Dear Fellow White People: your excuses for being complacent are bullshit
Constant self-care and insatiable ladder-climbing are leading to intergenerational oppression
We are all told to firmly secure our oxygen masks before helping others secure theirs. People like to use this as a mantra for the importance of self-care. It means that we cannot be agents for external change until our internal strife is flawless.
The truth is: life is hard. We will never reach the top of the mountain (spoiler: the journey of life is one big false summit) and we will never be fulfilled. You can't wait for perfection in your own life to begin helping others, facilitating and contributing to systemic change, and righting historic oppressive wrongs.
Right now is a moment in history where many allies have the option to speak out and potentially expose themselves to criticism, or even a financial setback, by doing so (“I can’t say/do/post that — what will my employer think?!”). The other option: be a silent advocate — hold your tongue and keep climbing the ladder — knowing in the back of your mind that you’re fundamentally a “good person” and that you'll "do the right thing" once you have your mask firmly secured.
This is called complacency. It's bullshit. All it does is maintain the status quo (but, indeed, fills your bank account slightly quicker).
Some self-help, and constantly striding to improve, is of course important. Physical exercise. Mental health treatment, counseling, and therapy. Good friends. Nature. That’s all part of the prescription, too. But at some point, after reading our fourteenth, “how to be a productive badass” book — we are going to self-help ourselves to death. We need to learn to be okay with being uncomfortable — especially when your extreme comfort comes at the expense of someone else’s minimal comfort (and, spoiler, it almost always does).
We need to always be helpful. Always be useful. Always be empathetic. Even at our worst, especially at our best, and definitely when we’re just “fine” or comfortable.
Don't be complacent. Speak your truth. You'll never regret being a part of monumental positive social change but I doubt being a happily retired coward will sit well with most.
If you can afford to be an ally, be an ally. A vocal, proud, outspoken ally. None of us can afford not to be.
Please — don’t take the time to bedazzle your own oxygen mask before assisting others. Act now.
For those with money and/or power: “I invite you to dig deep, and think about how you can be part of healing the wounds of colonialism and white supremacy that are at the heart of our country’s relationship to money.” - Decolonizing Wealth Toolkit
Craig Wiroll is a frozen custard aficionado from the Midwest. He is author of more than a dozen pieces of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle fanfiction that has been lauded as, “awkward insight into the psyche of a lonely, sentimental, millennial”. He is a has-been a reality television “star”, game show failure, Asian elephant rehabilitator, waterfall repairman, two-time garlic eating champion, and also worked at Pizza Hut and The White House.
He lives alone with nobody — oftentimes out of the back of his Subaru.