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Why Looking Inward On Racism Has To Be The Beginning For White People

Samer Ghani
A sign at a Milwaukee protest in early June after the deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor says, "There is no neutral. Just racist and not racist."

The protests across the United States over racial inequity have been seen as a historic turning point in our national consciousness. Political, business and cultural leaders have lent their support to the movement for equity. But beyond the recognition of the issue and the apparent desire for change, the path forward remains unclear. 

For Dominique Samari, a co-owner of P3 Development Group, that change needs to happen on an individual level before we can have lasting, social change. As part of her work with P3, Samari finds solutions for organizations that are trying to create a more equitable and inclusive space.

In a piece featured in this month’s Milwaukee Magazine, Samari wrote about her work. She admits that the work is difficult, but she believes the cultural impact is worth it.

“What I work on with the clients I coach formally and friends and colleagues that I coach informally is that we have to get to a shared sense of reality in order to address these inequities,” she says. “The fact is we live in a white supremacy culture.”

Samari acknowledges that even that statement may evoke an emotional response for white people, but that’s where she says the work starts. For her, too many white people attempt to solve large systematic problems before they look internally at their own racism.

“This is deeply rooted. Most of this is not conscious thinking, but that’s where the work must begin,” she says.

"This is deeply rooted. Most of this is not conscious thinking, but that's where the work must begin."

This takes practice. She says it can dredge up feelings of guilt or shame. While she says it’s OK to feel that way, it's important to examine what's causing those feelings. Asking yourself where these thoughts or actions come from, how they benefit you, and when do your unconscious thoughts or efforts clash with your view of yourself, are all questions that Samari says are important to ask yourself.

“As you start to see the world for what it is and how it has shaped you and how you show up in this world, then you can start to look at what does this mean that I can do differently, how can I show up differently, how can I get clear about how this is showing up for me as opposed to others, and then you can start to shift some of your actions,” she says.

Her biggest fear in the movement is that she'll look back in 10 years and nothing has changed and people tell her that they tried but just can't do it. Her biggest hope is that enough people are truly committed to doing the work she talks about and that will create a ripple effect that leads to positive change.

Joy Powers hosts and produces Lake Effect. She joined WUWM January 2016 as a producer for Lake Effect.
From 2020 to 2021, Jack was WUWM's digital intern and then digital producer.