Before I get started with discussing this very complicated topic, I want to encourage you all to share your thoughts, opinions and feelings in the comments. There has been so much pain recently and everyone needs to process it. Please feel welcome to discuss these issues below.
With the recent killings, protests, and riots I've felt myself falling into a feeling of uselessness. I want to show my support for the Black Lives Matter movement, make change in my city and across the country, and be as much of an ally and advocate as I can. Seeing many of your reactions I can tell that you do too. Now, I don’t know that I’m the right person to write about this issue. As a white person, I will never be able to fully grasp the effects of racism nor understand what it is like to live as a Black person in America, but I will always stand with the Black Lives Matter movement, with my neighbors and friends, and I will always do my best to strive to fight for justice and equality.
The protests in memory of George Floyd are very important. They exist not only to demand justice for him, but also to demand justice for the countless others who have been killed at the hands of police, and to demand reform for the policing system in America. Murders by police like the one of George Floyd are so frequent. Since the beginning of African presence in America, so much pain that has been inflicted on this community. The kind of oppression that is faced today is a continuation of the systematic devaluing of Black lives, and the criminalization of simply being a person of color. First it was slavery, then Black codes and sharecropping, Jim Crow, and now, mass incarceration and still the ever-present police brutality.
I’m sure some of you have seen the image going around of just a few of the names of Black people that have been killed by both police, and citizens. I’m including this image because I think it is important to remember and say their names. We have to keep these victims’ memories alive.
There have been so many meaningful, beautiful peaceful protests across the country, and it’s been really hard for me that due to illness in my family, I haven’t been able to go. Seeing your comments, I noticed that many of you were unable to go as well because of Covid-19. The day of the first protest, I broke down crying because George Floyd’s murder was so horrible, it happens so often, and I felt so powerless. I’m mad at myself that I’ve done too little to help fight for racial and social justice, and disappointed that it has taken a moment like this to try to fully get involved. I know that I've inherently been part of the problem. But white guilt is completely useless if it’s not put to good work.
One of the crucial steps to addressing racism is discussion. Those of us who are white need to take the time to talk about the elements of racism in our society. We need to talk about it because racism in America is a problem caused by white people. It’s so important to have an open conversation with each other about the privileges and inherent biases that we hold. These biases towards people of color are ingrained in us (sometimes subtly and sometimes not) by the white supremacist culture that we live in. In order to make change, the white community as a whole needs to stand up and take accountability for the actions, thoughts, or comments that we or others have made which contribute to this toxic environment. Through conscious self-reflection, self-awareness, and discussion, white people can begin to fight racism by making antiracist choices.
But what does it mean to be antiracist? “The term “antiracist” refers to people who are actively seeking not only to raise their consciousness about race and racism, but also to take action when they see racial power inequities in everyday life.” (Racial Healing Handbook) What is important to note about this definition, is that it is different from “not racist.” In his book, How to Be an Antiracist, Ibram Kendi draws a distinction between these two terms, reminding that those who we now view as racist have always identified as “not racist”. He says that choices, actions, policies, etc. are racist, but not people. We have to decide to make antiracist choices, otherwise, as Angela Davis comments in her article from the Smithsonian called Being Antiracist, we are upholding white supremacy.
I really suggest taking time to look through the aforementioned handbook and article. There are steps laid out that white people need to take as they make the journey towards being actively antiracist. Like I discussed earlier, it’s so crucial to first and foremost acknowledge privilege and take responsibility for the ways that you have benefited from our white supremacist culture. Also, educate yourself about racial justice. Because white people haven’t had the experience of being a person of color in America, we don’t fully understand the multifaceted effects of racism. Read about it, watch TED talks and videos, and listen.
I want to give you all a list of resources that you can investigate, so that you can help in a way that is meaningful to you. There are so many organizations that are working to help end discrimination, both in the courts and judicial system, as well as within communities with police.
But before I get into those organizations, I know many of you are neither able to donate, nor sign petitions, so here’s some advice. Your role in making change right now should be to get a good education, both across the board and especially on issues relating to social/ racial justice, and also to put yourself into diverse communities and settings. Build relationships across the bounds of race, class, sexuality etc.
- Look for ways to get involved in your greater community.
- If you know of a community leader, reach out to them and ask if they know of any organizations, programs or activities you could get involved in.
