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White Allies, Challenging Racism

By Rebecca Lurie

Sarah Jaffe’s “Challenging Racism at Work” brought to mind for me all the ways white people can take the challenge. This short news item shares what happened when a white cop decided to stand up and #EndWhiteSilence. I applaud the stance and recognize that we all can do this every day. Standing up against racism is not only for those in the most charged environments of “law enforcement.” Certainly, as the Chief of Police in Pittsburgh — and with social media behind him — Cameron McLay had a big role to share with the world. But to widen the lens: when the Murphy Institute, along with CUNY and local unions, decided to develop and design the Scholarship for Diversity in Labor, this too expanded the space in which we begin to challenge racism at work.

Institutionalized racism is so pervasive, both behind us and around, that the un-level playing field in the world of work, with opportunity and marginalization being granted by no virtues of our own, means that we need to constantly consider how we can recalibrate the playing fields we find ourselves in. How can white people, with unearned privileges and advantages, act to step back and make room for the traditionally less-privileged to step in? How can we help to minimize the risk that comes to those who dare to give their voice and contribution from those marginalized communities? How can we stand back and make room for others while we also stand up and speak out against racism and injustice?

As McLay says, “… gross disparity in wealth and opportunity is evident in our city. Frustration and disorder are certain to follow.”

We don’t have to look at demonstrating masses and police misconduct to see this disparate treatment. It is in every corner of how we relate to one another because of the unequal access to resources and opportunities that has persisted for too many generations. The time to end white silence is now. We need to listen to people of color — at work and in our communities and in our unions. I am glad Sarah Jaffe reported this story so we can know: there are those standing up just where they are. And we can all join in.

Rebecca Lurie is Associate Director at the Murphy Institute.

<a href="http://Photo by via flickr (CC-BY).” target=”_blank”>Photo by Joe Brusky via flickr (CC-BY-NC).