"To not have these conversations because they make you uncomfortable is the definition of privilege... We have to be able to choose courage over comfort and say, 'Look, I don't know if I'm going to nail this but I'll try, because what I'm sure as hell not going to do is stay quiet.' ...
You're going to learn about blind spots you didn't even know you had, and then you are going to be grateful for that moment."
Dr. Brene Brown
There has been a string of violence against black people, even during quarantine when no one is meant to leave their house. Breonna Taylor was shot while asleep in her bed. Ahmaud Arbery was shot while jogging. George Floyd was suffocated by a police officer as he called out, “I can’t breathe”. And these are the extreme cases that make the news. Know that every single day, black people are being kicked out of businesses for wearing masks. They're convicted for crimes with no evidence. They're being followed by police, called by a white person uncomfortable by their presence. Black women are being beat and dragged from their homes by officers without a warrant, at the wrong address. At the same time officers are ignoring their calls of domestic violence, not going to certain addresses "for the officers' own safety".
As white people, we need to use our privilege to stand up for injustice when we see it. Here are Seven Ways you can get involved right now to help:
- Get involved online. If you can't go to marches, the internet is the best way to show your support. Sign petitions, write your congresspeople, spread word of events, donate. If you see petitions asking for laws to be introduced, or cases to be brought against officers or employers, anyone persecuting based on race, sign it. These things do incite change. Here are some helpful links for open cases:
- Searching Change.org is a great way to start, they’re 1-click signatures once you’re registered. You can also find links to donate at some petitions.
- Resources for helping Breonna Taylor
- Reopen the case of Sandra Bland, who died in police custody
- How to donate to bail funds for protestors
- Use https://resist.bot/ to write letters to representatives, they even have templates where you just change your name and viola! Super fast and easy. Or text RESIST to 50409!
- Have open, honest conversations with your students, friends, family, and children about the necessity of equity in our country. What is equity? Equity is "measured for accounting purposes by subtracting liabilities [hardships] from the value of an asset [in this case, human lives].” It is meeting people at their needs - not equality. My favorite illustration of this:
3. Have open, honest conversations with yourself. Analyze when you have been the aggressor in a racist encounter. Have you been a white savior - getting credit for standing up for equality? Have you been dismissive of the severity of a POC's experience - "it's not that bad though" or "I mean that could happen to anyone"? Are you sitting silently while others make comments or commit actions in your presence that hurt POC? There is a sliding scale of racism - it's not that you either have Confederate flags or are a perfect ally to POC. Even well-meaning comments like "you don't act black" to your friends are harmful to self-image and racial equality. Having made a racist mistake is forgivable when you confront it and make the effort to grow and change. See the resources below in #4 for more about how you can educate yourself on what not to say or how not to react. Be an active ally - make the choice to grow, learn, change, and LISTEN, always use empathy.
4. Read literature by people of color (POC), non-fiction and fiction. Start a book club; join one online. Read to your kids. Let your friends borrow your books. Below are resources based on lists created by Sarah Sophie Flicker and Alyssa Klein, with additions from myself:
When They See Us
If Beale Street Could Talk
The Hate U Give
I am Not Your Negro
The play “Fences” by August Wilson
The play “A Raisin in the Sun” by Lorraine Hansberry
A History of White People by Nell Painter
Ain’t I A Woman by bell hooks
Heavy: An American Memoir by Kiese Laymon
How To Be AntiRacist by Ibram X. Kendi
Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson
So You Want To Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo
The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison
The Fire Next Time by James Baldwin
Stamped From the Beginning by Ibram X. Kendi
White Fragility: Why Is It So Hard for White People to Talk About Race by Robin Diangelo, PhD
1619 by the NYT
Code Switch by NPR
The Diversity Gap
Intersectionality Matters! by Kimberly Crenshaw
Pod For The Cause by Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights
5. White people: we need to have a policy (ideally upheld within our police forces) and in our actions that denies the opportunity for violence against people of color. Active bystanders are the future of change. Walking back from the bar and see a cop outside? Just keep your eyes peeled that the group of black women gets past them safe. Sitting on your balcony at home and see a lone black woman at the bus stop? Just keep an eye that no one messes with her. In any of these situations all you have to do as a white person is say "hey, what's new? Haven't seen you in forever!" And start a fresh conversation with a positive tone. I don’t mean this to sound “too easy”, or demeaning or coming across as a white savior. I can’t promise that will always work, but in my experience it is better to try. I think this should be the default for looking out for each other, regardless, just like women in an empty parking lot look out for each other.
6. Calling out racist behavior for what it is may not always work, but being a positive light in a situation will make the racists look like fools and back down. If someone makes a racist joke, ask “Can you explain why that one was funny?” They won’t know how to respond. If they get defensive, smile complacently. They got the message. Some people can’t be rationed with, but you never know who is listening. Be the example and show them what you believe is right through your actions.
7. Be an open ear for people of color: listen! Why do they feel that way? As human beings, we have no right at any time to tell someone else they aren't feeling what they are. Oppression is very, very alive in this country. There has only been 50 years of "equality" since the end of segregation, and 300 years of bondage through slavery before that. Keep perspective and learn, use empathy.
Racist attitudes will not die easily. We have a lot of work to do, but we CAN do it. White people, use your privilege to disrupt the systemic oppression -that is how we ultimately dismantle it. Be an ally, be a supporter. Take a back seat and do what you can for your community to grow and do better for people of color.