Doing the Work

 

According to increasingly popular Diversity Equity and Inclusion (DEI) programs, what our country needs is for white people to “do the work.” Full disclosure: I am white. As I think about myself, or just get up and go about my day, I really don’t think about being white. I’m sure that’s just evidence of my white privilege, but please cut me some slack. I’m really just starting to do the work.

Usually, when you start a task, it’s good to get a sense of what it will take to accomplish it. What are the action items and how long might they take to accomplish. Even though I am only beginning to learn what DEI requires and what it means to be an anti-racist, I sense that the task is daunting. Centuries of oppression will not be undone overnight. But I’m impatient and I have a lot on my to-do list. There’s unfolded laundry, a sink full of dishes, a few kids to pick up from their schools and activities. Every day. Just how long will these added anti-racist responsibilities take?

Thankfully, there are many helpful websites out there to assist white people when it comes to “doing the work.” One post from 2017 was updated in 2020 to provide a list of 103 things that white people can do for racial justice.* Yikes! I am several years late in finding this advice and getting started. Even worse, the top of the page issues the following warning:

“Our work [is] to fix what we broke and left broken. The work isn’t done until Black folks tell us it’s done.”

Wait a minute. I was educated in the olden days before DEI was integrated into the curriculum. I can’t remember when I learned it, but I’m pretty sure that somewhere along the way I learned that the goal was to think for myself. Maybe that’s just a by-product of a system that rewards individual students with numerical grades for their demonstrations of knowledge and ability to communicate what they learned from reading, listening, or working through a math problem. In school, my teachers were always evaluating my competence with objective grades on tests and writing assignments. Now that I look back on it, it seems pretty unfair. Just because I studied and answered questions correctly on tests doesn’t mean that I deserved the benefits that followed from my education. Do you want to hear about injustice? I doubled my income after earning a law degree. All I had to do was quit my job, take on $100,000 in debt, and spend my late 20s studying esoteric legal issues instead of going to bars or concerts or hanging out with friends more often. I mean who gets handed such windfalls? White people, that’s who.

Looking back, all the racism was really obvious the whole time I was growing up. Just think of all the hours I spent watching black characters and families on TV sitcoms or listening to black musicians (I mean, Black musicians – see I am learning). I think watching years of Oprah or reading Maya Angelou and Toni Morrison are clear examples of cultural appropriation. I’ve only just started on this journey, and I think I am making a lot of progress for society just by reflecting on my own privilege and missteps. Surely, I should have only watched shows about white families and listened to music sung by white people. Is it okay for white people to listen to rap if it’s the Beastie Boys?

I have more questions about how to proceed on the path toward racial justice and a world of perfect diversity, equity, and inclusion. First, what would that world look like? I sometimes think that diversity only makes sense if the majority of people in every scenario are white, so that people of color are always adding diversity. At the same time, it seems more and more like including white people at all is so racist. For example, if you prioritize hiring people of color and making sure there is a commitment to diversity, when is it ever appropriate to hire a straight, white man? Also, if white people are supposed to wait for Black folks to tell us when our work is done, how do we make sure we’re listening to the right people? How Black do the Black folks need to be? Does Barack Obama count as Black enough? Does Kamala Harris? Should we broaden out the statement to include all people of color in America? Or maybe we should include people of color anywhere in the whole world who have opinions about white Americans. What determines whether someone is white in this scheme? Does Robin Diangelo have to listen to Black folks, or do other white folks just have to listen to her?

Trying to do this work is confusing. It’s possibly even Sisyphean. The list only has 103 items on it now, but it sounds like we should expect future additions. I don’t want to sound ungrateful, but I’ll probably pick and choose which items to tackle and which to ignore. Uh-oh. There I go again thinking for myself. It’s a hard habit to break. Come to think of it, I remember something I read in a novel by Toni Morrison years ago. There was an enslaved girl in A Mercy who seemed to know only hardship and suffering. She finally came to understand that only she could determine her self-worth. Other people could control or devalue her only if she let them. As much as the DEI activists probably hate it, I rather like that idea.

* This website link is included as 97 Things White People Can Do For Racial Justice under the heading “Do the Work” on the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion page of Stone Ridge, an all-girls Catholic School in Bethesda, MD.

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  1. RushBabe49 Thatcher
    RushBabe49
    @RushBabe49

    What the DEI activists seek, in the end, is to bring back slavery, in reverse. What their endgame is, is all white people enslaved to their new BIPOC masters. But not until they have appropriated all the wealth earned and owned by white people. 

