Un-Learning to Tip Toe Around White Supremacy

Joseph Rios EdD
5 min readApr 13, 2022
Photo by Mick Haupt on Unsplash

Yesterday, I had an interesting experience on the racial equity committee I am involved with at my work. I’ve written about my experiences in our last department meeting and was prepared for an emotion-ridden conversation. I wanted to remain steadfast in my commitment to avoid having to talk to White people about race and racism, directly.

And it didn’t happen the way I thought it would.

Instead, I found myself moving back to old, learned behaviors: trying to talk about race and racism in a way that engages White people without making them want to disengage in the conversation. In the meeting, I ended up recommending ways to tip-toe around the conversation to talk about the race topic.

This is not what I thought my commitment to change would look like.

Holding up signs and placards is a first step in identifying the power of White supremacy. The hardest next step is identifying what your commitment to ending it will end up being. Photo by Valentina Oyon for Scop.io.

Un-Learning: The Toughest Lesson of All

One of the challenges I’m finding with unlearning my connection to White supremacy is how engrained I am in protecting it.

I was shocked that, even in my need to address the ways White supremacy has personally impacted me, I am concerned over the ways White people are called together to talk about racism and race.

As an educator, I have been trained to find ways that call the most number of people in for training exercises. Even when the topic is provocative and touchy, there is always a method to call people in. But it also required me, as the facilitator, to remain as neutral as possible.

I am finding, nowadays, that this neutrality is not good for my soul. Nor my practice as an educator.

In the conversation, yesterday, we talked about what type of conversation we could or should have. I added that we should look at our unconscious biases and recommended an online test so we could discuss our results together. Other people on the committee added other activities that would talk about the impact of race and racism. I’ve had these conversations multiple times, in other contexts, and wasn’t necessarily surprised by my next comments:

Joseph Rios EdD

I believe leadership is the expression of values. Career Coach | Educator | Writer | Social Justice Advocate | Trainer. leadershipandvaluesinaction.com