I’ve been thinking a lot recently about when I choose to reach out to my community and when I don’t. Like most white people, I hold the value of self-sufficiency pretty strongly, and I’m an introvert at heart who wants nothing more than to be sitting on her couch at home knitting. But I’m curious about when this value of self-reliance keeps me from starting a new relationship or from deepening relationships I already have.
The value of self-sufficiency is tied to an important piece of white supremacy culture: perfectionism. Tema Okun et al. describe one of the aspects of perfectionism as “mistakes are seen as personal, i.e. they reflect badly on the person making them as opposed to being seen for what they are–mistakes.” As an extension, asking for help is admitting that we don’t know what to do or that we have made a mistake. It is showing weakness. Showing vulnerability in this way, however, is part of building an authentic relationship with someone, so perfectionism sets up a barrier to building a relationship. As I outlined previously, relationships are an important part of working toward a just society. We cannot be antiracist and isolated. We cannot achieve change without other people. Our humanity demands that we be in relationship with others.
I have started trying to be intentional about fostering new relationships with other white folks who are also struggling with white supremacy. It’s my hope that one day I will have a deep network of acquaintances, friends, and colleagues with whom I can engage authentically. Maybe we’ll even knit together.
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