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Whitney Parnell: It’s been incredibly frustrating that this conversation about blackface has been turned into a discussion about how the Democratic Party can save face. We didn’t even have a moment to feel.
Parnell: I felt like I wanted to go to Richmond but I knew I needed to get to work here. Sunday night, I called my sisters here to talk about what this means here in northern Virginia.
Tracey Rogers: A lot of my experience as a woman of color is watching our people get duped over and over by white liberals. We need a new precedent. What’s more important: keeping Dems in office or dismantling racism?
Rogers: All this talk of forgive & forget, but we’ve been doing that. Black people have been forgiving and moving forward. What we haven’t seen is these people being held to account for the harm they’re doing.
Irma Corado: We haven’t even seen a consistent acknowledgement of harm. We can talk about transformative justice, and that’s important, but harmful people need to be removed from power so they can’t continue to do harm to our communities.
Azza Altitrafi: What I felt was exhausted. Black people, particularly black women, are expected to moderate our rage so it will be palatable for white people.
Altitraifi: My deep-seated exhaustion comes from hearing this conversation around “what’s the least/worst harm we can do?” which really means: “what can we get away with?” Dismantling white supremacy doesn’t come from tinkering at the edges of what makes people comfortable.
Altiraifi: I’m not interested in adjucating what is/isn’t bad racism. It’s all bad! I don’t refer to this place as the Commonwealh of Virginia, I call it the Colony of Virginia. We can point to the date of this place’s creation as the birthplace of slavery and whiteness.
Altiraifi: The entire beast of white supremacy, the interlocking oppressions of cisheteropatriarchy and capitalism, was established here. So it’s no surprise the three men at the top of the Colony’s government are embroiled in this.
Parnell: We have to be able to call of it white supremacy, not just what happens in Charlottesville. It shows up in costume, sure, but it shows up in how we compensate black and brown people for their labor, especially black women.
Parnell: People want to talk about Northam so once he’s gone, they can say it’s over, but he’s a symptom of the virus.

Echoing her piece in Sojourners right now:…
Corado: Republicans aren’t the only ones engaging in racism, Democrats are involved in explicit and implicit, systemic racism as well. We have to say “no, you cannot be a Democrat and do this.”
Rogers: Dismantlinf white supremacy looks like an overhaul of culture as we know it, parties as we know them. There’s a real fear around what it means to break apart a Democratic system founded by men who only thought of themselves, white people, as participants.
Corado: The system is working just like it was meant to, to push white supremacy on all of us. It’s not broken, it’s doing what it was designed to do.
Rogers: This is more than a sign or saying #BlackLivesMatter. It takes day in and day out work. It’s life or death. We need to be prepared and step up.
Parnell: It’s important to acknowledge that a lot of harm comes from white people who are well-intentioned but institutionalized to do harm. You’ve been taught racism is about character. It’s about systems. You can do racist things and mean well.
Parnell: It has been healing for me to be talking with other black and brown women who can affirm they have also been harmed by white liberals and by these systems.
Altiraifi: We have four centuries of structural and legal frameworks that have systematically advantages certain people over others. We need to understand yes, black face was racist. It’s also racistwe have a stagnant minimum wage, we have police coming for black & brown bodies.
Altiraifi: Every single aspect of my existence is being shaped by white supremacy. Every breath I take is shaped by it because black people are more likely to breathe polluted air. So trying to not be racist is fine. But being good white people doesn’t clean my air.
Corado: We need white people to step up. We do want people of color to lead, but we don’t always have the time to do that. Y’all can’t wait on us to do the work.
Parnell: I train white allies and the biggest pain for me is walking into a room with people who already think they’re “woke.” You will always have more work to do. It’s like walking up an escalator. White supremacy should be exhausting you.
Parnell: The most painful thing is seeing people say, “I realize how much there is to do, but I’m too tired.” I’m tired, too. I’m always putting my body on the line. My black & brown siblings are always risking safety. I don’t know how to take “I can’t talk to my mom about race.”
Parnell: The white fragility is real, too. Every time I give a white person feedback, I’m wondering, “is this going to be worth it?” The tears and excuses! Be the example of maturity and clarity that can take that information. We are dropping the gift of knowledge here.
Parnell recommends Robin DiAngelo’s work on white fragility.
Parnell: There are scientific studies that show black and brown women have higher stress hormones than white women from just existing in this world. Rogers: Just listening to that breakdown, I’m tired.
Altiraifi: A friend told me once, “black don’t crack, but our souls are old and tired.” And I feel that. I feel twenty-something going on 300.
Altiraifi: I’m enraged. If you’re not enraged, something is wrong. When you’ve become accustomed to privilege, equality feels like oppression. You can’t tell when we get to sit at the table and you suddenly feel it’s too crowded.
Parnell: White people invite me to their churches to raise their percentage of black people so they can claim MLK and beloved community. But how often are white people willing to be humble and leave their spaces?
Parnell: We planned this event a few days ago and look at the crowd we at UUCA. This is a pretty white space and whiteness is comfortable here.
