In her own words: A journey toward racial reconciliation and eliminating systemic racism

Toni White is a Slavic Village community steward, a group of 21 neighborhood activists who are educating themselves in leadership, trauma resilience, racial equity, and climate resilience. The stewards watch out for their fellow neighbors, help to pass along prevalent community resources, host their own events, and create their own community projects.

The following is White’s reflections on what she has learned in the past two years.

<span class="content-image-text">Toni White</span>Toni WhiteSeveral years ago, I was introduced and participated in Racial Equity and Inclusion) REI Institute Groundwater training and Equius PRISM, a racial equity leadership program.

I also attended PRISM monthly capacity building sessions for over a year, and I continued to attend REI as an observer throughout the years. While the two programs are different from one another, the trainings from both allowed me to begin a path toward healing from racism, prejudice, and bigotry.

In May of 2020 I was approached by a fellow Slavic Village community steward to share my perspective about racism with stakeholders in Slavic Village, the Cleveland neighborhood where I live.

I shared my experience about what it is like constantly having to deal with racism, prejudice, and bigotry. I shared with an audience of all white people that it is like a child that has been violated by a family member. As time goes on, family members are aware that this relative has done “something awful” but everyone remains silent. 

As time goes on there are others who have been violated but no one says anything. No one says anything at the holiday family gatherings and the ones that have been violated suffer in silence. 

The family members turn a blind eye to the perpetrator that happens to be a relative!  The child now an adult has had to silently deal with the trauma and all of its consequences.

As a female African American, the request to share my experience came my way in 2020—at a time when there were worldwide protests going on against police brutality that caused numerous deaths of Black Americans.

Once I shared my experience with Slavic Village stakeholders, a handful of entrepreneurs were interested in continuing the discussion.

As a result, I created a safe space for white people to have authentic, transparent conversations regarding race. From May 2020 to the end of October 2021, I co-facilitated a total of three group book sessions with the majority of the participants being white. The current third book group includes African American men.

We used Robin DiAngelo’s book “White Fragility” and her study guide for the discussions. The purpose of the sessions was two-fold: Introduce the participants to the reality/consequences of the privilege that comes with being white. The consequence of white privilege is systemic racism.

My role was to present the lived experiences of being a victim of systemic racism as an African American female.

As difficult as it is to have conversations regarding white privilege, there is a lot of interest among white people to have these conversations in “safe spaces.” As a result, the second book group met this year from January through May. I co-facilitated with a white colleague and was once again the only African American in the group.

This exciting growth continues. The third book group will commence the end of October with the largest group to date—with 20 participants.

The goal is the same for all of the groups: Introduce the participants to the reality/consequences of the privilege that comes with being white. My role is to present my lived experience of being a victim of systemic racism as an African American female.

This is a journey toward deconstructing racism. It’s not the only way, but the way that I have chosen. I am beyond fortunate with anyone who chooses to remain on this journey with me.

The ultimate goal is to develop white allyship. It is imperative that systemic racism is eliminated once and for all time!

To learn more please email Toni White.