When White Apathy Sets In

This summer when my colleagues and I ran our Whiteness at Work program we talked about how every racial “awakening” or “reckoning” is followed by white apathy and blowback.

Think Trump after Obama.

An example I’ve seen lately is how colleagues who reached out to Black staff after the murder of George Floyd, organizations that made statements about his death have said nothing, did nothing after the shooting of Jacob Blake or the murder of Dijon Kizzee.

Why? What is so different?

The reality is state violence toward Black people isn’t new and it isn’t going away any time soon.

I’ve got two statistics for you. In 2016 only 25% of white Americans surveyed said that police are more likely to use excessive force against Black people. In June that number was 49%.

Awareness being raised…

Now I want y’all to chew on this, also in June, 45% of white people surveyed found racism to be a “big problem.” In the latest poll, that number had already fallen to 38%.

Apathy already setting in. There is no quick-fix to this “big problem” and I think that’s a hard truth for many white people and organizations to sit with.

In late August, NPR and Ipsos ran a poll and asked white Americans, “Since the death of George Floyd in May, have you personally taken any actions to better understand racial issues in America?”

Only 30% said yes.

Let me tell you, Black folks were not surprised by this.

I don’t think it’s too big a leap to say that if only 30% of individual white Americans responded that way then much less than 30% of our organizations have taken any action.

I want things to be different and I believe they can be. 

If you’re getting this email it means you have some level of investment in Black liberation.

My ask of white folks here is that you ask yourself how has your commitment waned or grown since June? Have the conversations at your workplace waned? Why? If y’all said something about George Floyd why not Jacob Blake or Dijon Kizzee? Are you offering Black staff continuous support? Are you working to change anti-Black organizational norms or practices?

What will you do?

What commitments can you make to deepen your analysis and take informed action to create workplaces that stop harming people of color–particularly Black people.

Apathy and resignation isn’t gonna get us free. Commitment, learning, empathy, and collective action will.

If you or your organization needs help we’ve decided to re-open our Whiteness at Work program as an on-demand course. You can learn more HERE.

Let’s do the work and let’s go get free.


Statistics referenced above came from:

NPR/Ipsos Poll

Economist/YouGov Poll


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