‘Dear White Women’: The Public Classroom of Rachel Cargle

Recently Ms. Cargle explained why good intentions don’t negate a harmful impact. Instead she said, “you apologize, acknowledge the pain you caused and exist more carefully and intentionally.”

“I value the millions of people coming to hear my voice, I just hope that people recognize that I and other anti-racism activists whose numbers are also continuing to grow are not performing,” she said.

“I’m deeply invested in the ability to be my dynamic self and not just one who’s surviving white supremacy,” Ms. Cargle said, and she does so by sharing, albeit cautiously, relatable snippets of her personal life — her dog Ivy, charcuterie boards, books. She also makes a conscious effort to remind her followers, “you’re actually my readers and you’re actually my students and you’re actually a part of a conversation and this is a space where we’re learning.”

When asked how she makes sense of her unconventional career path, teaching and lecturing outside the academy and via social media, Ms. Cargle said, “the two greatest gifts that my mother ever gave me was curiosity and my love of reading.” In between soccer practice and Girl Scout meetings in Green, Ohio, in a childhood she described as “very good and pretty lovely,” it’s fairly easy to connect the dots to her current race-related work. She spent hours poring through encyclopedias and reading whatever her mother had lying around the house, like Maya Angelou and Sister Souljah. “I always considered being either a teacher or a lawyer,” she said.

“We lived in Section 8 housing inside of a very rich suburb,” she said, which made her hyper-aware of the social and economic differences between her white classmates and herself. Despite getting the same grades and participating in the same after-school activities it became clear, she said, that “there’s something about us that’s different but there’s nothing about me that makes me less worthy.”

This chasm only became more stark in middle school.

One of Ms. Cargle’s earliest memories of race was in the sixth grade. She was told by her crush, who was white, that they’d never be a couple because she was black. Though she laughs now about the innocence of a first crush, the sting still lingers.



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