Privilege & Possibility: Confessions of a Formerly Colorblind Karen
By Monica Borgatti, chief operating officer at the Women’s Fund of Western Massachusetts
Honestly, I don’t know if anyone would ever have labeled me a “Karen,” but maybe?
Also honestly, I have actually said, “I don’t see color.” I grew up fairly sheltered here in Western Massachusetts. I went to a high school that was predominantly white. I think there was one student who was black and only a few who were Latinx. Maybe there were more but I see now that my white privilege meant I could easily surround myself with people who looked like me.
Growing up, I knew that racism was wrong and I thought I was doing my part by just accepting all people as part of the human race and not seeing color. I thought that was “enough.” I had dated a black man, I had a few friends who were people of color. How could I be a racist? I can clearly remember a conversation with a friend when I told her that I couldn’t believe racism still exists in our country. That I didn’t understand how it was possible. That race didn’t matter to me and I didn’t see color. This friend I was talking to…she’s a woman of color. Ouch. It’s wild to me how clearly I remember that conversation. My white privilege allowed me to believe that just not seeing color meant I couldn’t be racist.
With the help of much self-reflection and digesting many books, I now know that I’ve been complicit in a white supremacist society that was built on the backs of people of color. A racist society with policies that perpetuate systemic inequality and oppresses people of color. That my refusal to “see color” was in essence hurting people. If you’ve also read Ibram X. Kendi’s book How to be an Anti-Racist, you know that it isn’t enough to be not racist but that we must be anti-racist if we expect anything to change.
In the last few years, the list of books I’ve read about white supremacy, white privilege, and racism has grown and my knowledge deepened but my action has been slow to follow. I’m lucky to work for an organization that centers young women of color to shine as leaders in their community and empowers women of color to be leaders and contributors in our grantmaking work. We are doing some anti-racism work as a team and we are committed to doing more. But I haven’t personally done much with my knowledge.
Recently I discovered Layla Saad’s book me and white supremacy and as soon as I realized it was an exercise in journaling and self-reflection, I knew I wanted to go through the process. When I read Saad words about the best way to work through her writing prompts with a group, I knew I wanted to use my platform with the Women’s Fund to bring this work to other white people in my community.
The author describes this book as a tool to “help people with white privilege understand and take ownership of their participation in the oppressive system of white supremacy…both within themselves and within their communities.” So, if you’ve read some books on white privilege and wondered “What’s next?” this project is for you.
This month, I’m gathering a group of women who are interested in taking this journey with me. The project will begin in February and we will explore each of Saad’s twenty-eight prompts. There will be space for self-reflection and journaling and time held for virtual meetings to come together as a group to share, discuss, and debrief the process.
It won’t be easy. This will be hard work but growth never happens in a comfort zone. Join me.
UPDATE: We have reached capacity for the size of the group. Thank you all for your commitment to reflecting and growing. If you are still interested in me and white supremacy, we encourage you to reach out to Ms. Zee from Olive Tree Books-n-Voiceshttps://olivetreebooksonline.com/ in Springfield to purchase a copy.