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The following is a reflection on the RADIUS Me and White Supremacy book circle and an invitation for white privilege-holding changemakers to join Layla Saad’s journey of dismantling racism from within. Get the book here: Me and White Supremacy: Combat Racism, Change the World, and Become a Good Ancestor by Layla F. Saad.
We’re sitting in complete silence in the Zoom room. Not in the awkward way you might expect while video conferencing, but, rather, taking the time to breathe and connect our minds to the rawest, most open, and engaged parts of ourselves for this week’s discussion.
“What messages were you taught about colour blindness and seeing colour growing up?” a colleague asks the virtual room, reading the first reflective journaling prompt from this week’s chapter. With that, we begin another session of highly personal sharing, listening, and learning as we unpack the many ways white supremacy has shown up during our lives.
Layla Saad’s Me and White Supremacy is a powerful learning tool and one we unreservedly recommend for other organizations. It’s a workbook and discussion guide aimed at folks who hold white privilege to explore and dismantle the white supremacy at the core of our society, institutions, and—most centrally—ourselves.
Working through each chapter often feels clumsy, painful, and edgy. Even sharing that RADIUS has this book circle feels weird and overly self-congratulatory. But the work is too important, and this resource is too powerful to not broadcast it as widely as possible.
Social innovation as a field is still woefully monochromatic. Though the book speaks to individuals, not workplaces, the book circle’s conversations sometimes weave into organizational culpability and commitments. However, we’ve found that grounding our commitments in personal reflection made them much deeper than if we had formed them from a best practices perspective or frameworks more familiar to organizational learning. Creating the book circle was, in part, responding to an ongoing call from BIPOC colleagues and community members for RADIUS to do and be better.
That said, Me and White Supremacy is not about professional development. It’s not even about personal development in the way many of us are used to. According to Saad, the guided journey is equal parts educating and activating, heartbreaking and heart-expanding, challenging readers in ways we haven’t been challenged before. “There is no social-change fairy,” explains activist Winona LaDuke. “There is only change made by the hands of individuals.”
The companion workbook introduces a new concept in each chapter, explains what it is in strikingly understandable terms, gives examples of how it shows up, and ends with reflective journaling prompts for the book circle to excavate individually and in groups. Some of the chapters were about ideas we’ve heard of or even explored before, like “You and White Privilege,” “You and Stereotypes,” “You and Cultural Appropriation.” Others introduced new ideas and intensely humbling meditations like “You and White Apathy,” “You and White Centering,” “You and Your Friends,” and “You and Your Family.”
In the beginning, there were chapter titles that sparked a quiet sense of dread. The truths threatened to be particularly ugly as we got to the “rotten core of internalized white supremacy,” as Saad puts it in her introduction. But, the book’s process guide, called The Circle Way, provides a container for exploring these topics with vulnerability and peer-to-peer accountability.
It’s this simple-to-follow discussion framework that makes us want to recommend forming organizational Me and White Supremacy book circles to other social innovation workplaces. As one of our members put it: “The inner work is hard, but organizing it is easy.”
It’s hard to know what to expect from a book called Me and White Supremacy. What surprised us was how much we began cherishing our time together—a testament to Saad’s process and The Circle Way. With a couple chapters left to read, the dread has not disappeared entirely, but we have learned that we must work through the shame and move into action, reflection and growth.
Are you interested in joining a Me and White Supremacy book circle but don’t necessarily have a group to start one with? Email firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll try to connect you with like-minded people from the wider RADIUS community who also express interest.