Corado: We also need to make sure people of color are being brought into decision-making. I’m running for office is because I went to these community meetings and the government officials weren’t engaging marginalized communities. It’s *on the government* to provide access.
Rogers: We have what we need to make this change happen. We need to sit together in collective discomfort.
Parnell: A lot of my activist friends ask me why I train white people when history shows they abandoned us. I’m working towards a hope that even a few white people will be enough to get what we want. I have to endure daily microaggressions in my work.
Parnell: People want to tell us we have to be Malcolm X or MLK. Angry or bridge-builder. But we can be all of it. I hope we’re received in the fullness of our being and not in these binaries.
Parnell: I’m tired of being told there’s a way I have to do this. White people throw MLK at me and expect me to be nice. No one is going to tell me that 50 years after MLK’s death I still have to endure what my ancestors did. I can be angry. I can be honest and open.
Altiraifi: on talking about racism & disability justice in Birmingham. A white woman told me “MLK wasn’t angry a day in his life.” If y’all thought I was angry during my talk, wait until you see what happens when you bring up his name in that way.
Altiraifi: King was angry every day. And no matter how non-violent he was, white supremacy still but a bullet in him. If you’re tempted to bring up his name in that way, be silent.
Rogers: King talked about the dangers of the white moderate. He talked about being betrayed by white liberals. We’ve whitewashed King’s legacy.
Parnell: I struggle with this issue of abandonment. When I name harm, white fragility turns into abandonment. People say, “well I’m done.” I want to say, “can you be upset and stay in the movement?”
Rogers: It’s mental gymnastics for us to have to be on, on guard all the time.
Corado: In the Latinx community, race gets confusing. I’m brown but there’s there Afro-Latinx and a whole range of us. We have to put ourselves in uncomfortable places to address this. But it’s hurtful when we get abandoned by white people.
Altiraifi: people say, “why do you always make it about race?” But I’m always on guard because of it. I don’t like always talking about race. It’s a toxic manifestation of white fragility that I’d have to be all alone or even attacked for talking about race.
Altiraifi: I’m tired of being told I have to be grateful or congratulatory for every white person’s performative act of allyship. Where are you putting your money? What are you doing behind the scenes and not just in a photo op for likes on social media?
Altiraifi: People often leave because I’m not interested in performative gestures. But if that’s all they’re here for, then they can leave. Parnell: That’s helpful. Any time you’re thinking, “this is my ally moment,” that’s when it’s happening.
Parnell: People who are the best allies I know show up but they also validate what I share and hold space with empathy and compassion. They don’t try to make it about them. Support people. This Northam thing showed that, not listening to those who were harmed.
Q: Can the Colony of VA have a truth & reconciliation?
Altiraifi: We can’t have reconciliation until the harm’s stopped. Then we can have a conversation about reparations. Quotes Malcolm.
Altiraifi: In order for a truth & reconciliation process to occur, the harm must first STOP. The first step after the harm stops will be reparations. But the harm has to stop first.
Rogers: There must be acknowledgement, confession, reparations.
Corado: This must also include indigenous people, colonized, raped, and murdered.
Altiraifi: We must acknowledge that the colony we live in is on unceded Powhatan lands.
Parnell: We cannot skip over all the hard steps to “reconciliation” and “beloved community.” Reconciliation will not mean safe spaces for white people to center themselves and say harmful things.
Parnell: We’re not going to “meet in the middle” to “a little racist.” Reconciliation centers people of color & the harm they’ve experienced. Racial justice by definition includes reparations.
Parnell: Everyone benefits from liberation, but I hate having to bring it up in order to motivate people to do the right thing.
Q: How can white people magnify the voices of women of color, especially when they say different things?
Altiraifi: Do not flatten the identities of women of color, we’re not a monolith. We have different ideas and tactics. We are many communities.
Altiraifi: White people should not dictate into those communities. White people should listen, learn, reflect, provide resources and platforms.
Q: What does white accountability to POC leadership look like? Rogers: We will have different ideas because we do different work. For me, it includes checking your implicit biases, examining your daily complicity in white supremacy, sitting in discomfort.
Corado: White people should not push themselves into POC spaces, but provide material support.
Parnell: White people need to acknowledge that white people have participated in the creation and perpetuation of white supremacy. Acknowledge wrongdoing, confess it, learn from it. It takes work everyday.
Parnell: If you admit your own mistakes up front, you don’t live in fear of being told you’ve done something wrong. You’re already working on fixing it.
Parnell: Center the marginalized, support people of color and marginalized people, leverage relative privilege to undermine white supremacy where you can, invest resources and money in marginalized communities.
Corado: Elect women of color! Let us lead!
Altiraifi: Commit to the leadership of the people most impacted. Recognize that marginalization or oppression on one access can coexist with racial privilege. Recognize that some people are multiply marginalized.
Altiraifi recommends @DrIbram’s “Stamped From the Beginning,” which exposed links between white supremacy and capitalism throughout American history.
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