice is yours. The moment is now. Help change the world. Become a good ancestor.”