Picking Up the Trash of White Supremacy

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Abby Norman -Trash Supremacy5

I was wearing my orange cardigan, the one that matched the exact shade of my newly painted coral toe nails. I had a turquoise necklace and my new sheer coral lipstick. I was summer Abby, and I looked good. This was the exact Abby that the neighbors informed, needed to come pick up their trash. They didn’t say that exactly, but they did let me know that our dog Lucky, or more accurately, my dog Lucky, managed to butt her giant head up against the gate yet again, squeeze through the gap and then use her giant noggin to knock over their trash and have her way with it. The remnants were left all over their driveway.

Embarrassingly, this is not the first time the dog has done this, but notably this is the first time I was asked to clean it up. I suppose I could have been annoyed. I mean, I was looking SO CUTE that day, but I know a little bit about my neighbors, and I knew them asking me to make it right, meant they believe I cared enough about our relationship to honor their request.

I had to have a relationship with my neighbor before she would even expect me to care about the mess I had made. I don’t think this is true just in trash. As I have been called further into the work of racial reconciliation I have found the same thing to be true. Historically, white people have blamed other cultures for messes we create. We let our privilege get out and make a mess in someone else’s lawn and then we roll our eyes and wonder why those people don’t handle the mess.

Historically, white people often take the resources we have and remove them from communities, then we balk at the ways the communities learn to get by.

Recently my friend Danielle has been tagging me in posts on Facebook about white people making unfortunate missteps, whether blatantly or accidentally, in the realm of racial reconciliation.

“Abby Norman, you better come get your people.”

At first I laughed. What do you mean my people? I do not know these people. They do not speak for me. Why do you think every dumb white girl is my people, what are you trying to say?

What Danielle was trying to say was that as a white woman, with white privilege, it is my responsibility to educate other white people so everyone can live in a better world. Too often white women, and specifically I, have depended on black women to educate white communities about their lived experiences.

Essentially white communities are asking black people to live an experience that is set up to be far more difficult for them, and succeed by white standards. AND THEN we are asking them to re-live and explain it all over again in front of us so that we will believe them. Sometimes we don’t. Sometimes we don’t believe them. And the astounding thing is how many times black women are willing to risk it to help their white sisters understand. But that isn’t their job.

White Ladies, the white community is our space and our responsibility. Our sisters of color have to exist in a world that is even harder on them because they are women and also because they are not white. As a woman we should get this on a deep level. We, after all, exist in a man’s world. Instead of pitting us against each other, shouldn’t we join ranks in empathy?

Danielle didn’t just randomly start tagging me. We had many conversations over many days about race and racial reconciliation. She expressed to me how tired she was and I told her I understood. She believed me. She trusted me when I told her I wanted to do my part. She pointed out where my part might be.

It is easy and safe for me to talk about race with black women. I don’t exactly say anything they don’t already know. I get a lot of laughs and some pats on the back for being woke. But it doesn’t really help anything. Preaching to the choir is fun, but it doesn’t actually spread the gospel, you know?

What is less fun, is picking up my own trash. I don’t want to get all sweaty and stinky in my cute orange summer sweater with my cute orange toe nails. It stinks and there isn’t even anyone telling me I am doing a good job. Picking up the trash of white supremacy is my job. As a white woman I can no longer expect my sisters of color to do the dirty work of dismantling the systems that privilege me. I need to honor my relationships with women of color. It is my community, my dog if you will, who has gotten out and spread this white supremacy trash all over their lives. It is my job to clean it up. They only asked me because I told them I care.

________

We echo the words of Eugene Cho: “To our black sisters and brothers: We are so sorry. We are angry with you. We lament with you. We demand justice with you. #AltonSterling”

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Abby Norman
Abby Norman lives, and loves in the city of Atlanta. She lives with her two hilarious children and a husband that doubles as her biggest fan. When not mothering, teaching, parenting or “wifeing”, she blogs at accidentaldevotional.com. Abby loves to make up words and is excited by the idea that Miriam Webster says you can verb things.
Abby Norman

Latest posts by Abby Norman (see all)

Abby Norman
  • Preach. I’m in. #rollingupsleeves

  • This is great, Abby – perhaps a follow up post as well (maybe by Danielle, or anyone really) about practical ways white women and others can help pick up the trash?

    • Great idea, Devi.

    • I would find this to be extremely helpful.
      Abby, you’ve certainly got our hearts engaged.

  • Wooah. What Idelette says >> Preach. And I’m also with Devi, would love to hear about more practical ways we can help pick up the trash. Thank you this powerful and convicting message Abby.

  • SimplySuzi

    Yes! For this and for practical tips!

    • I have heard this from several friends now and totally agree. Please share tools and resources as you find them!

