Happy Birthday to Breonna Taylor, who would have been 27 years old today.
Part of re-educating yourself to the injustice in the world and unlearning implicit biases is to be critical of what you keep in your orbit. This is a lifelong process. It’s constantly questioning all you were taught, all the traditions, and “the way things are” because for many people who are not white, they can’t thrive in those spaces. Protests for George Floyd and others are not a one-off events. This movement is about criminal justice reform. It’s about making lasting changes in our society. So if you’re acting like an ally on social media, do the work outside of that platform.
My qualifications: white cis straight woman who is trying to do better everyday. Moving to NYC almost 8 years ago from VA really pushed me out of my comfort zone and more into understanding how to respect and build relationships with everyone I meet (“I don’t see color” was one of my go-tos before I learned better). I know I’ve made missteps in the past and will continue to say the wrong thing even now or later. I could write a whole post about all the times I’ve fucked up, but this isn’t a confessional. I also know racism is a problem, lack of diversity is a problem (hello, publishing industry), and I have tried to hold myself accountable in ways that I can do better for years. Here’s what I’ve learned and what I’ll continue to do.
THIS IS THE BARE MINIMUM OF YOUR ACTIONS!!
Doing any of these things does not absolve you of doing the work of dismantling systemic racism by protesting against police brutality, voting out corrupt politicians, signing petitions calling for justice, donating to civil rights causes, or having difficult conversations with racists in your life!!!
Listen to Black people’s experiences with police, do not question their lived experience:
I’ve heard quite a few stories about how black parents prepare their children for police interaction (there is a specific scene of this situation in The Hate U Give). If you’re pulled over, keep you’re hands on the dashboard, no sudden movements, no talking back, ask to reach for your ID and registration, stay alive. White parents, on the opposite spectrum, will tell children that police are heroes and we should look up to them. Black people are racially profiled by the police. Black people are incarcerated at more than 5 times the rate of whites. There are statistics and data to back up all of these stories, it is not your position as a white person who does not face this discrimination to question their story. It is your job as a white person to learn more about this and research organizations that are actively looking to stop police brutality and discrimination.
Acknowledge your white privilege:
People of color are discriminated against for the color of their skin (overtly, or not), and white people do not face that discrimination. It doesn’t mean your life wasn’t hard, it just means that the color of your skin didn’t make it harder for you.
Watch this video!!
Learn how to apologize when you receive criticism:
- acknowledge your mistake
- ask what you can do to make it right
- vow to do better
Be critical of media you consume:
There’s a whole movement in kidlit circles called #WeNeedDiverseBooks. It puts pressure on publishers to publish books by POC, or who are neurodiverse, or LGBTQ+. Publishers have answered the call for this and it’s important to acknowledge that over the past 5 years it’s increased, but for all this effort, IT’S STILL NOT EQUAL. 50% percent of books published in the kidlit space in 2018 had a white protagonist, 27% featured an animal protagonist, and only 10% featured black children as the protagonist. Romance books are also problematic in this way. For every 100 books published by a traditional publisher in 2019, only 8.3% of books were written by a person of color. It’s apparent in every genre and every genre, and it’s apparent in the workplace that publishers are run by a bunch of white women. Look for more diverse books, read outside your comfort zone, be more proactive in what books you’re looking for. Read more women of color!!
So obviously my experience is in book publishing, but it’s also important to shine a lens on film and tv, too. Buzzfeed made this list of racial injustice documentaries and movies, which is a fine starting point, but much like my point about books, support films that are made by people of color. For a very long time, these industries have been saturated with white voices and white narratives. Frequently, movies promote tropes such as “white savior narrative” that is ultimately problematic to the communities they are saving (THE HELP IS NOT IT OMG). It’s time for equality for Black and POC creators, we should fight for it.
Follow people who are different from you on social media (but don’t harass them to to explain racism to you):
Here’s some people and accounts that I’ve learned from and love following:
activists/authors: Deray McKesson, Brittany Packnett Cunningham (she recently spoke in a discussion with President Obama on police brutality!), Little Miss Flint, Blair Imani, Rachel Cargle, Ibram X. Kendi, Ijeoma Olu
Cool lifestyle bloggers on Instagram (whatever niche you like to follow, diversify your following there!)
Look at your own friend group:
1) Diversify your friendships. 2) Don’t place the burden of teaching you racism on your POC friends.
Ask questions of your employer about how they are going to effectuate change internally:
A lot of companies are posting messages of solidarity for the Black Lives Matter movement. It’s imperative that you hold them accountable. Ask for transparency of their board, ask what they are going to do internally to hire more people of color. Put pressure on them to actually step up and not follow a trend that is convenient right now.
Call out microaggressions
And check yourself before asking or saying something like, “but where are you really from?” “all lives matter” “can I touch your hair?” “I don’t see color,” because you are actually asking invasive questions or saying things that have complicated roots, but you’re only paddling into the shallow depth of discussion when you should be more aware of the implications of saying such things. Think critically and research these phrases that come up so much for POC, but never for white people.
Make your efforts intersectional
Be considerate of other identities that intersect with the rights you are fighting for. LGBTQ+ Black people exist (12 Black trans people have been murdered this year!), disabled POC people exist. Are you only supporting POC who are skinny? Are you biased in other ways? Be aware and catch yourself before you say or do something that could marginalize an already marginalized group.
Not everything relating to Black people or POC has to be tragedy porn. Celebrate the joys and the goodness that is still exists in the world. Watch happy movies featuring POC, read books about black mermaids, support black cosplayers.
Challenge your assumptions
Understand that you have a lot to learn. It is a privilege to look away from these conversations because its hard, but Black people and People of Color live these experiences everyday.
Defund the Police ♥ Be kind and thoughtful to one another.