By Chris Talbot-Heindl, nonprofit laborer and born activist

The worst way that whiteness is showing up in our movement and elsewhere in the sector, from my purview, is and always has been white folks retaliating against People of the Global Majority speaking truth to power. Most recently, it’s shown up as retribution for speaking out in support of Palestine.

(Read Part 1: “Do something about her,” and Part 2: “Stop using that word.”)

Before I launch into part three, I want to share what I mean when I say “in community” because it occurs to me some folks may not know what I mean. When I say “in community,” I don’t mean “in a community” (aka a group of people in close proximity or with a singular characteristic in common – in this case, folks who fundraise), and am continually missing an article like auto-correct keeps suggesting. 

Being in community requires stepping outside of or unlearning the Western indoctrination of individualism. It takes a praxis of community care and requires intentionality most of us don’t experience in our day-to-day life, at work, and most definitely not in our virtual interactions because intentionality and radical care require white-supremacist, colonial, Western, capitalist, competitive individualism to be decolonized and dismantled.

As bell hooks wrote in Teaching Community: A Pedagogy of Hope, “To build community requires vigilant awareness of the work we must continually do to undermine all the socialization that leads us to behave in ways that perpetuate domination.”  

For CCF members to be in true community with one another in this movement, we must collectively agree to leave our competitiveness, domination, and collusion – as well as self-chastizing ways, like shame and embarrassment – at the door. And we must be open to hearing, without judgment, the perspectives of others and steward those sharings and each other with care.

This is pretty much the opposite of what’s been happening in online interactions and in our collective organizations when it comes to People of the Global Majority speaking out against the genocide in Palestine.

Retribution for speaking out in support of Palestine

The worst way that whiteness is showing up in our movement and elsewhere in the sector, from my purview, is and always has been white folks retaliating against People of the Global Majority speaking truth to power. Most recently, it’s shown up as retribution for speaking out in support of Palestine.

These white folks are the same ones that, for the past three-plus years (at least), used their ignorance on racial and world issues as a shield from accountability. They are now telling folks that their advocacy for Palestinians and against Zionist violence is antisemitic, and in some cases, using their out-sized power to publicly berate, censure, demote, and fire them.

In the CCF community, this showed up as a white woman I’ll call Kimber (not her real name) emailing me to tell me she wouldn’t be supporting CCF – a global community centering BIPOC fundraisers and nonprofit workers – because she believed one member of color’s shared (balanced and community-based) perspective was “offensive.” 

(Because I’m nosy, and she mentioned this member’s “failure to respond to the commentary that followed,” I visited the post she referenced to read her “commentary.” As you’ve probably guessed, the “commentary” she provided was not something one would respond to; it was just unfounded accusations. It should also be noted that a lot of the other “commentary” was also a dumpster fire, and everyone who participated should investigate how they showed up at that moment and if that’s what being in community looks like for them.) 

UPDATE: After the second part of this series of essays came out, Kimber emailed me, performing the typical white woman playbook that members of the Global Majority are all too familiar with: 

Step 1: Thank you for speaking up. I’m still learning. In this case, I appreciated it and continue to struggle to hear voices and views that stretch me. 

Step 2: I hope that wasn’t me you were speaking about. Here are paragraphs of why it couldn’t be. In this case, [Two paragraphs of how she couldn’t believe this Kimber lady.] I recognize I may be completely off base and, in fact, not the Kimber you’re talking about. But I did want to reach out in case I am. That’s a horrific comment attributed to ‘Kimber.’ 

Step 3: Our measured response (if we choose to make one). I responded to Kimber that I was glad she found my article helpful and that she was looking closer and doing her work, and invited her to follow the advice in the article and discuss her journey and feelings with white colleagues who were farther in their justice and equity work (rather than email me). I then explained what I meant by what I wrote and how emailing me and calling me in to answer for a misreading of what I wrote diverted from harm caused. 

Step 4: How dare you! You have a lot to learn, actually. Immediately, Kimber’s tone changed, and Kimber began to lecture me and accuse me of being dishonest. Honesty is not a technicality. Perhaps you could do some further learning on that

This is the white woman’s playbook when confronted with behavior that is holding back the community and putting additional (and wholly unnecessary) labor on People of the Global Majority working toward liberation. It’s tiring, but more importantly, it’s diverting. And it’s the exact work y’all need to be doing with each other and not taking our time with. 

Back to the original essay:

Withholding wealth and unnecessary messages have been the lightest of the retributions enacted against people taking a stand against this genocide that I’ve seen. So, in that way, CCF has been relatively safe for people to speak their minds (the bar is in the ground and halfway to the earth’s core, though, so let’s not pat ourselves on the back just yet). 

What I haven’t seen many white members of the CCF community do is explicitly state their support for people – especially Palestinians and Jewish folks – speaking truth to power, their intent to hold space for people who are hurting right now, or their commitment to protect or support the People of the Global Majority who have been experiencing retribution in their day jobs and lives. People like me. Here’s my story:

At one of my workplaces, I received an anonymous email requesting that my organization condemn Hamas. I drafted a measured statement to share with the team and asked for edits and thoughts. The statement included how our hearts go out to everyone lost during Hamas’s attack, the families who are mourning, and those who were traumatized by the attack, including Israelis and folks in the Jewish diaspora who may see themselves as the target of this violence.

