The first time I witnessed and truly understood overt racism first hand was when I lived in NYC for a summer internship during college. Two of my friends came to visit. We went out for dinner and drinks and cut through Union Square to get to my apartment. It was late at night but we were happy and calm walking through the park. On the other side, a police officer stopped us and said the park was closed after 1 am (these were the days when that felt like an early night) so we apologized and said we had no idea and wouldn’t do it again.
He said it was ok but he’d have to give one of us a ticket. He pointed to my one friend, a black male… and gave the ticket to him. He didn’t give one to me or my other (white) girlfriend. I started to get really angry but my friend caught my eye and just shook his head with a look in his eye that I’d never seen before. I truly did not understand what was going on until we walked away and he explained that what I had just witnessed was not uncommon and that situations like that escalating were also no uncommon.
I lived in New York for 8 years after college and witnessed more than a few incidents similar to that one. I never stood up for the person who was wronged in the situation. I never said anything. I just felt sad and angry but moved about my life without any consequence. I’d think to myself how could people be so racist? But what I didn’t know at the time and what I do know now is that silence is a big part of the problem.
I’m embarrassed about my behavior as a white person living in a deeply racist country. Like many other white people I’ve kept my mouth shut because I didn’t think I could help anything as one person. I have been in countless rooms with countless people who have said something racist or made a racist joke. And sometimes I spoke up. But more often than not, I’d awkwardly walk away and fume internally.
One time I got so angry that I screamed at a friend because she said something incredibly racist. We never saw eye to eye and are no longer friends. But that was it. Just the one time.
Why? Because I’m scared? Embarrassed to be the only one who doesn’t laugh at a joke? I’ve been thinking a lot about why I react the way I do in these situations. Social pressure encourages silence. But that’s an unacceptable excuse.
I want to be the person who names it when I see it and calls it out publicly even when it’s uncomfortable. I don’t want to be the person keeping her mouth shut because it’s easier that way. On top of that, I want to work to understand why I, and many other white people, react the way I do which means having conversations and reading books and soaking up information.
Starting now, I’m working to better educate myself something that I encourage all of you, especially those of you who feel lost in what to do next, to join me in. Anel and I are committing to raise our daughter with an open mind and heart and to not only understand the systemic racism in our country but to fight it with a voice that, based on what I’ve seen so far, is going to be loud and strong.
As a white person, I fully realize that I have an incredible privilege to speak up without fear. My daughter will have that same privilege. I will try very hard to never take that for granted again.
What happened to George Floyd and Amaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor is nothing new. But as a white person, it is now impossible to look away and pretend it’s not happening. Protests are happening all over the country. It is everywhere in the news. How sad is it that this had to happen for many of us to sit up and pay attention?
I read countless articles and posts yesterday and found the following ones to be the most helpful. It is 100% my job to educate myself but if you have other resources, please feel free to share them. I want to learn and grow. A lot of this might make you feel uncomfortable to read. But as Tatiana Mac wrote in her White Woman’s Guide, “Never allow yourself to stay comfortable. Comfort is complicity. Discomfort means change. Sit with it.”
The New York Times 1619 Project: I haven’t finished every essay here but I spent hours yesterday reading through as many as I could after a friend sent it to me.
Save the Tears: A White Woman’s Guide: As the author puts it, “If you’re a white woman who is watching the world burn because of police murder against Black people, and you don’t know what to do, I wrote you a guide.”
75 Things White People Can Do for Racial Justice: A fantastic and comprehensive list of meaningful (both small and large) things you can do as a white person to fight racism.
How To Be a Better Ally (Found via Jess Kirby)
White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack:
A Conversation Guide for Racial Healing: I found this guide about how to start conversations about race with people in your life to be extremely helpful.
9 Things You Can Do for George Floyd Protesters Right Now:
Why You Need to Stop Saying “All Lives Matter”: This article is a year old but more relevant than ever.
#DoTheWork course: A free 30-day email course from Rachel Cargle. I signed up for it last night and will let you know how it goes. In the first email, she writes, “I hope that through my course your heart and mind will unlearn, expand, grapple, dissect, engage, and build a critical awareness that will change the way you move through the world as an ally.”
@thecounsciouskid: An incredible Instagram resource on parenting and education through a critical race lens. I found this graphic about overt and covert white supremacy to be particularly eye-opening.
For even more resources, articles, books, and Podcast recommendations take a look at this Google doc.
This is obviously only the beginning of my education and work towards becoming a better ally. Let’s all help each other do better. There are petitions to be signed, donations to be made, books to read, and conversations to be had. Start somewhere.
