Protests over the police killing of George Floyd have inspired public awareness about systemic racial inequality — and it's a moment of hope according to David Campt. The North Carolina public speaker and author is the founder of the White Ally Toolkit and has spent the last 25 years coaching white people on how to improve communication skills to combat racism. 

He tells WFDD's David Ford that raising the collective consciousness happens one conversation at a time. 

Interview Highlights

On the importance of this moment in history:

The fact that you now have these protests which are filled with a lot of white people who are coming out for the first time — both in their own lives, and in the first time in history you have these protests that are populated specifically with white people — that is a sign of progress. So, we can all feel happy about that. So, pointing to that fact around the protests is something that is an example of the progress we have seen. And we need to learn how to talk about it. To people who don't think racism is real, we need to learn how to talk about progress, because that helps people relax and helps people say, “Yes, the glass is not completely empty. There's some water in it.” We can talk about how much there is. So, that's important to do strategically. And analytically, it's important to recognize that we're having a shift in the culture where more and more white people are saying, “You know, this racism problem is not just those other people's problem. It's everybody's problem.” And so we're watching that shift happen. And my goal with the White Ally Toolkit is to give people the conversational tools to help bring that new awareness, to make it more popular, and to make people less divided about it. 

On things to keep in mind before initiating conversations about race:

David Campt speaks at book signing event. Photo credit: Ivan Saul Cutler.

One of the things that we also have to recognize is — more so than people of color — white people are taught as a general matter that talking about race is a problem. So, on some level we need to turn racism from being like a moral capital crime to like a second degree misdemeanor, because as long as we have it as a capital crime, then nobody's going to admit it, and thus it's harder to have a conversation about whether this is a pervasive phenomenon that affects a lot of different people a lot of different ways. And one could argue that this is one of the ways that racism stays in place. I think it was Toni Morrison that said, “Part of the way that racism continues to function is because of denial. Denial is built in it, and that helps us not eradicate it.” That means that for a white person who thinks that racism is a problem, they've got to figure out a way to get other white people past that taboo about talking about it. They have to be strategic and smart and they have to approach the task in a way that is inviting and not accusatory from the very beginning, since you're having people do something that is against the cultural norm.

On how the White Ally Toolkit programs work:

Because of COVID and not traveling, now I'm doing online courses. And the truth is, I think I and the participants get a lot more out of them. I'd like to think of myself as a good public presenter. I enjoy the workshops live. I create a lot of laughter and fun. And I try to encourage white allies as opposed to beat them up. And some people experience that as very different than the way a lot of race work is done. But when you do a one-time workshop — even though it's an all-day workshop — you can't coach people over time. What's great about the online courses is they typically meet once every two weeks. There's homework, all a learning platform that you do in between. And most of the homework is actually having conversations based around best practices in communication with other people. So, you get instruction on how to have a conversation and then you go have it. And then people report on what happens. And the learning that happens with people is much greater. They're better able to take up those skills and really get coaching. They turn in homework. Me and my team give them feedback on it. So, the skills transfer is much greater and the satisfaction I get is much greater. 

EDITOR'S NOTE: This transcript was lightly edited for clarity.


300x250 Ad

300x250 Ad

Support quality journalism, like the story above, with your gift right now.