  • Kristin B. Burnett Knight

    Thank you for this, it’s about freaking time there’s a call to arms for white women. I’m on board!

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  • Sharon

    And similar issues involve others who are not White: Native Americans, E. Indians, Puerto Ricans, etc. They all have their own disturbing stories of having to walk on eggshells in order to not be targeted in some way. And it can take years of friendship before these stories come out to their White friends.

  • For those looking for practical steps, I saw this on Twitter last night – Ijeoma Oluo @IjeomaOluo Could be a place to start?

    1) Do you know your city’s police accountability procedures?

    2) Do your police have any provisions for citizen oversight?

    3) Is there a civilian oversight panel to review police shootings and misconduct?

    4) if you do not know this you can google your city with police accountability/review procedures

    5) what is the threshold for indicting police for misconduct? Example: in Seattle (where I live) you have to prove willful malice.

    6) Do your police have body cameras?

    7) When you do your research, if you don’t like the answers to these questions, if they do not hold police accountable, here’s what u can do

    8) Demand your city council member make police reform a priority. If they won’t, vote them out – recruit friends to do the same.

    9) Demand that your mayor do the same. If he/she won’t vote them out & recruit friends to do the same.

    10) Do not give money or votes to any candidate who will not make police reform a priority. Make sure they know that is a requirement

    11) Demand that your sheriff and local DA’s office do the same.

    12) just google your city name + city council – all the contact info should be there.

    13) along with phone numbers, email addresses – all the info u need to remind them that black lives WILL matter whether they want it or not

    14) Do this today, do this tomorrow, do this every day like your life depends on it – ours actually does.

  • Nichole Bilcowski Forbes

    Yes! Thank you for blowing the trumpet, Abby! Your sisters are gathering to answer the call! I’m here too … Point me in the right direction!

  • Hi Abby. I am a woman of color and I think that there is a responsibility on us all to lean in towards understanding other races. I mean up until about 5 years ago I did not have any white friends. I worked in a urban and mostly black and Latino elementary school, my church was black, my neighbors were black, and all my friends and associates were black. Now, ironically my husband and I lead a small group of white couples, and I even have a few white women I would call friends. It has taken me leaning in to realize not all white women grew up in suburbia with a white picket fence. God has granted me just a little perspective in order to realize some of my white sisters know broken families, hardship, abuse and poverty. We are all multifaceted and the issue of race is uber complex. If we name the name of Jesus Christ we all bare the responsibility of pushing that big barrier of difference out of the way in order to see each other through the lens of the cross. So I do sincerely appreciate your post but I know it is not one sided. Even within my own race I can hold presumptions and opinions about those who share my same hue. It is not a skin issue that we face but a sin issue. And so as your sister of color let me gently say maybe it is not your responsibility alone but the collective responsibility of all believers. Be blessed! – Kia

    • Helen Louise

      Kia, thank you so very much for speaking the truth boldly and wisely. We all possess the image of God in us and we all experience the depravity of humankind in us. Thus, racially speaking, we are probably on even ground and more alike than some would like to admit. Many whites were never taught white supremacy nor embraced it. The same could be said for areas of concern in black, Asian, Hispanic, etc. races. We do well to use the word “some,” a great adjective to describe others when it comes to negatives. The Lord bless you.

  • Saskia Wishart

    So timely Abby! A reminder that our sisters are tired, and there is space to speak out as white allies.

    Practically – I wanted to point people to a friend’s initiative called Be The Bridge (here is the Facebook page): https://www.facebook.com/beabridgebuilder/?ref=br_rs&pnref=lhc I know Latasha and her friends have been having some important conversations about equipping people to work towards racial justice, they have workshops and some resources available.

  • pastordt

    Well done, Abby. And I’m all for the practical followup – because, sadly, this privileged white woman is pretty dumb about this. I can pray, I can speak up, I can contact my politicians, I can write letters. What else can I do that might make a real difference here?

  • Lovelys, if you are a praying woman, we are joining with Deidra Riggs at 4-4:30pm CMT in Prayers of the People. We can certainly start with prayer.

    https://www.facebook.com/events/1636884813305438/?ti=icl

  • Thank you for this call to action. I often get bogged down in a “what can I do” mentality but it is my trash, my yard, our neighborhood. No excuses to just look at it and wonder what to do next. Thanks for calling us all together.

  • Siki Dlanga

    Thank you Abby. Keep doing this.
    Love,
    an exhausted black woman.
    I’m trying hard not to be exhausted.

  • Kathryn

    Thank you. Your story is my story and I love the hearts willing to step into the tension. I care too, and we’re not alone. #itshappening #itsallgrace

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  • Kristy

    Thank you.

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