Now is Not the Time to be Silent and Stagnant
A Statement from YWCA Madison’s White Staff Affinity Group
Madison, WI – Once again, we are mourning over another instance of murder and terror at the hands of anti-Black racism, violence, and white supremacy in our country. Our hearts break for the victims, their families and loved ones in the Buffalo community. (Roberta A. Drury, Margus D. Morrison, Andre Mackneil, Aaron Salter, Geraldine Talley, Celestine Chaney, Heyward Patterson, Katherine Massey, Pearl Young and Ruth Whitfield. We are also hoping for healing for the injured: Zaire Goodman, Jennifer Warrington and Christopher Braden.)
Our hearts also break for Black people in this country, including our own community of Madison, Wisconsin. Today, we are writing a statement as the white members of the YWCA Madison staff community because white people created and continue to uphold the myth of white supremacy and it is up to us to dismantle it. We can no longer ask Black people (and other people of color) to be vulnerable, make statements, and teach the community while they are grieving and mourning. This is our work to carry forward. Anti-Black violence perpetrated by white people is not new in this country. It is very, very old. Manifestations of white terrorism, like this massacre, are rooted in the very old, and very entrenched idea that white people are superior and that white people should dominate others. This idea will continue–and it will continue to be the source of brutal anti-Black violence–for as long as white people fail to reckon with the ways that this dominance is present in us…not just in other “bad” white people; but also in us. In our families. In our communities.
First, we ask people/ourselves to reflect: How would it feel to not be safe buying groceries or going to your place of worship or going to the park because of the color of your skin?
The reality is that anti-Black racism ensures that Black people are extremely unsafe in their homes, their schools, and their communities. (We also acknowledge the other groups of individuals that are frequently targeted by white supremacists, as well as other acts of violence which took place over the weekend.)
While we may think we don’t know anyone who would commit such a horrific act of racist murder and terrorism, we have a role to play in dismantling white supremacy culture and anti-Black racism in ourselves, our families and relationships, and our communities. We know that these acts of violence started from smaller seeds of racialized hate and bias: jokes, stereotypes, narratives passed through our culture, media, and families. This shooter did not act alone; he acted in community with white supremacy ideology. We are all interconnected and white supremacy culture manifests in all of us. How can we as white people develop the steadfastness and the courage to show up? To disrupt the anti-Blackness in us? To disrupt the anti-Blackness around us?
We may be tangentially connected to people who believe in the myth of the “Great Replacement Theory” which is amplified by right wing news outlets, politicians, and online. We must challenge these harmful narratives, which are rooted in fear, hate, and a scarcity mindset. We must talk at the dinner table with relatives who hold harmful, ignorant, and racist views. We must not disconnect completely with individuals who don’t share our values and perspectives. We must engage in conversations when we see hateful rhetoric in our neighborhoods; in Wisconsin cities, suburbs, and rural communities; and on social media. We must practice the art of “getting comfortable with being uncomfortable” when it comes to dismantling white supremacy, because ignoring a problem never makes it go away.
Rather than trying to create distance between ourselves and this shooter, we can come closer. White people, we must ask ourselves:
How am I like this shooter?
How is what is present in him also present in me? In my family? In my community?
How would I move through my day today….
…if I was committed to disrupting the ways that white dominance shows up in me?
…if I was committed to disrupting dominance when I see it showing up around me?
…if I was committed to co-creating a community where all forms of dominance are
…if I was committed to practicing power-with Black people, rather than power-over?
How can I cultivate courage and steadfastness in myself for this?
Here’s what we know at YWCA Madison. We don’t fret shared power. We know that intersectional, Black led movements are rooted in love and co-liberation. We know that white supremacy is a myth that is embedded in our daily lives that requires constant attention, practice, and a community of support to dismantle. We know that we cannot stand on the sidelines fretting and ask Black people what to do or how to feel. We know this work is ours to do. We must have hard conversations; we must seek out the true history; we must engage in the learning and unlearning of white supremacy culture; we must stop and consider what it would take for each person to possess the same level of safety and comfort that we possess; we must share what we’re learning and doing with each other. And absolutely, when we find ourselves proximate to white supremacist views and actions, we must say something, do something. We cannot sit on the sidelines and assume someone else is responsible.
In the words of Lilla Watson, “If you have come here to help me you are wasting your time, but if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together.” Which means we all suffer, though not in the same way, and not with the same deadly results, under the burden of white supremacy.
We (white people) cannot rest until everyone is safe in this country. This is our moral imperative and our commitment to our collective, liberated future.
At YWCA Madison an Affinity Group is a group of staff members who come together to be responsive to the differentiated impact that structural and racist violence has on us, depending on our racialized identities. The organization’s White Affinity group comes together for ongoing reflection, unlearning white supremacist delusion, examining our own biases, and accountability to move for racial justice.
To Learn More about Affinity Spaces:
About YWCA Madison
YWCA Madison is on a mission to eliminate racism, empower women and promote peace, justice, freedom, and dignity for all people. For information about this important work, go to www.ywcamadison.org.
For Immediate Release
Contact: Jay Young
608.395.2198 | firstname.lastname@example.org