FYI I’m always open to constructive discourse from people with different political views but on my platforms, all racist comments will be deleted. There is no room for hate here.
My friend Erica Coudrae (@ericacoudrae on IG) teaches about how to be a better ally in the workplace and how to make your small business more inclusive.
I can’t find her on IG with that handle. Could it be a different spelling?
I challenge you to think more deeply about how you have contributed to and supported institutional racism. You mention moments of not speaking up when you have witnessed racism, but you may not realize how you personally have exhibited it in your actions and decisions. I am thinking specifically of your choice to move out of Stamford, a diverse city where your daughter could have gone to a public school where the student body is 66% people of color. Westport is 90% white and the Westport Public Schools are 82% white students. One of your Instagram posts from this weekend lists “white parents self-segregating neighborhoods & schools” and “education funding from property taxes” as covert forms of white supremacy; you are engaging in and supporting both of these in your life choices. I’m not suggesting that you moved because of the racial makeup of Stamford vs. Westport because I’m sure that’s not the case, but the intent doesn’t really matter as much as the effect, and it comes off as tone deaf to post this without acknowledging your own role beyond simply staying silent. I do not mean to judge or shame you, and I respect that you are using your platform to speak out against racial injustices, but it seems that you are doing what many white people do when faced with the reality of racism: posting on social media, promising to speak up the next time they witness racism (because they believe that they personally could not possibly be racist/engage in racist actions) and calling themselves allies without examining how their own actions and choices have contributed to and support the systemic inequity in our country. It seems like you really care about this topic so I am posting this comment to bring more awareness, not to offend or judge you.
You are absolutely right. That is one of MANY things I need to acknowledge. My role beyond staying silent stretches in many directions and my goal is to figure out what those directions are and address each of them. Where we live is something that we’ve been talking about at length over the last few days and I’m working to figure out what to do beyond acknowledging it. I appreciate the comment and feedback and welcome it always.
In addition to Gabriella’s comment, I’d also like to add the non stop talk/bragging about “moving to the beach.” Are you aware of the racism behind CT’s beaches and what they did and continue to do to keep “non residents” off of them? Take a look at Compo Beach, the daily parking fee on the weekend is $70. Prices like this are intentional and sends the message that Westport doesn’t want low income families or minorities on its beaches.
I was not aware of that or at least hadn’t thought of it that way but thank you for bringing it to my attention. This is the kind of thing that I need to learn and know so I appreciate that.
Just a note: We have been going to Sherwood Island where it’s free for all CT residents and $15 for out of state plates but clearly this is a problem with Compo.
Here are two articles about beaches and segregation that I read after I seeing this comment that were helpful for me in understanding the history if anyone wants to learn more:
I recommend reading “Free the Beaches” by Andrew Karhl to learn more about the racist history of our CT beaches.
Thanks, Lauren. I went to a public beach in South Carolina a couple of weeks ago and was stunned at how white it was. I tried researching the history of that area to find out why (especially given that there were people of color working in the nearby stores) but never found an answer.
In accordance to gabriella’s comment , the discourse of people changing towns “because of schools” and it is not because the town is un safe is because they are diverse and it’s just not because of race, also because they have immigrant (english language learner) population. This is a phenomenon that happens not only in CT, but through the usa – the famous “white flight” -DescriptionWhite flight or white exodus is the sudden or gradual large-scale migration of white people from areas becoming more racially or ethnoculturally diverse.
I would like to add that I personally don’t believe wanting to move to certain neighborhoods or areas of the country that afford you different opportunities is a crime or racist. I do think it is important to recognize implications of this, but I have a feeling if most of us were given the chance for a nicer house, better school district, lower crime rate, etc. we would take it.
That being said, there are ways to contribute and offset these choices. Our family was considering moving because the schools we are zoned for are not in good shape, though we love our neighborhood and right now our house is perfect for us. We looked at a more affluent town north of us and ultimately decided that although the town is beautiful with manicured parks and playgrounds, great schools, picture perfect houses, etc. – it is VERY white. I would drive through every once in awhile and I couldn’t picture myself amongst all the Lululemon, expensive SUVs, and designer sunglasses lol.
We have ultimately decided to stay where we are. The money we would have spent on buying and furnishing a bigger house, higher property taxes, etc. will be used on tuition for private school in the fall – which yes, is a privilege but not a crime. The school is very diverse because of the area we live in and does offer financial assistance so that lower income families have opportunities to attend. There is a strong emphasis on kindness that is prioritized over academia – we were blown away by what we saw.
Our property taxes will continue to support our school district and we have decided to “adopt a classroom” in the public school we are zoned for. We will contribute towards that classroom’s need for supplies and equipment. We also plan to bring the idea of “sister classrooms” up at our parent association in the fall for a more widespread impact.