I also wrote about the collective punishment and human rights violations enacted in retaliation. I said our hearts go out to everyone lost, the families who are mourning, those who have lived a life of trauma while trapped in the Gaza Strip, all the Palestinians still under attack, as well as the folks in the Arab, Jewish, Black, Latine, and Indigenous diasporas who may be traumatized and see their own peoples’ struggles for freedom in the violence being enacted against the Palestinian people.

I went on to say that at this organization, we had staff who are both Jewish and Indigenous, who are descendants of survivors of violent genocide, and that we believed that “never again” means never again for anyone. The letter went on to talk about how communication and rhetoric mattered and how the language of the Defense Minister of Israel was troubling for folks who had survived attempted genocide, and that we were calling for a ceasefire, among other things. 

This did not go over well.

A white Jewish coworker started bastardizing the equity language I had taught the group, weaponizing it to paint me as an oppressor and to call into question my equity knowledge and my ability to teach justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion (JEDI) principles.

I took complete responsibility for the way in which I presented the letter and the harm it caused, recognizing that coming to the group with a draft rather than starting with if people had the capacity to discuss the atrocities we were witnessing or if they needed support at the moment, and that drafting a response together would have been more appropriate. I explained how I understood that it needled trauma and caused pain. I explained what I learned and how I would do things differently in the future to ensure that I wouldn’t cause the same harm again. Basically, I modeled how to take true accountability. 

I chose to share how his reaction and the silence of the other white people were also harmful to me.

This also did not go over well.

He accused me of not tending to the harm and instead centering myself. I asked him how he would like the harm I caused to be tended beyond the accountability I took. He said that he wanted to hear me say that I was wrong in supporting Palestine, calling what was happening a genocide, and other things within the letter he disagreed with. I carefully and gently explained that I took accountability for the harm I caused while bringing the draft to the team, but I would not walk back the contents.

This also did not go over well.

This was met with increasing agitation, which devolved into him accusing me of lacking empathy and trying to get the rest of the team (who remained silent during all this) to doubt my ability and competency as an equity leader, all while misusing equity words. Sometimes, after years of educating white folks in JEDI, we only end up arming people with privilege with tools to further oppress. And that’s something I don’t know how to solve.

At a later meeting, the team decided to discuss whether to make a statement, and he said the quiet part out loud: If we made a statement like the one I wrote, he and people like him might be hurt. If we made a statement he would make, People of the Global Majority (including myself and a co-worker) would be hurt. I added that if we didn’t make a statement at all, People of the Global Majority would endure the pain of the genocide and our tax dollars paying for it without support – which would also be harmful. 

His conclusion was, naturally, we shouldn’t say anything at all. And the rest of the white team agreed over the protestations of the two of us from the Global Majority. (When I brought the harm in this up during a meeting, I was gaslit and shut down by him immediately.)

The end result of all of these meetings is that we won’t be making a statement. I will also need to step away from my role as the chairperson of the JEDI Committee. I will no longer lead the continuing education of the organization – a position I picked up because this organization so harmed me in the past that I felt I had to do the extra work and emotional labor for my own well-being.

Whiteness is feeling comfortable and entitled to cause People of the Global Majority harm because white hurt needs to be ameliorated immediately, and BIPOC hurt is a given. Whiteness is standing “neutral” or saying “it’s too complicated to get involved” in situations of injustice, oppression, and in the face of genocide. Whiteness is not investigating or considering the immense pain caused by knowing doing your job right now, which you do to bring net good into this world, also means funding this genocide through your taxes. Whiteness is expecting Palestinians, anti-Zionist Jews, and other People of the Global Majority to continue to show up in these spaces as if it were “business as usual.” And truly, whiteness is expecting Zionist Jews, who are also hurting, to show up rather than tending to their own traumas. 

Whiteness isn’t interested in accountability and repair. Whiteness isn’t interested in tending to harms, psychological safety for the entire group, or being truly in community. Whiteness is interested in maintaining deference, comfort, and power at the expense of others. 

Whiteness is disparaging folks after siphoning and extracting expertise and emotional labor and weaponizing and bastardizing equity terms they provided you. Whiteness is staying silent while all of this happens, effectively enabling this violence.

A lot of white folks either don’t want to speak up or don’t have enough discernment to tell who is their equity and justice thought leaders doing what they’ve always done – affirming and advocating for the rights and lives of targeted people – and who is using the (very real, not to be minimized) trauma from horrific moments in their history to silence these equity thought leaders.

How does this type of whiteness harm white people?

The better question is, how doesn’t this whiteness harm white people? 

Bastardizing and weaponizing equity language keep us perpetually languishing in white-supremacist, colonial, Western, capitalist, competitive individualism and mars the tools available to decolonize ourselves from it.

