Disclaimer: this post is geared towards the inaction I see in my particular community, which is more or less white, liberal, progressive, educated, west coasters who claim to care about the injustices in the world. If I am coming off as "pushy" or "harsh" it is because I believe there is no excuse for ignorance in my community; a community that is educated, claims to care, and has access to a plethora of educational resources. To note, I am not the "queen of resources." I am a work in progress who is also still figuring shit out.
In response to what I posted on social media this morning, I feel it necessary to provide resources for the people in my community. I say "my community" because in all honesty, my community is mostly white, privileged, college educated, liberal, progressive, and (some) Christian. Yet, time and time again I see inaction in my community. I see #prayersforinsertoppressedgrouphere hashtags all over the place. I see people reading books by Brene Brown, Sheryl Sandberg, Malcom Gladwell, Lena Dunham, and Amy Poehler and other white authors. It's all Lean In and The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up and Rising Strong and whatever celebrity just came out with a new paleo cookbook. It's all Ted Radio hour, This American Life, Prairie Home Companion, and Serial.
Now to be clear, before you all get defensive, I am guilty of all of this. I love Amy Poehler and This American Life and Prairie Home Companion. I fell into the privileged minimalist movement with its time capsule wardrobes and tiny houses. Let's remember that while we are spending time making our capsule wardrobes, because "getting dressed is so hard," the global south pays the price for our fashion industry. While we are leaning in at our corporate jobs, women making 78 cents for every dollar of our male coworkers, "African American women are paid only 64 cents, and Latinas only 56 cents for every dollar." While white people are suffering from their white guilt, black men are getting shot by the police.
Really what all this boils down to is a simple hashtag, #checkyourpriv. For those not familiar with hashtags, it means "check your privilege." That is step one.
Step two would be to educate yourself. The information you choose to take in or not take in is part of your white privilege. You may think you don't need to know because it doesn't effect you, but this is false. Your ignorance is not harmless, it contributes to oppression. So here we go...
For white people who say they "don't see color," here is why you should start
For white people who claim that they have nothing to do with "white supremacy and racism"
"The most common mistake people make when talking about racism (white supremacy) is to think of it as a problem of personal prejudices and individual acts of discrimination. They do not see it is a system, a web of interlocking, reinforcing institutions: political, economic, social, cultural, legal, military, educational, all our institutions. As a system, racism affects every aspect of life in a country. By not understanding that racism is systemic, we guarantee it will continue. For example, racist police behavior is often reduced to “a few bad apples” who need to be removed, instead of seeing that it can be found in police departments everywhere. It reflects and sustains the existing power relations throughout society."
For white people who say "all lives matter"
"They are not asserting that black lives are more precious than white lives. They are underlining an indisputable fact — that the lives of black citizens in this country historically have not mattered, and have been discounted and devalued. People who are unacquainted with this history are understandably uncomfortable with the language of the movement. But politicians who know better and seek to strip this issue of its racial content and context are acting in bad faith. They are trying to cover up an unpleasant truth and asking the country to collude with them."
For white people who are immobilized by their guilt and shame
For white people who appropriate black culture but do nothing to support black lives
"What would America be like if we loved black people as much as love black culture?"
For white people who don't think segregation is still a thing
For white Christians
Watch this documentary on the dis-functionality of the global aid system (on Netflix)
Watch this documentary on how Christian missionaries have contributed to the violence and oppression of the LGBTQ community in Uganda (also on Netflix).
Be cautious of how your work is contributing to increased oppression, neocolonialism, and paternalism around the world.
For white people who smoke/sell/profit off of the legalization of marijuana
Here are some book suggestions:
Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson
The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander
Between the World and Me by Ta-Nahesi Coates
Freedom is a Constant Struggle by Angela Davis
Earth Democracy by Vandana Shiva
Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe
Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston
Go Tell it on the Mountain by James Baldwin
Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison
Beloved by Toni Morrison
The Color Purple by Alice Walker
Step three: Act or be an asshole. Your ignorance is no longer an excuse.
-Attend a protest. Not for your own glory, but as an ally and protector of black and brown bodies. Watch and use your privilege to keep police from unlawfully arresting people of color. Don't go there to cry tears of white guilt, go there to protect so the community can safely gather.
-Have conversations with your community. Call people out, listen when others call you out. Stay humble. LISTEN to people of color when they share their experiences, it is not up to you to decide whether their suffering is legitimate or not.