- Change on the local scale is just as important as change on the national scale, and that includes local government. While most of us on NMG can’t vote, you can still research candidates, and volunteer on campaigns for people who will support the need for racial and criminal justice reform. Start a conversation with family members, and neighbors about candidates. In fact, Obama wrote in an article, that “the elected officials who matter most in reforming police departments and the criminal justice system work at the state and local levels.”
- It’s also important to find out who your current local representatives are. You can look for representatives in city council, state senate, and in the national congress. Take time to note the officials who are elected to run budgets, the police departments, etc. Write to these representatives asking for police reform, telling them you support certain bills. Make sure that they hear your opinions and your voice as a constituent.
- It can even be helpful to just say hello or chat with neighbors and strangers you run into. Many people feel more valued when they are recognized and treated nicely by someone, even if it’s just a “hi there,” I know I do. Building camaraderie and friendship across the bounds of race, generation, and sexuality is so important, and getting to know the people around you is a first step.
Some great resources for education are listed on Obama’s website in a section called Anguish and Action.
The following are some organizations that are working in various ways to empower Black Americans, fight for justice and equality in the courts, and support Black communities that have been marginalized and subjected to violence. Check these out and find out more about their missions, work, and accomplishments. Some of these you can sign up to get emails from, and even if you aren’t able to donate, these emails might keep you more aware of some issues, give you access to petitions, etc. You can also follow these organizations on social media.
I probably don’t have to give a big description of this organization. They are an organization and movement which fights to eradicate white supremacy and support Black communities against oppression.
This is a Black-led racial justice organization fighting campaigns for political, corporate and media accountability and change in our country. They do work on multiple fronts, including criminal justice reform, representation in media, and voting rights.
Working to end mass incarceration, and to challenge racial injustice, the EJI is a well established organization that also has some educational resources.
The LDF is one of America’s top legal firms that is fighting for racial justice. “The organization is fighting to protect voting rights, reform the criminal justice system, and improve equal access to education, among other civil rights causes.”
“The Bail Project, Inc. is a non-profit organization designed to combat mass incarceration by disrupting the money bail system ‒ one person at a time.” The project has a fund from which they pay bail for incarcerated people. When the client's case ends, the money is repaid back into the fund.
This is a nonprofit which aims to bring mental health resources, such as therapy, to communities of color, with a special focus on Black women and girls.
- This one might feel especially meaningful to those of you from Minnesota, because it is a Minneapolis based organization. Working in your greater local area can make you feel like you are helping your community. Reclaim the Block “organizes Minneapolis community and city council members to move money from the police department into other areas of the city’s budget that truly promote community health and safety.”
This is a group that has been working for a larger social justice cause for some time.Their particular focus is on voting rights, election security, campaign finance reform, electoral college reform, and an end to mass incarceration
- The APTP is a “Black-led, multi-racial, intergenerational coalition that seeks to build a replicable and sustainable model to eradicate police terror in communities of color.” The coalition provides resources, support, and legal referrals for victims of police abuse.
This is a group made up of over 60 individual bail funds from across the United States. They have a list of bail funds for specific areas on their website.
Focusing on the southern region of the U.S, Project South works to support Black communities, protect immigrants rights and fight poverty.
- Their mission statement: “By empowering and equipping Black women in quantitative sciences, The Sadie Collective addresses the pipeline and pathway problem in economics, finance, data science, and public policy through curated content creation, programming, and mentorship.”
- Campaign Zero works for police reform through limiting police interventions, demilitarizing police forces, pushing for more training and an effort to limit use of force. They also have a useful tool under their action section that lists which states have enacted legislation following the campaign’s reform policies. You can easily find your representatives through their tool.
- “The Black Women’s Health Imperative is the first nonprofit organization created by Black women to help protect and advance the health and wellness of Black women and girls.” The organization works to promote health through public education initiatives, among other techniques.
This got very long, I know, but I wanted to give you all a diverse list of resources. There are so many more that I haven’t included, so please keep doing work and research, and try to find a way to do your part in our larger human community.
Please let me know your ideas and thoughts relating to this. I would love to hear from you. I’m sending love to all of you as we navigate this time of mourning and grief. You are all such strong people, and I hope that you can find a means to help the cause for racial justice in whatever way you can.