If I Am Not On Top, Will I Be OK? A Guide To Becoming A White Anti-Racist If I Am Not On Top, Will I Be OK? A Guide To Becoming A White Anti-Racist
Can you feel it? Can you feel this country pivoting away from the deadly sins of its past? The uncertainty of how it will... If I Am Not On Top, Will I Be OK? A Guide To Becoming A White Anti-Racist

Can you feel it? Can you feel this country pivoting away from the deadly sins of its past? The uncertainty
of how it will turn out and whether we will remain intact after this necessary upheaval is causing
paralyzing fear across this country. Like a ship navigating treacherous, icy, waters that just slammed
head on into an iceberg, the murders of countless Black people at the hands of our country has finally
stopped us all in our tracts.

I have lost count of the number of people, from all walks of life, who have asked, what they can do to be
a part of the solution. I’ve been wrestling for weeks to find the answer because my own agony, fear, and
trauma clouded the path out of the mess we find ourselves in. I now realize, that a part of the answer is
to revert back to the only thing in my life I can control, Me. I think this kind of assessment may be
helpful for you as well.

To my Black family…my heart is hopeful for us all that this country gets it right. I am with you. To my
white friends out there who are earnestly searching for a real way to make a stand against racism, I
hope you find freedom and peace in following the path I have laid out here.

Let’s get to work…

1. Work on Yourself

Prepare yourself for emotional labor (I recommend including time with a mental health
professional). The foundational question to ask here is, “If I am not on top, will I be Ok?” The
importance of this question stems from the historical understanding of why racism was created.

In the latter part of the 17th century the demand for labor grew
enormously. It had become clear that neither Irishmen nor Indians made
good slaves. More than that, the real threats to social order were the poor
freed whites who demanded lands and privileges that the upper-class
colonial governments refused. Some colonial leaders argued that turning
to African labor provided a buffer against the masses of poor whites. Until
the 18th century the image of Africans was generally positive. They were
farmers and cattle-breeders; they had industries, arts and crafts,
governments, and commerce. In addition, Africans had immunities to Old
World diseases. They were better laborers and they had nowhere to
escape to once transplanted to the New World. The colonists themselves
came to believe that they could not survive without Africans. Origin of the
Idea of Race, by Audrey Smedley

Racism is a construct of control and manipulation to ensure that white people
remain on “top” in this country. You need to ask yourself if you are ok with not
having the unfair advantages of a racist construct. Again, I recommend using a
mental health professional to help you navigate this because “unplugging from the
Matrix” will be an emotionally taxing process. I recommend focusing on one
question after you have made the decision to advance in this work, beyond how you
will survive when equity is achieved, and that is, how are you showing up for Black
people in your life every day? Here are some suggestions:

  1. Educate yourself on the real history and purpose of racism (a
    construct created to selfishly take the life source from Black people
    for the benefit and advancement of white people)
  2. Expect, and be prepared for, the emotional toll that will be caused
    by seeing the part you have played in furthering this country’s racist
    construct, whether consciously or unconsciously (I repeat that I
    highly recommend seeking help from a mental health professional.
    Hurting people, hurt people and it is your duty to ensure that the
    hurt that will certainly come from facing this country’s past doesn’t
    add harm to an, already volatile, situation.)
  3. Decide, and act on, how you will show up for Black people every day.
  •      Prepare your responses for when you hear a racial slur/statement used
  •      Check and re-check your mindset and your privilege on aregular basis, like your life depends on it
  •      Invest your dollars into Black businesses and Black lives (do it every day until equity is achieved)
  •      Listen, with your heart and make it your mission to be the best version of yourself you can be

*This list is not all encompassing. Feel free to add to it*

2. Work in Your Circle

The question posed above applies here as well. How are you showing up for Black people
within your circle of influence, specifically with your family, friends, and colleagues? While
working on yourself is emotional labor, it is also your responsibility to ensure that you foster
equity and an antiracist culture within your sphere of influence as well. Do not hide from the
sins of the past and get comfortable with the fact that true change will only come when white
people assume responsibility, and work to dismantle, the systemic racism that breeds within
every institution in this country.

