This blog is by Jessie Rubini, the winner of Planned Parenthood’s Dream Job Experience Prizeo campaign with Refinery29. Rubini's prize was to go behind the scenes with VIP access at Planned Parenthood.
Recently, I sat in a room full of other white people and talked about race. Cringe! White people talking about race? Shouldn't we…not? Shouldn't we step back and leave those discussions to people of color?
It’s true that there are many cases where white people should hang back. But I was about to learn it's also crucial that white activists acknowledge and confront white supremacy — including how our own privilege and actions may contribute to inequality.
I was in Detroit at the 2018 Power of Pink convening, Planned Parenthood’s largest-ever grassroots training. After two days of workshops and panels, I’d joined the other 2,000 Power of Pink attendees in breaking off into groups to discuss our identities and the roles they play in our advocacy work.
Jessie (left) with actress Alexandra Shipp, who spoke at Power of Pink.
The dialogue I joined was meant to educate us about how white people can take an anti-racist approach to organizing for sexual and reproductive rights and how we — as white folks in positions of racial privilege — can become better allies to people of color.
Talking about race can be uncomfortable. We acknowledged and embraced that discomfort.
We talked about how white people can often feel scared to offend, overstep, or misguide. How can white people support people of color without taking over? How can white progressives effectively talk about racial equity with white conservatives? How can white people avoid making race all about us?
I was challenged to think deeply about how I could become a more thoughtful organizer when it comes to racial equity — without getting too self-conscious to ask important questions.
One of the most important takeaways I gathered from the Power of Pink convening was that it’s not the responsibility of people of color to help white people learn about race; it’s up to us. It’s up to me — and only me — to educate myself about the inequities that people of color face in society.
I must also hold other white people accountable when it comes to racism, and no amount of discomfort can outweigh the importance of doing what’s right when it comes to fighting for racial equity.
Want to learn more about racial equity? Read these!
- What the War on Reproductive Rights Has to do With Poverty and Race