Dayenu: What is enough? White people confronting racism and privilege.

April 16, 2018 2 Comments

At Passover, there is a song about being thankful for each thing we are blessed with. Dayenu means “it would have been enough.” It is a call to appreciate the small things and to recognize that they are enough. And yet, within the “enough” there is a simultaneous recognition that the first gift or step is not enough without the next one.

In a world where racism is rampant, and where the impacts are real – often deadly, even – is there an “enough” in terms of being collaborators for change? It feels like it is never enough when lives are at stake.

On the one hand, there is never enough until we have envisioned and called into being the liberated and equitable and pleasing community that allows us all to thrive. This reality requires a commitment that is bone deep. It is the kind of commitment that requires constant thinking and action to live into new ways. It is held knowing that upending racism and racist systems is something to die for.

On the other hand, each action, each change to the individual and to the system, needs to be celebrated. For that one moment, it is enough. As long as we know that a new moment emerges when more is needed, and the past action is certainly no longer enough.

What is the first step and what is the next one? For many white people striving to be collaborators, the work begins with learning and knowing and then shifting awareness, then teaching, then ultimately embodied anti-racism practice in relationship with other white people and people of color. Perhaps a move from external to internal; from pointing out the faults of others to seeing how, despite best intentions, we are each implicated in racist systems; from tight vigilance to looser living and correcting.

  • Reading books and learning by black artists and intellectuals who have created parts of the world we want Dayenu
  • Understanding the history of racism and how it got institutionalized in the US and globally Dayenu
  • Bringing a new consciousness to my actions as I walk through the world Dayenu
  • Naming racism in all-white spaces Dayenu
  • Building authentic relationship across difference Dayenu
  • Helping other white people along the journey through openness and kindness Dayenu
  • Showing up as a vulnerable person who can acknowledge my mistakes and own my racism Dayenu
  • Ongoing learning through books, workshops, conversation, community Dayenu
  • Contributing to and investing in multi-racial community at work and at home Dayenu
  • Putting my life on the line Dayenu

The work of a white ally or accomplice is never ending, to be sure. It requires a lot of effort. And yet, it should not be a slog. We are doing this for ourselves as much as for anyone else. We recognize that ending white privilege and white supremacy allows us to be full human beings as we disrupt the notion of superiority on which this country was founded.

In my work in trainings and coaching, I encourage both the ongoing effort and the need to celebrate.

Maybe this is one way to be gentle and joyful in our work for liberation – to celebrate each small step as if it were enough while also knowing that it is never enough until we are all free and that we need to want and to create more.

What does it mean to you to do equity work with both insistence and gentleness, step by step?

“Ours is not the task of fixing the entire world all at once, but of stretching out to mend the part of the world that is within our reach…  What is needed for dramatic change is an accumulation of acts, adding, adding to, adding more, continuing.”      – Clarissa Pinkola Estes

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