racism is alive and well
And it’s time to do something about it.
W H A T W E C A N D O . . .
So many enlightening articles and discussions have already come out of this really frightening time. Don’t act so shocked that these things are happening. The only reason you’re shocked is because you’ve had the privilege to escape the injustices that others have to face every day.
Don’t hide from things that make you uncomfortable or that you feel you know nothing about. Instead, read up. Listen to podcasts. Ask friends. Ignorance is never defense, especially not when you have all the resources in the world, including the internet. Here’s some of the best journalism I’ve found thus far surrounding the white supremacist domestic terrorists who marched Charlottesville (please let me know if you have any to add!) :
VICE News’ Charlottesville: Race and Terror
Find your local solidarity marches and events here
Ijeoma Oluo’s So You Want to Fight White Supremacy
Karen Finney’s I’m black. Robert E. Lee is my ancestor. His status can’t come down soon enough
Ijeoma Oluo’s White People: I Don’t Want You To Understand Me Better, I Want You To Understand Yourselves.
Josh Bryan’s Charlotesville Was My Fault (a few typos, but good to see a fellow Georgian speaking up)
Ijeoma Oluo’s Welcome To The Anti-Racism Movement—Here’s What You’ve Missed
Ijeoma Oluo’s White People Will Always Let You Down
(Ijeoma is a beautiful writer and truth teller and honestly you should just read all of her pieces)
Call each other out + have real discussions.
With friends, family members, and coworkers. No more banal racism – jokes or otherwise. No more shameful prejudices, avoiding certain parts of town, and being blind to the way that white culture blatantly appropriates and excludes so many other meaningful, beautiful, human cultures.
Dear friends and family and other people of the internet: you shouldn’t have to do this, but please, if I ever do anything that you think is racist or sexist or prejudiced or discriminatory, call me out on it. Please help me be more aware of your thoughts and feelings. I want to avoid ever being that way and I want to make amends and check and fix myself.
Consider our media consumption.
How many people of color, minorities, LGBTQ characters, and women take leading roles in the shows you watch and the books you read? Are all of your friends with and favorite people to stalk on Instagram white? How about trying out a different church or community sports league to meet some new people?
Take a gander at the amazing Instagram + Twitter accounts of: Yaminah Mayo, Issa Rae, Zendaya, Yara Shahidi, Hari Nef, Solange, Beyoncé, Rihanna, John Boyega, Jay Ellis, Aziz Ansari, Alan Yang, and Kumail Nanjiani. To name just a few people that I personally think are the most amazing on social media. Are you following any of them?
And maybe it’s time to stop telling everyone that Game of Thrones is the best show ever created and watch Insecure, which is actually one of the best shows on television. Dear White People is also great, such a fun but also extremely important watch.
Transparent. Master of None. Moonlight – it won best picture this year. Have you seen it? If you haven’t seen the full Lemonade film, it’s never too late to join the BeyHive. And the Moonlight short film will also only take you seven and a half minutes to watch. I think you can handle that. Even Princess and the Frog – I know far too many Disney fanatics who have seen every single princess movie except for this one. Really now?
Give our money.
This short list of donation-worthy organizations Tavis and I created after we discovered Hillary Clinton would not be our president is a good start… but please share more with me and others! I’ll edit this post and keep adding to the list.
The Anti-Defamation League
Boys & Girls Clubs of America
Center for Reproductive Rights
Council on American-Islamic Relations
League of Women Voters
NAACP Legal Defense Fund
She Should Run
Southern Poverty Law Center
The United State of Women
+ Any other publication or group highlighting diverse voices!
Also, when you can, stop throwing your money at large retailers who may use wage slaves to create the trendy products you’ll use for one month and then toss. Instead, spend your money at businesses owned by people of color, immigrants, LGBTQ people, women, and other diverse groups that you know will use their profits to benefit these communities. Economic power goes hand in hand with social power. Even buying at thrift stores like Goodwill and Salvation Army, who provide jobs for those in need (but also has a tricky past with some "faith-based" discrimination issues, so be careful), is better than buying from Forever 21. And this applies to more than just clothing.
