**Over the last few days, two stories have been reported that highlight racism in American, including the unlawful and horrific murdering of George Floyd in Minneapolis. On all of my social media accounts, White people are questioning why and how, and I felt like now was a good time to remind my fellow White people that this has been happening for centuries, and there are things we can do besides just post about our sadness. We have to do the work of dismantling racism in America. I am not perfect in this work, nor do I want kuddos for trying, but below are things that I have done, have tried to do, and still need to do, from now and until I leave this Earth. So, if you are upset about another Black person being killed by police or the audacity of a White woman to use fear to cover up her racism, here are so my suggestions of what you can do:
Educate Yourself. This does not mean go to you Black friend and ask them to help you understand what is going on. This does not mean hopping into the comments section of Black activists and asking them to help you navigate your feelings. Go to Google, put in the search terms, and start reading. There is a ton of stuff out there. Read books, watch movies, take virtual lectures. And don’t assume just because you read one book you are good. I admit that I do this sometimes, but unraveling our whiteness and being allies is a constant process. So, start learning and don’t stop.
Here is a great collection of resources that I plan to work through, but a couple of recommendations I highly suggest are “Me and White Supremacy: Combat Racism, Change the World, and Become a Good Ancestor” by Layla F. Saad and “White Fragility: Why it’s so Hard for White People to Talk about Racism” by Robin DiAngelo
Additionally, learn about the Black men and women who are dying. Hear their stories. These are people. Their lives deserve to be remembered.
Pay for your Education and Support Black Activists. There are a lot of great free resources out there on social media, but behind many of those accounts are people of color who spending hours putting together that content. Pay them. Find their Cash App, Venmo, or Patreon, and send them what you can. You can also make donations to organizations that specifically support and hold up people from marginalized and historically oppressed communities, but you can also send money to an activists who are having a hard time getting groceries because the work they do pays so very little. Only recently have I started making donations to groups when these stories hit, and I am angered. Here are two I’ve recently donated, and I happy to provide others for your consideration:
The Loveland Foundation– to help fund therapy for Black women and girls.
Listen more than talk. When these events happen, as they do every day, before you go posting, listen. Take the time to visit reputable news sites and social media accounts of activists and take in their perspectives before you go off sprouting your own. You are not absorbing the weight of a situation if you need to react first. If you feel the need to intervene with a comment or question during your education, ask yourself why. Are you trying to make this about your or genuinely curious? Also, is your comment cloaked in white fragility? If so, work on that first.
Find the actionable items and do it. All activism comes with action items.
Stop Sharing the Videos. Akilah Hughes had an extremely moving speech in this morning’s What A Day Podcast about how traumatizing it is to Black people to be bombarded with these horrific videos of murder. We do not do this for white deaths. Stop sharing the videos. Do not watch them. Even if they are in a news clip. Skip over that piece of the report, and maybe @ the news organization that these videos are unnecessary to the reporting. It is inhumane, and we can be just as outraged without having to watch the video or hear a recording of the sound. Speaking of videos,
Remember that this has been happening for a loooooooong time. Don’t think that just because we see videos around that racism is new or these acts are unprecedented. The video cameras are new. That’s it.
Don’t expect a gold star or a pat on the back. Just because you read a book or shared a resource, you are not entitled to any kind of applause, so don’t expect it. You are doing the work. Black people are dying. Your efforts here are not notable, but you definitely need to be doing them. As Layla Saad says, this is the bare minimum of work you should be doing to be a good ancestor. Also, if you are going to share stuff on social media, make for damn sure it is not about the likes.
Even as I write this, I have had to hold the back to the urge to tell you all about the things I have done. I want you to know this because I am insecure and what to be known for doing the work. That is not helpful. I need to get over myself, because I am not at the center of this.
Stop being worried about making a mistake or being called a racist. White people are so scared about being labeled a racist that they are quick to point that they are not one, or they just don’t say anything. And know, if you do the work, and you should, you will make a mistake. That’s part of the process. You are not allowed to cry about that mistake and ask a Black person to comfort you and remind you that you are not a racist. Rather, if a Black person calls you out on your actions or words, listen to what they have to say, reflect on it, talk to your White friends about what you did, and learn from it so you don’t do it again. Now, if a White person comes at you about reverse racism, whatever. That’s not a thing. Or, how they were breaking the law, blah, blah. None of these acts deserve death as a punishment. None of them.
Talk about this with your communities. This part is hard. We don’t like to call our families or friends or acquaintances out for their racism. We just ignore it and move on. Oh, how many times I’ve done that. But, just because we don’t do anything, it doesn’t mean nothing happens. Instead, this kind of behavior is allowed to linger and be present. It can fester and lead to things like a woman believing she has the right to make up a story about a Black man threatening her because he had the audacity to tell her to follow the rules and leash up her dog. We have to talk to our White communities. And not just once. Over and over. It’s hard but not so much as dying because you are Black.
Get comfortable with being uncomfortable. This work of dismantling racism and acknowledging our own white privilege and biases is uncomfortable. But, your small discomfort is not more than the trauma Black Americans experience every day. Get over it.
Utilize your voice. This list is a great start. Use Google to find others.
Please know that this list is not exhaustive, nor perfect, and I welcome any additional suggestions and resources. White friends, we can no longer just be outraged. We must do the work.
**This post has been updated to include the capitalization of Black and White. A reader sent me this article about capitalization of Black, and after some research and consideration, I decided to follow suit.
One thought on “White People, Do the Work”
This is so needed. I have a husband and two son’s and I’m scared every time that they leave the house. And I thank you for this post so much.