This is such a wonderful decision you’ve made and I wish I had been smart enough to think with that lens when we moved. Like you said, I don’t believe that the move itself was racist but the fact that it wasn’t something that we had even discussed or really even thought about was digsuting and embarrassing.
I can’t change that but I can change how I live in this community and support the communities around me going forward.
Kristin, the school situation is really interesting to me because this is something I’ve been struggling with in my own life. I live in New Zealand, which has its own problems with racism (overt and structural) and which is a colonised country. My family is wealthy and privileged because my ancestors were colonisers, and that is an enormously difficult sentence to write.
Anyway, I think schools are one of the most powerful places we can effect change. Our education system is resourced in a very different way from the US – I would say it’s fairer but it’s still not perfect, and just as in the US, wealthier parents avoid sending their children to poorer schools, which often coincide with schools that are less white. By doing this, however, we’re stripping those schools not only of our financial resources for school fundraising and donations, but also our social support, and creating a cycle in which these under-resourced schools achieve lower grades, and therefore become less desirable over time.
Grades are a poor marker of achievement and most kids from stable, loving homes will do absolutely fine in any school. We owe it to them, to our school systems and to the parents who don’t have the choice to send them to their local school, and work hard to help its teachers and administrators make it better if it’s not as good as we would like. This is HARD. Trust me, I know it is hard, I struggle with this when thinking about my three year old and I’m sure I’ll continue to do so. It’s easy to give up our principles when we’re thinking about our own children, but by doing that we’re complicit in an unfair, racist system.
P.S. I know I’ve conflated wealth and ethnicity; one too often predicts the other.
This is a a good article about segregation in schools: https://www.nytimes.com/2016/06/12/magazine/choosing-a-school-for-my-daughter-in-a-segregated-city.html
I grew up in Boston. When my parents’ friends started having babies, they all moved to the suburbs. My family and one other were the only ones of the group who stayed (we lived in a nice neighborhood, but it was still very diverse being in the city). My parents sent me to the public schools, where I was often one of only a few white children in my classes. It meant that my family was invested in the public school system – my mom volunteered and even applied for grants to bring arts education into the school, etc. If I had gone to a private school (or a richer, whiter public school), our family’s resources would have gone there. I think most parents are too scared to do this. It’s probably one of the biggest, actionable things anyone could do as a parent. Actually be a part of a diverse school and community. I still got a wonderful education, went to a great college, have a successful career, and had the opportunity to grow up with POC and immigrants.
I’m not saying living in a diverse city is the only option. But at the same time, choosing to live in a totally white community, unknowingly benefitting from and upholding institutional racism in myriad ways, and then posting tons of anti-racist memes on Instagram doesn’t make a lot of sense to me. I think a lot of us want an easy answer (donate $ to this cause, read this book, show your support on Insta!) because the real answers (move your family to a diverse town so you are actually invested every day in a diverse community and your children might actually go to school with and make friends with black children!!) take a lot more effort.
Obviously I’m not perfect just because I went to city public schools. I’m struggling to make sense of all this just like everyone else. This is just my two cents and I hope it doesn’t offend anyone. I feel like in the million posts I’ve seen circulating over the last few days, none have mentioned that we can also…live and interact with and invest daily in diverse communities. Instead of donating money and posting on Insta from safe within our white communities.
Thank you for posting this and for the resources—I admire your courage and feel called to learn more as well. Appreciate you!
I’m glad to hear this. If we all work hard to educate ourselves, that is a great start.
Thank you of raising this topic. There is so much to unpack and as a fellow white woman, I have so much to recognize, learn, and work towards. Thank you for using your platform in this way.
Julia, Politically I am more conservative than you, but I always respect your respectful discourse. Like you, I am trying to learn more and be a better advocate. I would invite you consider the opinions of black conservatives as well. Candace Owens is bright, young, female, black and conservative. Check her out. We can all use balance, including me.
Candace Owens sued the Stamford Board of Education for racism in the 1990s.
Candace Owens is and has been a staunch critic of the Black Lives Matter movement. She is no ally to George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade, David McAtee, Amaud Abrey or those who protest in their names. Her name has no business on a blog post about white allyship.
I have to agree with Rebecca on this one.
Julia, I knew you’d have a point of view and reading/resources to share on this important topic. Unlike some other influencers/bloggers I follow, I genuinely believe that this does matter to you and you’re not just posting a quote or meme because it’s the “trendy” thing to do this week.
As another privileged white woman, I’m going to try my best to impart change and do what I can to be a catalyst for anti-racism.
