REBUILDING CONNECTION BETWEEN CHILDREN AND PARENTS WHO USED VIOLENCE
In the aftermath of family violence, it takes a great deal of work to ensure a child’s safety and...
Written by Jasmyn Brown, Aurora Smaldone, Rebecca Hoffman-Frances & Edited by Leiana Kinnicutt
White advocates, clinicians and providers who work with and on behalf of families impacted by family violence must recognize our role in undoing white supremacy culture within our personal lives, organizational policies and practices, systems and communities. The work of advancing equity and anti-oppression in the anti-violence movement is pivotal to ending the intergenerational cycle of violence; after all, racism itself is a form of violence. But, upending white supremacy and white privilege in our work has not been prioritized in the white dominated areas of the domestic violence movement. In fact, according to a recent report from the National Resource Center on Domestic Violence (NRCDV), “The gender based violence and childhood sexual abuse fields are guided by white women’s cultural norms which contributes to an overrepresentation of white women.” We must change this in order to both increase safety and wellbeing for survivors and to address racial disparities in leadership in the anti-violence movement. Read on to learn the role that white people can play in advancing racial justice, and how white people can strengthen their anti-violence work through dedicated and informed anti-racist practice in all aspects of our work.
Promising Futures believes anti-racism is a fundamental and an essential component of anti-violence work. If we do not intentionally practice anti-racism our programs, services and systems will continue to harm survivors. One of our Guiding Principles is Equity – which states, “Implement approaches that are responsive to the connection between family violence and other forms of oppression that impact people’s lives. Fostering equity in anti-violence work requires intentional and strategic approaches that utilize an anti-oppression framework. Individuals often proceed unconsciously to maintain the status quo without a critical understanding of the nature of privilege and each of our roles in maintaining it. Changing this paradigm requires examination and challenging what we think we know. Because domestic violence survivors have intersecting identities and face multiple oppressions simultaneously, responses must include strategies and activities that reflect these complex realities.” Learn more about Advancing Equity & Undoing Racism.
“In a racist society it is not enough to be non-racist, we must be anti-racist.”
White people who actively practice anti-racism and work to prevent and address family violence show demonstrable support of those marginalized by injustice, and join them in securing their right to dignity, safety, and resources. White allies embrace anti-racism through actions, ideas, and reflections (Kendi, 2019). In doing so, allies often need to go challenge the cultural, historical, and political mainstream. In the words of Ibram X. Kendi: “To be an antiracist is a radical choice in the face of history, requiring a radical reorientation of our consciousness” (Kendi, 2019). Allies also strive to recognize and understand the full extent of white privilege and leverage sources of power to divest from white supremacy culture and affect change. Allies center the voices and leadership of BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and people of color) survivors and advocates and work in solidarity with members of historically marginalized group(s). White allies commit to doing their own work to unlearn white supremacy habits, acknowledge and actively repair harm done, hold themselves and other white people accountable, and recognize the importance of not centering their own experiences or emotions in these efforts.
White people experience the unearned privileges and access to power bestowed by structural racism and racial inequity. Everyone operates within a highly racialized society with a strong and unwavering legacy of prioritizing “whiteness” while cultivating injustice for BIPOC (The Aspen Institute, “Glossary for Understanding the Dismantling Structural Racism/Promoting Racial Equity Analysis”). White supremacy culture and systemic racism is the status quo – it is not an independent choice made by a few people or organizations (The Aspen Institute). Racial inequality is baked into our social, economic, and political systems and white people reap the benefits of this every day. It is the responsibility of white people to dismantle the intergenerational legacy of racism and disavow the unearned privileges and structural power tied to Whiteness (Morrison, 2020).
