Black Lives Matter.
In my last two posts I used the words awakening and revolution. Today those words sound less like yogi mantras and more like wartime sirens. We asked for 20/20 vision, here it is. We’ve been hitting snooze for too long. We’re late. It’s no longer an option not to WAKE UP.
The heinous acts of violence against George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, Elijah McClain and countless others make up the tip of a very deep, very ugly iceberg of systemic, institutionalized racism that has continually cost Black people in America their lives and their freedom. The mainstream conversation surrounding recent events is not news, it’s a breaking point. Enough is enough. We must do better now.
So what do we do ?
I am by no means an expert on allyship, Black history, racism in America, or activism. As a white woman, I know that my privilege shields me from so much of the pain being carried by my Black friends and colleagues to a degree I cannot fathom. With this privilege comes responsibility. As time moves on, and I see white folx begin to go back about their business, I know one things is true - we have to keep the conversation going. I have to keep challenging myself to do the work. We have to fight today and every day forward until racism is removed from all corners of our society.
To eradicate racism we have to first recognize white privilege and white supremacy (talking to you, white friends!) Our white ancestors dehumanized Black people in this country. Generational mindsets are passed down unconsciously, and without intentional psychological work to remove implicit bias, racism exists in all white folx whether we like it or not. It not only takes internal work to remove our own inherent prejudice, it also takes aggressive action to remove racism in our systems, institutions, and communities.
Writer Scott Woods explains this brilliantly.
“The problem is that white people see racism as conscious hate, when racism is bigger than that. Racism is a complex system of social and political levers and pulleys set up generations ago to continue working on the behalf of whites at other people’s expense, whether whites know/like it or not. Racism is an insidious cultural disease. It is so insidious that it doesn’t care if you are a white person who likes black people; it’s still going to find a way to infect how you deal with people who don’t look like you. Yes, racism looks like hate, but hate is just one manifestation. Privilege is another. Access is another. Ignorance is another. Apathy is another. And so on. So while I agree with people who say no one is born racist, it remains a powerful system that we’re immediately born into. It’s like being born into air: you take it in as soon as you breathe. It’s not a cold that you can get over. There is no anti-racist certification class. It’s a set of socioeconomic traps and cultural values that are fired up every time we interact with the world. It is a thing you have to keep scooping out of the boat of your life to keep from drowning in it. I know it’s hard work, but it’s the price you pay for owning everything.”
Defeating racism isn’t easy. History tells us that. But history also tells us that when 3.5% of a population bands together with a common goal, the people can insight dramatic change. What I’ve learned so far from non-white washed history and the Black leaders in my community is that we can start with awakening and revolution.
This begins with unlearning, learning, challenging old mindsets and beliefs, healing, growing, and taking decisive action to actively fight against my own implicit biases and racism anywhere I encounter it no matter the consequence. Shame and guilt will arise. Having hard conversations with friends and family will continue to be exhausting. Fighting social injustice will be daunting, dangerous at times, and often defeating. But any discomfort I may experience pales in comparison to the oppression the Black community and other marginalized groups in this country have endured and still face in so many ways on a daily basis.
Awakening requires knowledge, wisdom, and empathy. Educate yourself and listen. Do not ask your Black friends to educate you, (again, talking to white folx here). We have to take full ownership and do our homework. The resources are readily available. Educate yourself on Black history. Educate yourself on the real and messy truth of whiteness. Educate yourself on our police system, the prison industrial complex, the 13th Amendment, local government officials, upcoming elections, and those in positions of legislative, judicial, and executive power. Listen to the Black community about their experience. Follow Black creators on social media. Amplify their voices. Be an ally. Not a performative ally, but a committed, humble ally for the long haul. Talk the talk and walk the walk. I’m looking at myself in the window’s reflection as I write this - hold yourself accountable.
As with any internal rewiring, it takes consistent, dedicated effort. And as with any revolution, it’s an uphill battle that requires endurance, courage, and faith.
There are various schools of thought on how to go about said revolution. However, there is a common goal - a world where racism is not tolerated and ceases to exist in the fabric of our education, government, and economic systems. Unity is the key. Yes, it’s a daunting goal that activists, civil rights leaders, and freedom fighters have been pioneering for generations, but if 2020 has taught us anything … the world CAN change. And it can change a lot faster than we ever imagined.
First we have the power to change ourselves. Then we have the power to inspire change within our sphere of influence - our alma mater, our place of work, our place of worship, our families, our friends. We can use our individual gifts to find the lane of revolution where we can be most effective - be it social media, art, leadership, fund raising, care-taking, or education.
To give the power to the people, we’ve got to USE it. Exercise your right to vote. This doesn’t just mean voting for the next president (though PLEASE DO VOTE in the upcoming presidential election). It means voting for legislators, legislation, sheriffs, district attorneys, etc. Don’t blindly vote based on party affiliation. Vote for values, policies, and people.
Politics and power are motivated by money. We have the power to use our dollar wisely. Invest in Black owned businesses and boycott corporations that use prison labor, treat their workers unfairly, or support political candidates that go against values of equality. Call/email your representatives demanding killer cops be held accountable. Sign petitions. And keep protesting. We have the power to use our voice. We can’t let this be a moment. It has to be momentum for lasting change. It’s time to SPEAK UP.
Not for a week, not for a month, but from here on out.
Altered mindsets change lifestyles. Changed lifestyles shift culture. Culture is more powerful than any institution’s walls. Culture is in the hearts and minds of people. People build and tear down institutions. If we can imagine a better world, we can build it. We’ve got walls to tear down and new ones to build. Let’s get to work.
Awakening + Revolution Resources
WATCH Sherrilyn Ifill on 60 Minutes Discussing How America Reached its Current Policing Crisis and What We Must Do Next
WATCH “Silence is abuse” Bishop TD Jakes
LEARN with diversity, equity, and inclusion expert Tayo Rockson
MEDITATE with Insight LA meditation
ACTIVATE with Rachel Ricketts’ Spiritual Activism 101
UNLEARN RACISM with Rachel Ricketts’ Anti-racism resources
UNLEARN RACISM with Rachel Carlge’s @thegreatunlearn
READ Ant-Racist Literature @anantiracismbookclub
SUPPORT Black Film #Hollywood4BlackLives
SUPPORT Black Art @blackartistspace
SUPPORT Black Fashion @parade
BUY from Black owned bookstores @mahogangybooks (DC) @unclebobbies (Philadelphia) , @harrietts_bookshop (Philadelphia) @thelitbar (Bronx), @forkeepsbooks (Atlanta), @braveandkindbooks (Decatur, Georgia), @blackbabybooks (online)
ENGAGE IN THE REVOLUTION
To my Black friends, I am so sorry. I pledge to do the work to unlearn my own racism. I pledge to do better, to be better. I stand with you, and I will fight with you.
To my friends in the BIPOC and LGBTQ+ communities who have patiently and graciously helped me begin to unlearn my implicit biases, discrimination, and racism, I love you and I am so grateful for you. I pledge to use my voice and my privilege to fight for a world where equality and justice wins.
(collage credits: Basquiat’s “La Hara,” Pirkle Jones's Black Panthers, original photography of anonymous protestor LA 2020, drone footage of Hollywood protests 2020, source unknown, Charles Moore's photo of MLK's arrest)