That’s one of the challenges, I think.
Remember how outraged we all were at the recent school shootings (myself included)? Or after strings of hate crimes against LGBTQ people? What have I personally done to ensure that doesn’t keep happening? Not a whole lot, or at least, it hasn’t been on my mind.
Honestly, it’s kind of aggravating that these topics are brought forefront in news cycles again, only when tragedy strikes, right? Anyway, I’m really going to take steps to ensure that doesn’t happen here. I really liked how Jess Ann Kirby outlined her actions, even as the topic of racism quiets on the social media front.
I have had the same thought all week about school shootings and other hate crimes. It’s not enough to speak up only when tragedy strikes. I will share my actions going forward as soon as I’m able to formulate them.
Julia, thank you so much for bringing awareness about racism, acknowledging your position and privilege, and for getting the conversation going. I can tell from your posts and the years I’ve been following you that you really care about people and come from a place of authenticity <3. I do echo what some other posters have mentioned about examining your own position within this context (no judgement at all!). Westport's schools are ranked among the best, it is generally safe, and there is low crime rate, which I suspect is why many people move there. At the same time, some of these factors help reinforce the institutional racism and discriminatory practices that have perpetuated for decades.
I am a Latina who grew up in Westport during the 1980s and 1990s, and lived right across from the beach (Compo Beach area). My grandparents owned a well known restaurant nearby. Growing up in a predominately white town definitely highlighted the fact that I was different, not to mention the stark socioeconomic differences. We weren't wealthy at all, and my father lived in Bridgeport, and then Norwalk at the time, where there was more diversity. I experienced racism and discrimination, especially with my father, who had a heavy accent. He also drove an older station wagon that stuck out in Westport's streets (especially Longshore), and was often stopped by police for no reason. When he took us to Longshore's pool, they would always ask to see our pass (even if we had already presented it).
Don't get me started on paying to enter the beach and park there. We were residents of Westport and lived within walking distance, so we never had to park inside. However, when I was with my dad, he'd pick us up and he'd take us to the playground or to get ice cream during the summer. He couldn't afford the pass and would simply park his car and watch it to make sure they didn't ticket it. As a kid, you don't think about paying to visit the beach, but years later, it dawned on me why this happened. Westport's beaches are extremely exclusive and perpetuate this systemic racism that is endemic to many parts of New England, especially Westport. It makes me sad because despite being a minority there, I also grew up with white friends who were economically disadvantaged and did not have access to this nature too.
Westport is a beautiful town that has so much to offer. But at the same time, I feel the gap has widened even more significantly and is even more discriminatory than when I lived there. This requires concerted change from its residents, as well as leaders. I hope in your place of privilege as well as position as an ally, you are able to bring about positive change. Thank you again for sharing this!
Christine, thank you so much for sharing your story with me. It breaks my heart to hear it and I would love to do something as a westport resident to help get rid of this sort of behavior. I will do my research and send you an email
Hi Julia – with you welcoming constructive discourse, I have a few thoughts to share on racism and influencers. I actually think Gabriella summed it up beautifully (I am not nearly as eloquent) what we are seeing right now – white influencers posting quotes and thoughts about racial inequalities, but not necessarily acknowledging how most carefully curated Instagram feeds and blog posts are unbelievably non-inclusive prior to this week. I know in this post you talk about not speaking up in the past and you promise to do more and to educate yourself more, which are absolutely great places to start.
But if you are serious about this, as Gabriella said I think you have to acknowledge and discuss what is represented on your blog and your IG feed. Because there is absolutely nothing inclusive about either. And is it exactly the same for almost every single northeastern preppy blogger, so I’m not singling you out by any means. Every blogger says “my feed isn’t real life” but if it is an idealized version of real life – doesn’t that make it even worse? Because there is not one person of color. There is not one business owned by a person of color that you specifically have highlighted in the past. I’m not even sure there has been a brunette person on your feed besides Anel (being facetious but you know what I mean). And while this isn’t commentary on income inequality, what you showcase and link are almost always only affordable for a certain level of income.
So if you are really serious about changing, I would love to see a list of action items you are looking to undertake as a business owner, both for your blog and Countdown Fitness. I looked at Countdown’s IG page – again, not one person of color on there. I know that it is a boutique studio located in Greenwich and while I don’t know your pricing, I am sure it is fairly expensive. So not having any clients or staff of color is not surprising. But maybe that can be something you and Anel seek to overcome and a journey you can share with your followers?