A first step is to make a deep personal commitment to being anti-racist. According to the Boston University Community Service Center, the term anti-racism means “the practice of actively identifying and opposing racism. The goal is to actively change policies, behaviors, and beliefs that perpetuate racist ideas and actions” (Boston University Community Service Center, “What is Anti-Racism?”). This effort can occur on many levels, including personal, organizational, and community levels. Here are some ways to move toward becoming an anti-racist:
“To understand what it means to be white in America and break the silences that surround it requires arduous, persistent, and soul-stretching work.”
Learn more about intersectionality to better understand your own identities as well as your identities in relation to the complex identities of BIPOC folks. This will help you better understand how various identities intersect with power and privilege.
“Every white person who shows up and tells the truth–because it’s [their] duty as a member of our human family–is going to have [their] racism called out…[They] will need to learn to withstand people’s anger, knowing that … it is real and true and necessary. [They] will need to accept that one of the privileges [they’re] letting burn is [their] emotional comfort.”
This chart was adapted by Andrew M. Ibrahim MD, MSc from “Who Do I Want to Be During COVID-19” chart (original author unknown) and is re-used from Black Life Matters: Anti-Racism Resources for Social Workers and Therapists, June 2020, https://www.socialwork.career/2020/06/anti-racism-resources-for-social-workers-and-therapists.html
Create an organizational culture of self-reflection and learning. Provide opportunities for staff/members to learn about race equity and liberation. Instead of providing a one-time training, offer information and space for ongoing dialogue. Delve into deeper topics like unconscious bias and microaggressions (Wheeless, 2020). Bring these topics into the discussion regularly. Consider creating race/identity-based affinity groups to provide safer spaces for discussion, learning and unlearning, and support. Change won’t happen quickly. It takes time for staff to explore their belief systems. By making this an ongoing discussion, you are showing your commitment to the transformation as well.
Lead by example. This work requires buy in from all levels of an organization and a clear and visible commitment from leadership. White people must be bold and honest in their own efforts to become anti-racist. Acknowledge and own your mis-steps and learning edges and seek to repair harm done. Share this with other white colleagues, and strive for a culture of humility in this work. Again, be mindful not to let learning for white people come at the expense of staff of color.
Center BIPOC voices and leaders. Shift your power in visible and intentional ways. We do this because centering whiteness does not and has not gotten us closer to a violence free world; in fact, whiteness perpetuates violence. We shift power because as a group, white people do not have the answers and expertise to end violence. This can happen through hiring and retention practices, ensuring opportunities for positions of power, or stepping aside (White, 2022). Ensuring partnerships are mutually beneficial, rooted in equity, and acknowledge and address power differences between mainstream organizations and culturally specific programs are essential. Creating realistic timelines, equitable compensation practices, processes to handle conflict, and address harm are fundamental.
Review current policies. Look for ways in which these policies promote racism and reinforce marginalization (Carnahan, 2021). Audit your practices and workplace culture to determine where there is a culture of exclusion or inequity (White, 2022). Set long-term goals (and short-term milestones) to change these practices in order to increase equity and racial justice.
“Mainstream communication does not want women, particularly white women, responding to racism. It wants racism to be accepted as an immutable given in the fabric of your existence, like evening-time or the common cold.”
Find like-minded individuals who are interested in being allies. Form or join a white ally group. Identify ways to educate the white community, initiate community change or protest against racial injustice.
Work to fix the systems that are broken and build new systems that do not create more injustice or harm (Focused Community Strategies Team, 2020).
Campaign for, and elect BIPOC law makers (Focused Community Strategies Team, 2020).
Encourage the establishment of BIPOC-owned businesses in the community and frequent those businesses.
Hold the educational system accountable for their part in ending racism. This enhances the likelihood that the next generation of changemakers will be anti-racist.
Look at existing racial justice efforts led by BIPOC community members, seek permission to ask how you can be in solidarity with their efforts.
When building community, reach towards the idea that our liberation is bound together. Do not attempt to set yourself above or beyond other white people, no matter how much more “work” you believe you have done. The community is in the shared experiences of being lifelong learners.
“For while we have our eyes on the future, history has its eyes on us.”