I have tried multiple times over the last 5 years to write something regarding race for this blog, and I always failed to write something that I thought was worth publishing. My goal was to write a sort of open letter to family members or old friends who opposed or did not understand the Black Lives Matter movement and help them to see that yes, racism still exists, and it is still a major problem, and we have to do something about it. The thing is though, I’m not an expert. I’m not a full-time activist. The world does not really need my personal opinion added to the noise. Although I may want to write an essay, here (because that I what I enjoy doing) there are other, more important ways I can actually be helping.
First, by staying informed on current events. For a while, this meant anxiously checking every couple hours to see if anything new had happened at the protests and reading thorough accounts from trustworthy news sources (rather than taking official statements of the cops at their word). But it also means understanding what is really being asked for when we chant “defund the police.” I appreciated this clip from Angela Davis regarding the movement to defund the police. https://www.democracynow.org/2020/6/12/angela_davis_historic_moment?fbclid=IwAR2vuwGVmk6LG2EpgMybEooSapQnCVVB02hkhNLpAAiDaMSEe-VAbc4vHV0
Second, by continuing the educate myself on the history of oppression and white supremacy in the US. I am not an expert, (and most of us would be deluding ourselves to think that we are), so continued learning is always needed. I have shared this list with some of my friends and family so we can continue to grow: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1BRlF2_zhNe86SGgHa6-VlBO-QgirITwCTugSfKie5Fs/mobilebasic?fbclid=IwAR1yfz9Y1x81vw1ZbLOjYRfdR-2I9fxzK4LKU51_orFZNcrjXIY37Nde3h4
Third, by listening to and amplifying black voices. In part this means sharing The NAACP’s demands https://www.naacp.org/latest/update-naacp-demands/ to decrease the use of force by law enforcement, the ACLU’s demands to end the 1033 program which funnels military equipment to law enforcement agencies, and end the COPS grants that puts excessive numbers of enforcement officers in the community, and to divest from the police and instead reinvest in the black and brown communities which are disproportionately affected. It also means listening to black people when they share their experiences. This video by Kimberly Jones is passionate and heart-breaking: https://youtu.be/llci8MVh8J4
Fourth, by speaking up when hearing racist comments. This means having individual conversations with those family members and acquaintances, slowly, over time. 1, 2, and 3 come into play here, as well, in order to actually reach people and have a discussion, rather than simply cutting off people or yelling at them. I think it is important to remember that, as someone with white privilege, it is my job to confront white supremacy in all it’s forms.
Fifth, by signing petitions; contacting my mayor, senators, and representatives by mail, phone and email; donating water, food and other necessities to the protests, or money to freedom funds and other organizations such as the ACLU; and by attending protests (wearing a mask, of course.)
Sixth, by supporting black-owned businesses and black artists. For me, this has meant checking out black restaurants (Joe and I have been getting take-out once a week anyway since COVID-19 shutdowns started, and there are some fabulous food joints out there that we have not yet tried); actually buying that rap album I’ve been listening to on spotify; and getting my little self-care items like candles and candies from local black businesses. This list has been a starting point for me in Milwaukee: https://milwaukeemom.com/around-milwaukee/guides-to-milwaukee/milwaukee-black-owned-businesses/
Seventh, by remembering that I can always do better, and if I am ever called out on my privilege or blind spots as it relates to race, to apologize, grow, and keep working for change.
image credit from Ben and Jerry’s
I used an instagram post by @made_by_maddd to help structure this post