And for your blog, when presented with a sponsorship opportunity, will you ask the brand or ask your manager tough questions? Will you refuse to partner with brands that don’t show diversity? Will you try to steer your friends and marketing clients to be more inclusive? Dudley Stephens’ IG page: I counted 28 boxes before I saw an influencer of color. Persifor’s website: not one non-white model. I’m not saying it’s every brand you work with, because a lot certainly do. But a few are striking in their utter whiteness.
And piggybacking off Gabriella’s comments regarding Westport – look, I am certainly not going to say you shouldn’t have moved there. But how you framed it was teeming with white privilege. You were very clearly never happy in Stamford because it does not have the same status as Westport. And I know it’s more of a city than a town and you didn’t love your house, but I’m not sure if you realized how much better you made life sound when you moved 20 minutes up the road. The beaches in particular – “the best decision I’ve ever made is to move near the ocean.” But the thing is, Stamford literally is HAS beaches. It is literally ON the Sound! Sherwood Island isn’t THAT far from Stamford – you certainly could have still gone often. But neither have the status of Compo.
I want to be very clear that also like Gabriella said, I am not shaming you. I very much respect that you want to have this conversation and from being a follower for a long time, I can tell you do care about social justices. But it has to be backed up with true acknowledgement and action, and even more so because you have a social space. And I also want to be clear that I am not writing this from a place of any sort of moral authority – in fact, my life is remarkably similar to yours. I live in a predominantly white, well-to-do town in Bergen County, NJ, I have mostly white friends and in my heart and head I do not think I am racist, but I know that my actions show almost all show indifference. I have a world of work to do as well.
Thank you for reading.
There are many valid points raised in Kristin’s coment and it would be interesting to get Julia’s feedback.
Kristin, thank you from the bottom of my heart for sharing this and for doing it in a respectful way.
I am mortified by my actions and the way I have presented both where I live and my life as a white woman of privilege. Truly, I had no idea. Which is not an excuse, it’s a big problem to say the least. But this is not about how I feel.
I have spent the last two days watching documentaries (I was particularly educated by 13th), reading countless articles, and conversing with friends all over the country. I have certainly learned a lot in those two days but not enough. Nothing will ever be enough but I will continue to try.
As I continue to listen and learn, I will come up with (and share) a solid action plan of what I can do both in my own community and my online community to not only be more aware of my actions but help to facilitate real change in whatever way that I can.
Thank you again for speaking so openly and in such a powerful way. I have a lot of work to do. That’s for sure.
Julia attacked me once, when I told her to look into a book Me and White Supremacy. She posted a sponsored post from Essie showcasing a party with her friends and their daughters. As to be expected, they were all white and blonde, no diversity at all. Is that how Essie wants their polish to be marketed? It appears like they are reaching out to a very narrow scope of rich, white woman. Hopefully Julia does the work, and it isn’t all for show.
Here’s the link if you’re interested.
Hi Lauren, I emailed you as well because I want to make sure you see this response:
I’m so sorry if you felt as if I attacked you in any way shape or form. That was never and will never be my intention. I deleted a comment because of it’s offensive tone and explained why. I absolutely understand where you are coming from but I will never allow hateful speech to live on my platforms.
I’m always open to conversations and I do feel more aware now than I did at the time of that post. So again, my apologies for not fully understanding what you were saying at the time. I will do better going forward.
Thank you for your honesty and for speaking up.
I read the link. It’s seems like you did overreact to Lauren’s comment and suggestion and became defensive. It is good that you recognize that now and apologize. We are all trying to do better and are learning.
Absolutely and fair enough. Just to make sure it’s clear though, I deleted the comment that I felt to be offensive so you can’t see it on there.
This is such a great discussion and Julia you’ve been very gracious at looking at the ways you yourself can change. The whole discussion on the beaches was so eye opening to me, as a former resident of Fairfield, CT. The Fairfield beaches were certainly crowded with out of towners in the summer, sometimes to the extent that locals would suggest we raise the day pass to be in line with Westport. Now I see how racist that is!
When I first came across your blog I was excited to find a blogger from Fairfield County. I will say I was disappointed that the CT guide only seemed to include places in ‘tony’ CT – Darien, Greenwich, Westport – when having lived there I knew how many great businesses were further North -in Fairfield, Bridgeport and surrounding area. Maybe you could make it a point to include some other businesses in your guide, especially those owned by POC? 🙂
I’m so glad that this discussion is opening your eyes as well.
I hear you on the FFC guide. When I wrote it I was living in Stamford so I didn’t spend much time that far north but I absolutely will start to include more businesses in different areas and owned by POC as they open and I’m able to try them out. Thank you for that feedback!
Julia, thank you for continuing to share your experiences! I’ve been following you for over a year and find that your posts are resonating with me more and more – You genuinely care and it really shows. Thanks for all the great content