Retribution and passively or actively allowing retaliation against people speaking truth to power destroys the psychological safety needed to make transformational change – no matter what that change may be. It renders your nonprofits and their missions useless because the best you can do under those conditions is stem the worst, not imagine and actualize a better world.

All of these actions and responses destroy community.

How to restore what whiteness has done

I honestly haven’t a clue how to restore what was done in the place of work I shared. I no longer feel safe, and I do fear further retribution. It got to the point where I was experiencing physiological symptoms of continuous stress (again).

What I didn’t share with the team was that the violent reaction and unchallenged statement of pro-Zionist language as fact caused an immediate sympathetic nervous response in my body  – it happened every time I received an email, a text, or had to join a call where the people involved were present. 

It reminded me that when it comes to the right to simply exist, it is assumed for white people and needs to be earned by the rest of us. It also reminded me of every moment I’ve gone from helpful “pet” to dangerous “threat” at every white-led organization I’ve ever worked at. And how quickly punitive measures soon follow. 

In the most recent meetings, I was able to avoid having the physiological symptoms by mentally and emotionally preparing myself with affirmations, one of which has heavy fuck you energy but is necessary for me to enter the space. It’s not conducive to building meaningful community, never mind repair. I don’t know how you can heal from that place while still immersed in it. I’m not sure it’s possible. 

(I have agreed to the team’s recommendation to contract a mediator to help restore psychological safety, but I don’t anticipate it having long-lasting results. Not when one privileged team member can derail our learning, progress, and all work because they have that power, and no one will pause or disrupt his outbursts and attacks and ask for intentionality and community care. If you have a solution for restoring things when they’ve gotten to that point, please do share.)

Before it gets to that point, white folks can learn how to emotionally regulate. I don’t mean this in the white supremacist sense of the word – masking or suppressing emotion. I mean it in the community-building sense of the word – investigating the source of the anger or anxiety; discussing the feelings with a community member you trust to help you work through it; leaning in with curiosity and willingness to discuss harms with the purpose of repair in mind; not requiring BIPOC coworkers to assuage your pain while ignoring or denying their own; and not weaponizing your dysregulation.

Those who have lived a life with lesser power already have this skill set because it means temporarily subduing your immediate, automated response for the greater community. When you’ve grown up with power and obeisance as the default, it’s a skill you must learn. But you can learn it; I hope you see you need to.

Speaking of power, it’s essential in these discussions to recognize where the power lies. Is it with the unarmed populace of Palestine, or is it with the fourth largest military in the world that has subjugated the people of Palestine for 75 years and is currently carpet bombing Gaza, the internment camp they relegated Palestinians to? Is it with the colonial superpower with the ability to unilaterally veto a ceasefire, or is it with the People of the Global Majority whose votes regarding a ceasefire are nullified? Is it with the people allowed to dysregulate and weaponize their feelings in a meeting, or is it with people who experience tirades, censures, demotions, and firings for simply speaking up? Is it with an occupational force one of the world’s superpowers funds at a rate of $3.8 billion annually and is considering adding $14.3 billion, or is it with the people who are begging for water, food, and medical supplies and having that humanitarian aid blown up or blocked by that same occupying force? Is it with People of the Global Majority being arrested for protesting in the streets, or with the ideology that mostly white representatives are protecting by declaring any protest in opposition to it to be antisemitism? 

Regardless of whether you still trust and believe the BIPOC individuals who gave y’all continual education in equity for the last three-plus years, these power differentials are blatant and need to be examined. Oppression requires institutional power to work. And noticing power differentials helps you not misappropriate the harm you experience as oppression.

White folks can also learn how to disrupt harm as it’s happening rather than allow people with privilege to continually shut down, disparage, and fire People of the Global Majority. There are countless teachings on how to call out and call in. You just need to care enough about the community and the well-being of its members to learn and utilize them.

My spirit is here in this movement to soar, not labor under the boot of whiteness – where I’ve spent the first 22 years of my nonprofit career and where I’m trying to escape right now. 

People of the Global Majority: know that I am with you, I am here for you, and if you ever want to speak up and speak out, I’m here to listen and support you. Despite everything I’ve experienced, I do believe that we can and will build a better world together.

White folks: If you’re still with me after post three, I’m going to need you to call in and bring your people along. I need you to do this outside the lens of whiteness and bring people in with compassion and grace. After 41 years of continuously laboring for all the white folks in my life, I’m too tired to do it for privileged folks who claim to be values-aligned but are consistently weaponizing their dysregulation towards me while I emotionally regulate to make space for them. 

We need someone to bring them into true community. Let that person be you.

Chris Talbot-Heindl

Chris Talbot-Heindl

Chris Talbot-Heindl (they/them) is a queer, trans nonbinary, triracial artist and nonprofit employee. When they aren’t working the day job, they spend their free time editing art and literature magazines, writing and illustrating educomics to help folks affirm their nonbinary pals, creating a graphic novel to describe what it’s like to be nonbinary in a gender binary world, cuddling their cat, and quad skating in the park. You can find Chris at, on LinkedIn, and Twitter — and tip them on Venmo or PayPal or join as a patron on their Patreon.