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A 12-Step Approach to Anti-Racism for White People

Jodi Barnes, PhD
8 min readJun 8, 2020


Shawshank Redemption beckons us; the Big Book gives us a path

“And if youve come this far, maybe you’re willing to come a little further.”

That one line Andy writes to Red at the end of Shawshank has a lot of resonance for me, right now, as a white person.

That line is my hope for many white people who now appear to acknowledge that racism is real, that Black Lives Matter, that we are all part of what happened to George Floyd and countless others since 1619.

Are we finally willing to come a little further, closer to accepting that these atrocities have to do with us? Because it’s our responsibility to dismantle structural racism. The racism that is really, truly, built into our institutions.

It’s us. We the People comprise these institutions. We keep them running. We can change them.

But, hope is never enough. Positive thoughts, prayers and worry — praying for what you don’t want to happen — are not enough. Hashtags and signs are not enough.

The hardest, most necessary, work is facing ourselves.

So, if you’ve gotten as far as Step 1: Admitting you and I are part of the problem of racism, take a moment to rejoice in your awareness.

I mean it.

Now, if you’re willing to go a bit further, here is why you should:

  • A deeper understanding (and relief) that anti-racism is not about white guilt. It’s about putting our feelings aside to learn more about ourselves, others, and our systems through listening and helping.
  • Significant growth as a human being.
  • Being told “no,” that in fact, you don’t understand.
  • A recognition (and sadness, anger?) that all you’ve been told and assumed is not true.
  • New relationships with awesome people who will challenge you.
  • New relationships with people you don’t find personally awesome but you get over yourself to do the necessary work.



Jodi Barnes, PhD

Writer and Collaborator-in-Chief of where small acts of writing, art and conversation create multicultural connections for good.