    • #1
  2. Gumby Mark (R-Meth Lab of Democracy) Thatcher
    Gumby Mark (R-Meth Lab of Democracy)
    @GumbyMark

    Sounds exhausting.  Glad I’m retired and no longer working, so clearly does not apply to me.  Guess it’s up to you youngsters to do the work.  Given how much of a load it appears to be, be sure to ask if you will be paid overtime before you sign up.

    • #2
  3. CACrabtree Coolidge
    CACrabtree
    @CACrabtree

    “The work isn’t done until Black folks tell us it’s done”.

    I’ll pass…

    • #3
  4. James Lileks Contributor
    James Lileks
    @jameslileks

    I looked at the list.

    You may not bank at Wells Fargo.

    You must get your gym to move all or some of its money to a black-owned bank.

    You may not shop at Whole Foods until they pay reparations for using prison labor.

    It’s a useful list for hectoring progressive white women, if nothing else. Have you demanded your yoga center do the work? Have you? My God is that a Whole Foods bag? What is wrong with you? Why are you not doing the work?

    • #4
  5. Lilly B Coolidge
    Lilly B
    @LillyB

    James Lileks (View Comment):

    I looked at the list.

    You may not bank at Wells Fargo.

    You must get your gym to move all or some of its money to a black-owned bank.

    You may not shop at Whole Foods until they pay reparations for using prison labor.

    It’s a useful list for hectoring progressive white women, if nothing else. Have you demanded your yoga center do the work? Have you? My God is that a Whole Foods bag? What is wrong with you? Why are you not doing the work?

    Exactly. I added the source where I found this list, which is very likely designed to stir up the white guilt of Stone Ridge mothers.

    • #5
  6. EHerring Coolidge
    EHerring
    @EHerring

    If a leftie accuses me of having “white privilege,” I will tell him it isn’t “privilege” but things he is too lazy to do.

    • #6
  7. She Reagan
    She
    @She

    Lilly B: Also, if white people are supposed to wait for Black folks to tell us when our work is done, how do we make sure we’re listening to the right people? How Black do the Black folks need to be? Does Barack Obama count as Black enough? Does Kamala Harris?

    They do, despite the fact that neither of them can lay claim to families who lived the civil rights struggle in this country over the centuries.  That a former President (and his wife), and the current Vice-President of the United States have spent so much time moaning about how oppressed they are because of their skin color, as they rose meteorically to the top of the heap is just laughable. (Kamala Harris claims oppression three ways: First she’s Black.  Second, she’s Asian.  Third, she’s a woman. And, like all purveyors of Identity-Politics-Over-All, she makes the most use of whichever one serves her best in the moment.  Yet even with all these attributes–she’s a walking sandwich-board for diversity and inclusion–she’s one of the most unpopular people in the country, and I don’t think sexism, racism, or Asian hate has much to do with any of it.)

    This madness will end when enough black people (people of any identity actually) decide that they’ve had enough of meddlesome scolds from other races (like Corrine Shutack, who’s the author of “103 Things,”) applying filters for them, speaking for them, telling them what is best for them, when they stop listening to discredited grievance-mongers like Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton, and when they decide to take control and speak for themselves.

    Thing #46: “Listen without ego and defensiveness to people of color. Truly listen. Don’t scroll past articles written by people of color — Read them.”

    OK.  That sounds fairly rational–I’ll try that.  Let’s start with Thomas Sowell.  Shelby Steele, perhaps.  Lots to read, and plenty of podcasts featuring both of them.  Clarence Thomas is always worth a listening to.  I’ll get to him next.  Ben Carson.  Condoleezza Rice.  Walter Williams.  Gosh.  This could take a while.

    Oh, wait.  She leaves nothing to chance.  She’s included marching orders.  Here’s who I’m supposed to be reading and what I’m supposed to be doing:

    Things #48 and #49: “Follow Patrisse Cullors, Opal Tometi, Alicia Garzia, bell hooks, Luvvie Ajayi, Melissa Harris-Perry, Van Jones, Ava DuVernay, thenewjimcrow, Laverne Cox, DeRay Mckesson, Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II, Ibram X. Kendi, and Killer Mike. Follow them with the intention of listening and learning only. Read Awesomely Luvvie, Blavity, Madame Noir, The Root, The Grio, and Jamelle Bouie’s opinion pieces with a desire to learn and understand better the lives of Black Americans.

    “Follow them with the intention of listening and learning only.”  So, no conversation, no talking back, and everything goes one way only.

    No thanks.

     

    • #7
  8. thelonious Member
    thelonious
    @thelonious

    James Lileks (View Comment):

    I looked at the list.

    You may not bank at Wells Fargo.

    You must get your gym to move all or some of its money to a black-owned bank.

