You can’t talk about race if you ain’t gonna talk about power

Race is a human-invented concept used to categorize people with devastating consequences. White supremacy is the system of power used to create and reinforce those consequences.

Race is more than skin color and hair texture.

It is more than boxes or categories we like to place folks in.

Race is not about one definitive culture or one way for folks to be, think, or act.

Race is about power… who has it and who doesn’t. Who is worthy of it and who aint.

Who gets to exploit and who gets to be exploited.

Who gets to extract and who gets to be depleted.

Who is worthwhile and noteworthy and who is negligible and disposable.

Who is human and who is seen as less than human.

Power is what makes whiteness invisible by making it the norm. Never inspected, analyzed, or debated. An early US census instructed people to leave the race section blank if they were white. Race was only something that pertained to “the other.”

Whiteness provides the opportunity and the safety to fully participate in civic life. It allows you to vote without risk, move into any neighborhood without hesitation, offers up more wealth and security, it allows those in that dominant racial group the power to take up any and all space and to have politics centered on their needs.

Power structures our lives. Power informs self-making. Power informs life expectancy and social mobility. Power dictates access. Power grants credibility.

One of the reasons we are not equipped to talk about race, especially white folks, is because we can not talk about power.

Without interrogating power, our imagination of what it means to be human is compromised. We cant build liberatory relationships and communities without acknowledging who has power, how power moves, and how to redistribute it.

Relationships are never equal. We do not get free without understanding power.

So my questions for y’all:

  • When was the last time you talked about and acknowledged power differentials with your team?

  • In what ways do the power dynamics impact how you perceive and engage with each other?

  • How might power dictate and inform the implicit and hidden “rules of engagement”?

  • Who has influenced your understanding of power?

  • What skills do you need to learn so you feel more comfortable talking about power and how it’s racialized?

  • What possibilities open when we transparently name and acknowledge power?

I would love to hear what questions you would ask and what ways have you pushed back against power structures in your world.

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