The last week or two have been hard for an optimist. Well, the last three months have been, really, but the last week or two have taken the cake. Because when you’re an optimist and activist and have two Black boys with ever-increasing height and deepening voices . . . it’s hard to be hopeful.
The result is that I’ve been taking a slightly more passive role in exercising my activism lately. (A passive activist? Does that make me a passivist? A pacifist passivist?) At the same time, many people have been turning to me for input and advice. So while you may not have seen me at last night’s protest, I did act as a consultant in its planning.
As a person who is used to being very visible in my activism, this is different for me and at first felt a little strange and somewhat ineffective. But when I saw this, it soothed me, so I shared it on my page and I will share it here again:
As people continue to turn to me for advice, the optimist can’t help to find hope trying its hardest to trickle back in. I can’t ever remember this many people reaching out to me for advice at once before. Something is different this time and not just in my circle of friends. Local authority figures and organizations have never made this many public statements surrounding a Black man’s murder at the hands of the Police before, though there have been countless opportunities. At least 1,000 people marched in last night's local protest even though we've only ever gotten a handful at similar events in the past.
This doesn’t make everything better or my worries for my children dissipate, but it does strengthen me. I embrace my new role as a more behind-the-scenes activist and hope that people continue to reach out to me for advice. I am far from an expert but am happy to share the knowledge I have been able to gain and welcome discussion.
If I were to give general advice on what a person new to the world of anti-racism work could do, I would narrow it down to these five things:
1. VOTE. You hear this one again and again, but can we move it away from lip service please and break it down into how exactly this can be effective? First of all, make sure you are registered and you know how and when to vote (some dates have changed due to the pandemic) Do you want to vote by mail because of COVID concerns? It’s time to figure that out. Now. Most importantly: voting is not going to help if we continue to elect politicians that support white supremacist policies and actions. Use your vote wisely.
2. If you are raising white children, talk to them about race and racial disparities. There are so many resources online to guide you, including this list of book ideas.
Additionally, strive to include books on their bookshelves that include People of Color as main characters and NOT just as heroes in stories of slavery or civil rights. Read books where they are main characters, kids like them whose skin (or gender or abilities) are a different color than their own.
3. If you are not raising any children, apply all of the above to yourself but swap out the above suggested reading with this list instead.
Not much of a reader? Watch instead. There's so much available online, including Just Mercy which is free this month.
4. Be brave and forthright in your conversations. When I was performing with The Meta Theatre Company we’d hear from white audience members again and again: “I don't speak up because I am afraid of saying the wrong thing.”
I implored them then and you now to say SOMETHING. Even “I am not sure what exactly to say here but I know this is wrong, please stop” is a million times better than allowing racist behavior or language to go unchecked. We are all learning how to be effective anti-racists together. We all make mistakes. We must be receptive and willing to learn when People of Color point out our mistakes. We will learn and try harder. We will inspire others to be courageous.
Would you have the courage to film? Do you know how to safely do it? Prepare yourself in advance in case the moment ever comes up. Here's some advice and here's one app to help you do it.
I am not Black.
I am not an anti-racist scholar.
I am a white anti-racist, continually-learning Mother of Black (& white) children. I can only be a sounding board, a stepping stone, a sharer of resources. Thank you for reaching out. Thank your marching. But please now, pick a lane and help us keep things moving in the right direction.