    You may not shop at Whole Foods until they pay reparations for using prison labor.

    It’s a useful list for hectoring progressive white women, if nothing else. Have you demanded your yoga center do the work? Have you? My God is that a Whole Foods bag? What is wrong with you? Why are you not doing the work?

    Hurray!! I’m helping. I don’t shop at Whole (Paycheck) Foods. I do wish I had that kind of disposable income.

    • #8
  9. Lilly B Coolidge
    Lilly B
    @LillyB

    She (View Comment):

    This madness will end when enough black people (people of any identity actually) decide that they’ve had enough of meddlesome scolds from other races (like Corrine Shutack, who’s the author of “103 Things,”) applying filters for them, speaking for them, telling them what is best for them, when they stop listening to discredited grievance-mongers like Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton, and when they decide to take control and speak for themselves.

    Thing #46: “Listen without ego and defensiveness to people of color. Truly listen. Don’t scroll past articles written by people of color — Read them.”

    OK. That sounds fairly rational–I’ll try that. Let’s start with Thomas Sowell. Shelby Steele, perhaps. Lots to read, and plenty of podcasts featuring both of them. Clarence Thomas is always worth a listening to. I’ll get to him next. Ben Carson. Condoleezza Rice. Walter Williams. Gosh. This could take a while.

    Amen and a-women, sister. I’ll bet our dear Corinne has never even heard of Shelby Steele or Thomas Sowell. 

    • #9
  10. She Reagan
    She
    @She

    Lilly B (View Comment):

    She: OK. That sounds fairly rational–I’ll try that. Let’s start with Thomas Sowell. Shelby Steele, perhaps. Lots to read, and plenty of podcasts featuring both of them. Clarence Thomas is always worth a listening to. I’ll get to him next. Ben Carson. Condoleezza Rice. Walter Williams. Gosh. This could take a while.

    Amen and a-women, sister. I’ll bet our dear Corinne has never even heard of Shelby Steele or Thomas Sowell. 

    Maybe we could send her a “Say Their Names” T-shirt.

    • #10
  11. Lilly B Coolidge
    Lilly B
    @LillyB

    She (View Comment):

    Lilly B (View Comment):

    She: OK. That sounds fairly rational–I’ll try that. Let’s start with Thomas Sowell. Shelby Steele, perhaps. Lots to read, and plenty of podcasts featuring both of them. Clarence Thomas is always worth a listening to. I’ll get to him next. Ben Carson. Condoleezza Rice. Walter Williams. Gosh. This could take a while.

    Amen and a-women, sister. I’ll bet our dear Corinne has never even heard of Shelby Steele or Thomas Sowell.

    Maybe we could send her a “Say Their Names” T-shirt.

    OMG, does that exist? If not, I think we’ve got a plan for a side hustle.

    • #11
  12. Charlotte Member
    Charlotte
    @Charlotte

    Lilly B: Is it okay for white people to listen to rap if it’s the Beastie Boys?

    No.

    Not because it’s rap, but because it’s the Beastie Boys.

    • #12
  13. Charlotte Member
    Charlotte
    @Charlotte

    Mr. Charlotte (a straight, white male, sadly) received the following email from his company’s DEI person just a couple of hours ago. Is there some sort of directive that is issued from the Woke On High to keep the troops on-message?

    I’m not a fan of “manels” – panels of all men. But, even I can find exceptions. I’m excited to invite a panel of all white men to discuss DEI at our next Town Hall. I want to know more about their DEI journeys – from skepticism and doubt, to allyship and advocacy. This will be a great discussion.

    Let me be clear about what I believe. I’m honored every day to be your DEI Leader, and every day I also acknowledge to someone, in some form, that I didn’t create the challenge around DEI, and yet, it has become my problem to solve. I reject a belief that DEI is the issue of women, racially and ethnically diverse groups, and members of the LGBTQIA+ community alone to address. If we don’t have straight, white men at the table, as owners of the problem and participants in the solution, then progress will remain slow. We are, after all, still a firm whose majority are straight, white men. If you have any doubt about that, read the transparency report, have a look at our PMD class from this year or the last year or the last decade.

    I also believe DEI is an economic and business imperative. If it doesn’t appeal to you because it is, objectively, the right thing to do, then let it appeal to you because it’s the right business decision that elevates our collective financial wellbeing.

    We have work to do. And doing that work means we have to walk and run together – all of us.

    And so, allow me to host a manel – just this once. Let’s have the conversation. And then, let’s do the work together.

    • #13
  14. Lilly B Coolidge
    Lilly B
    @LillyB

    Charlotte (View Comment):

    Mr. Charlotte (a straight, white male, sadly) received the following email from his company’s DEI person just a couple of hours ago. Is there some sort of directive that is issued from the Woke On High to keep the troops on-message?