Give our time.
Take this time to make your community better overall. See what fundraisers, charity events, and vigils your local faith groups have planned. Become more politically involved. Go door to door chatting with people about worthy candidates committed to fighting racism, sexism, homophobia, and other systematic discrimination. Track the upcoming rallies of these domestic terrorists (no, they are sadly not done) and attend a counter-protest. BE CAREFUL if you do. Research, plan carefully, wear comfortable shoes, take water and snacks, and make sure your phone is fully charged. If you can avoid it, don’t go alone. There’s strength in friendships.
W H Y W E S H O U L D D O I T . . .
It shouldn’t have taken me this long to put my feelings about Charlottesville into words. Shock at the fact that seemingly nothing has changed in our world since this 1943 video warning people about the dangers of fascist rhetoric. But really, more disappointment than shock, because I knew that this shit existed already. At least on a banal level, which can always lead to worse, more extreme movements. I knew this because I am an American, and if we all dig deep enough, we all know that this shit has always existed.
I grew up in an affluent white bubble outside of Atlanta where historic plantation homes still charge people money to take a tours promising you “the previous owners of this house were nice to their slaves” and too many people I knew from church would make racist and sexist jokes behind closed doors – or sometimes out in the open, if they were feeling drunk or bold enough.
I attended college in Athens, Georgia – a town that is a rare blue spot on the map of Georgia’s political landscape, and yet the downtown bars and Greek life scene are still openly, wildly discriminatory.
And what have I done to fix it? I spent a lot of my life hating being one of the only Democrats I knew, learned to keep my mouth shut about politics until I graduated from high school because I was so far outnumbered, and as soon as I graduated from college, I ran away to a sunny liberal paradise that made my privileged white life even easier.
When my parents told me I was too young to attend Black Lives Matter marches in Atlanta, why did I listen to them? Why has it taken me until now to donate more of my money to the Southern Poverty Law Center, Anti-Defamation League, and other important organizations fighting de facto and de jure insanity? Why have I never before become a member of the NAACP, which only costs $30 for an entire year? I may be almost broke at the moment but I can definitely skip a freaking brunch or two to donate towards fighting racial injustice that has been engrained in this country’s history since day one and really just needs to stop right here right now.
Why haven’t I talked to my family members more about this? I’m very lucky and grateful to have grown up in a liberal, academic family who regularly discussed history, world affairs, and the news at the dinner table. But we are just as guilty as all the other white people who were wildly passionate about the women’s march and then feel a little more unsure about what to do and say when race comes up, because of the way we look. Because of being afraid to step on any toes or to presume that we understand the experiences of others. We can’t be silent anymore.
Because white silence is just as bad as violence. As one of my favorite blogger-Instagrammers, Yaminah Mayo, has pointed out recently in her powerfully truthful Instagram stories, white people created this shit and it’s our job to fix it. Why should men and women of color always be on the front lines fighting so hard to promote love and peace and justice when this country was and is basically built to keep them from easily achieving the same level of success and comfort as white people?
Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. So many innocent people of color in this country have not even been allowed their full rights to live. Their lives are cut short by fear, prejudice, and a sloppy justice system that mass-incarcerates them and shoots them – for crimes that young white men and women would barely be slapped on the wrist for. And all too often, they are killed for no reason at all.
I could go on for ages but in the grand scheme of things, it’s not going to do much for me to keep writing an essay about how privileged I am and how I’m determined to be better from now on and use my privilege to benefit others and this country as a whole.
Now is the time to get to work. Let’s donate, let’s organize, let’s speak out and stand up. Sometimes that isn’t a grand, big act; a lot of times the biggest ripples come from small acts like telling the people you love that what they think or say about their fellow humans is not okay.
As always, please let me know what I’m leaving out and what other ways we should all be working together to spread love and peace and justice and put this hatred to rest.
And don’t forget to love your neighbors as yourself today and every day.