I need to talk about the elephant I am feeling in the virtual room. This whole black and white photo challenge and the shame around it. It is not a competition of who is more “woke”.
Anti-racism is a process, a life-long process that we individually need to work on each day. Instead of shaming your friends for not being the perfect anti-racist, can we try uplifting and inspiring each other to be better anti-racist people?
I am one of the white women who posted a b+w photo of myself after two beautiful friends tagged me. These two friends happen to be women who lead by example in being anti-racist even before it was the cool thing to do. The same women who were supportive of my same-sex marriage and parenting before it was cool to be supportive of the LGBTQ+ community.
I had been on a social media break for four days. The first thing I saw when I started scrolling again was all these beautiful b+w photos of women. It was nice to see some positivity in my timeline, it had been awhile!
Before I posted, I did a little research trying to find how this challenge got started because I saw a lot of white women doing the challenge. I searched the hashtag, I checked the accounts of the most informed anti-racist educators I follow. Some had posted b+w photos of themselves, others had not. I saw women of color posting photos, in fact, one of the women who tagged me was a woman of color. I even saw Oprah and Gayle posted one celebrating women empowerment. I should have dug further, but I said, what the heck, I am going to post one, why not? It’s fun and it feels good when people celebrate you (I’ve been a bit depressed lately), and it feels good when you celebrate others. I tagged a few friends and sent them honest messages telling them how fabulous and inspiring they are. It felt good to spread some joy.
Then, of course it happened, I should have trusted my gut and realized there was more behind the challenge than just women celebrating women. I learned about the origin of this campaign and that it was to raise awareness about the alarming rates of femicide (murder) happening in Turkey against women.
I got that horrible feeling of shame. I’m just another stupid white woman. I am not a good anti-racist. I am self-centered. I should delete my post and a bunch of other useless, negative shame-filled self-talk that was not helping me or anyone else on this earth, especially not the Turkish womxn!
At the same time, private messages started coming in from the women I nominated. They were happy and appreciated my kind words. Many posted their photos and tagged other women and continued spreading the joy.
I decided to keep my photo up. I am not a perfect anti-racist feminist and I don’t need to hide that. Instead what I did was share on my IG story about the origin of the challenge accepted. I shared a few different posts and I wrote “course corrected” acknowledging I made a mistake and learned from it. I also edited my post and changed the first line to explain the origin of the challenge and linked to a profile that was educating folks about the femicide happening in Turkey.
Then the SHAME posts from white friends started passing by eyes as I scrolled.
I read posts saying thigs like “Challenge Accepted is NOT an excuse to post a selfie and hope your friends will validate your beauty”. [Ouch!]
And, then there are the people who never put the effort into liking any of your posts but take the time to send you a private message letting you know you messed up by posting that photo.
It made me think about how there are different ways to educate and to be anti-racist. You can shame others or you can educate, inspire and invite them to become more informed. I know I have been guilty of shaming but I am really trying to change that.
Here are some examples of educating and inspiring around the issue.
I know most of you are well-meaning but white friends can we please try to inspire and educate rather than shame?
Working to be anti-racist is not an easy path. We will all make mistakes. Things will feel uncomfortable. There is no clear path. Be brave. Keep up the work. Keep correcting your own course, put yourself out there, make mistakes, learn from those mistakes, admit those mistakes, and apologize for those mistakes. But, please before shaming your well-intentioned friends, please try to ask yourself if there is a better way to educate and inspire each other.