    If we don’t have straight, white men at the table, as owners of the problem and participants in the solution, then progress will remain slow. We are, after all, still a firm whose majority are straight, white men.

    Um, these people say that listening is important, but do they ever listen to themselves? I’d like to know how the firm is doing under such egregiously un-diverse circumstances? Is competence a corporate value? Can hiring still be based on competence? What if a majority of the population who chooses that line of work is composed of straight while males and no one is being kept out unfairly? Do personal choices or personal professional interests matter?

    Also, what if everyone on the “manel” doesn’t share the view that they should be on a journey to ally-ship and advocacy?

    • #14
  15. Charlotte Member
    Charlotte
    @Charlotte

    Lilly B (View Comment):

    Charlotte (View Comment):

    Mr. Charlotte (a straight, white male, sadly) received the following email from his company’s DEI person just a couple of hours ago. Is there some sort of directive that is issued from the Woke On High to keep the troops on-message?

    If we don’t have straight, white men at the table, as owners of the problem and participants in the solution, then progress will remain slow. We are, after all, still a firm whose majority are straight, white men.

    Um, these people say that listening is important, but do they ever listen to themselves? I’d like to know how the firm is doing under such egregiously un-diverse circumstances? Is competence a corporate value? Can hiring still be based on competence? What if a majority of the population who chooses that line of work is composed of straight while males and no one is being kept out unfairly? Do personal choices or personal professional interests matter?

    Also, what if everyone on the “manel” doesn’t share the view that they should be on a journey to ally-ship and advocacy?

    I have a fantasy that all the straight white men at his company quit en masse. They are quite obviously unwelcome.

    • #15
  16. Lilly B Coolidge
    Lilly B
    @LillyB

    Charlotte (View Comment):

    Lilly B (View Comment):

    Charlotte (View Comment):

    Mr. Charlotte (a straight, white male, sadly) received the following email from his company’s DEI person just a couple of hours ago. Is there some sort of directive that is issued from the Woke On High to keep the troops on-message?

    If we don’t have straight, white men at the table, as owners of the problem and participants in the solution, then progress will remain slow. We are, after all, still a firm whose majority are straight, white men.

    Um, these people say that listening is important, but do they ever listen to themselves? I’d like to know how the firm is doing under such egregiously un-diverse circumstances? Is competence a corporate value? Can hiring still be based on competence? What if a majority of the population who chooses that line of work is composed of straight while males and no one is being kept out unfairly? Do personal choices or personal professional interests matter?

    Also, what if everyone on the “manel” doesn’t share the view that they should be on a journey to ally-ship and advocacy?

    I have a fantasy that all the straight white men at his company quit en masse. They are quite obviously unwelcome.

    Going Galt?

    • #16
  17. Old Bathos Moderator
    Old Bathos
    @OldBathos

    I have accused my woke extended family members of not doing the work.  They don’t study numbers and facts.  Some think more blacks die from cops than auto accidents.  They have zero concept of the sheer numbers of police-citizen encounters, the incidence of resisting arrest, the rate of black involvement in violent crime, the number of cops killed per year, and the overall national trend in police use of firearms and force.  They have no clue as to the racial composition of senior law enforcement personnel in large cities. They have never heard of Stephen Frye or Heather MacDonald.  They have made no effort to learn the actual details of the deaths of Breona Taylor or George Floyd or Mike Brown or Trayvon Martin. 

    They do not get to lecture until they do the work.   You only have the right to be stupid if you remain silent.  When you try to sell stupid, you should be made to pay.

    • #17
  18. No Caesar Thatcher
    No Caesar
    @NoCaesar

    RushBabe49 (View Comment):

    What the DEI activists seek, in the end, is to bring back slavery, in reverse. What their endgame is, is all white people enslaved to their new BIPOC masters. But not until they have appropriated all the wealth earned and owned by white people.

    What they seek is money.  DIE is a great grift for those with greed far exceeding their capacity to add value.   Oppression is a nice feature.  It makes it easier for them think themselves virtuous for prospering by doing evil.  

    Refuse to participate.  File discrimination lawsuits against employers who force you to do so. 

    • #18
  19. No Caesar Thatcher
    No Caesar
    @NoCaesar

    James Lileks (View Comment):

    I looked at the list.

    You may not bank at Wells Fargo.

    You must get your gym to move all or some of its money to a black-owned bank.

    You may not shop at Whole Foods until they pay reparations for using prison labor.

    It’s a useful list for hectoring progressive white women, if nothing else. Have you demanded your yoga center do the work? Have you? My God is that a Whole Foods bag? What is wrong with you? Why are you not doing the work?