Your Family: A couple years ago, while on vacation in Disney World, I had to explain to my
children why we shouldn’t retaliate against a white family that made a racist comment as they
hopped out the hot tub for of fear of being “contaminated”. The parents in this instance had
spread their misguided contempt for Black people to their children. If you truly seek to make
change, you should 1) not breed more racists and 2) teach your family how to be actively
antiracist (I will include links to books at the bottom of this article that will help you get started).
In the same way that Black parents must continually teach their children to safely navigate this
system, you must teach your children to break it down by using their privilege to speak out
against every injustice. What are you teaching your children about racism in this country? Are
you teaching them that Black parents give their children specific instructions on how to stay
alive during encounters with police? Have you told them that the history books they are reading
in school only tells a fraction of the truth and erased the atrocities of this nation and trivializes
contributions of Black people in this country? Start having these conversations and keep having
them with your children and your children’s children.

Your Friends: This one is simple. Don’t have racist friends! If you have a “friend” who uses a
racial slur, contributes to the systemic oppression of Black people, or dismisses racism as a
figment of our imagination, I recommend the following: rebuke them and offer to be an
accountability partner as they educate themselves on how to become an antiracist. Remember
that racism is insidious and, even a little is too much.

Your Colleagues: If you are able, work with your employer to ensure that your workplace is an
antiracist one. If you are the employer, immediately review every area of your work
environment to ensure that you are hiring, advancing, and compensating Black people at the
same rate as white people (and women at the same rate as men, for that matter), and that you
are fostering an environment that is boldly antiracist. Don’t simply take your cue from the
affirmative action playbook, if you are not sure how to do this, educate yourself. Black people
don’t expect perfection, we expect vigorous efforts of understanding and acts of reparation.
Racism is a cancer in our nation that poisons us all.

3. Work in The World

We all have our part to play in making the world a better, safer, and more equitable place. If you
fail to plan for how you will show up in the world in antiracist ways, you plan to fail and that is
no longer acceptable. Showing up at a protest is not the only way for you to stand against
racism, although it is a good public declaration of your acknowledgment and decision to be a
part of the solution. A more private declaration is to continually educate yourself about this
nation’s history and seek to understand white supremacy in a way that allows you to recognize
systemic racism when you see it. Here are some additional suggestions of ways you can show up
in the world that can help dismantle white supremacy:

  1. Volunteer with organizations that are doing real social good in Black communities (I
    can help you identify some if you need help)
  2.  VOTE for Black Candidates
  3.  VOTE for candidates who support, and can show you an agenda that supports, Black
  4.  VOTE for laws and policies that dismantle the system and promote equity for Black
  5.  VOTE…you get the idea
  6. Invest your dollars with Black owned small businesses (ask me about Chef Kulture
    and Blocal Search)
    *Feel free to continue to add on to this list as you learn and grow*

There you have it, a basic guide to becoming a white antiracist. I haven’t promised you that this
work would be easy, but I can promise that it will be the most rewarding work you have ever
done. You don’t have to be “on top” in order to win.

Recommended Resources:
Me & White Supremacy by Layla Asad                                               1619 project and podcast
How to be Anti-Racist by Ibram X. Kendi                                         Just Mercy By Bryan Stevenson

Karen Pandy-Cherry Writer

Karen Pandy-Cherry is an Award-Winning Entrepreneur, Speaker & Advocate. She graduated from St. Thomas University Law School and holds a BA in Organizational Leadership & Group Communications from Trinity International University. She is a development coach who breaks down complex growth challenges into easily applicable action steps that can be integrated with your personal and professional advancement. Karen is the Co-Founder of Chef Kulture, Inc., where she and her husband, Chef Chad Cherry, have built an eco-system model designed to create sustainability for Black food service professionals and challenge them to do social good in the communities where they live and work. Karen gained experience in the non-profit sector working as a community organizer and program manager fighting against inequality and increasing awareness about issues affecting families in disadvantaged communities. She is the former Board Chair of the LA Lee YMCA and was a founding member of Communities of Promise Health & Wellness Solution Coalition, which was formed to address issues affecting residents in Broward County, FL. Amid running her companies, she worked with the non-profit, Woke Vote, to organize canvassers and phone bankers for Florida’s gubernatorial race in 2018. Karen is the Advisor to the NLC Black Caucus, a National LEAD Trainer for NLC, and an Author for NLC’s Millennial Compact. Her awards & accolades include being named 2017 Woman of Distinction, 2017 World Change Maker, 2017 Trailblazing Woman of History by the Broward County Commission and was featured in Real Leaders Magazine in the “100 Visionary Leaders” segment. Karen is wife to Chef Chad Cherry and the mother of three, Kytana (23); Kyrsten (16) & Zyon (7).

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