    It does seem that PWW (male and female) are the incubator of the contagion. 

    • #19
  20. No Caesar Thatcher
    No Caesar
    @NoCaesar

    EHerring (View Comment):

    If a leftie accuses me of having “white privilege,” I will tell him it isn’t “privilege” but things he is too lazy to do.

    Better: “Oh, bless your little bitty heart.  Aren’t you terribly clever.  Golf-Foxtrot-Yankee.”

    • #20
  21. Gumby Mark (R-Meth Lab of Democracy) Thatcher
    Gumby Mark (R-Meth Lab of Democracy)
    @GumbyMark

    Old Bathos (View Comment):

    I have accused my woke extended family members of not doing the work. They don’t study numbers and facts. Some think more blacks die from cops than auto accidents. They have zero concept of the sheer numbers of police-citizen encounters, the incidence of resisting arrest, the rate of black involvement in violent crime, the number of cops killed per year, and the overall national trend in police use of firearms and force. They have no clue as to the racial composition of senior law enforcement personnel in large cities. They have never heard of Stephen Frye or Heather MacDonald. They have made no effort to learn the actual details of the deaths of Breona Taylor or George Floyd or Mike Brown or Trayvon Martin.

    They do not get to lecture until they do the work. You only have the right to be stupid if you remain silent. When you try to sell stupid, you should be made to pay.

    This is so on point.  When you get into discussions with people like this you have to spend an enormous amount of time trying to deprogram them.  Often they simply won’t believe you because what you are saying it so different from what they’re been told is the truth.  It’s like they’ve become part of a cult.

    • #21
  22. DrewInTherapy Member
    DrewInTherapy
    @DrewInWisconsin

    She (View Comment):
    “Follow them with the intention of listening and learning only.”  So, no conversation, no talking back, and everything goes one way only.

    The very reason I objected to our youth director’s “listening sessions on race” for teenagers last year. Kids were invited to “listen.” Not to share their own thoughts. Not to speak. Not to communicate. To just stay silent. I guess because they were white. 

    Lefty radicals: “Your silence is violence!”

    Also lefty radicals: “Your words are violence!”

    • #22
  23. Full Size Tabby Member
    Full Size Tabby
    @FullSizeTabby

    I may not be in the most receptive mood for such instruction today because every single news item I have seen today involving a crime of violence has contained one or more black people as perpetrator, and most of them have been about crimes of violence against a white person. 

    • #23
  24. Henry Castaigne Member
    Henry Castaigne
    @HenryCastaigne

    Full Size Tabby (View Comment):

    I may not be in the most receptive mood for such instruction today because every single news item I have seen today involving a crime of violence has contained one or more black people as perpetrator, and most of them have been about crimes of violence against a white person.

    The vast majority of crimes done by blacks are against other blacks. I am worried that has been a serious increase in crime among black communities that has gone unreported because black communities are being gaslit to be afraid of the police. I think the rise in anti-Asian hatecrimes among black-American criminals is the effect of this corruption spilling out. 

    As always, it’s the weakest among us who are most hurt by bad policies. 

    Though I understand that can be cold comfort when the infection reaches your home or job.

    • #24
  25. Lilly B Coolidge
    Lilly B
    @LillyB

    Henry Castaigne (View Comment):

    Full Size Tabby (View Comment):

    I may not be in the most receptive mood for such instruction today because every single news item I have seen today involving a crime of violence has contained one or more black people as perpetrator, and most of them have been about crimes of violence against a white person.

    The vast majority of crimes done by blacks are against other blacks. I am worried that has been a serious increase in crime among black communities that has gone unreported because black communities are being gaslit to be afraid of the police. I think the rise in anti-Asian hatecrimes among black-American criminals is the effect of this corruption spilling out.

    As always, it’s the weakest among us who are most hurt by bad policies.

    These comments make me think even more that what we need is to stop categorizing everything by race. Here’s Justice Thomas’s dissent from Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin, 2016:

    I write separately to reaffirm that “a State’s use of race in higher education admissions decisions is categorically prohibited by the Equal Protection Clause.”  Fisher v. University of Tex. at Austin, 570 U. S. ___, ___ (2013) (Thomas, J., concurring) (slip op., at 1). “The Constitution abhors classifications based on race because every time the government places citizens on racial registers and makes race relevant to the provision of burdens or benefits, it demeans us all.”  Id., at ___ (slip op., at 2) (internal quotation marks omitted). That constitutional imperative does not change in the face of a “faddish theor[y]” that racial discrimination may produce “educational benefits.” 

    • #25