Welcome to the fight for our lives! So, you want to help out? To do something?! Great! If you are a Black American reading this, please send it to your non Black friends and go take a break if you need it and take care of you and ours.
If you are not, again welcome. Let’s get started.
Things to do right now
As social media changes the way that we engage with the world around us, it’s also allowing Black Americans to have proof that can’t be ignored. We are able to show the things we have endured since we were brought here. The threats to our lives and our children. Racism. If you find that video shocking, if you were surprised, or even just aren’t constantly thinking about racism and it’s power over your life, this may be overwhelming and make you feel helpless. That is ok, but we need you to act. Starting with social media.
If you have Black Friends, and honestly even if you don’t, every time video content about this is shared it hurts someone and not who it should. It feels like getting kicked in the face. A deep feeling of pain, angry and disgust. A fear for leaving my home and the future of people like me and children. Is, that the impact you want to have? I hope not. There is a lot of conversation on White Facebook around the importance of these videos to start the discussion. Well, to be honest, we have been talking about this way longer. There are many stories that DONT make national news that go unheard in your communities…
Your community may need to see it, but mine doesn’t.
Consider changing how you share these materials. Here are three options to look into. Sharing the URL without the video clip. So that people can decide to click. You could save all of the topics relating to the current situation and share that folder. You could set up an audience that focuses those posts to exclude your Black friends. Lastly there is the options to post about it, and when someone doesn’t know what you are referring to send it to them in Pm. All of these are an extra step or two but saves your Black friends from you pouring salt in that wound.
Focus on the important things
It may feel ike you feel a need to talk about your feelings, experiences and how this effects you. Or maybe it’s getting bogged down in the question of looting, or if someone used one word or another or how social media amplifies stories. I understand the draw, but these are all distractions. Distractions from what made you so upset to begin with. I understand the draw of virtue signalling. Of posting your outrage because you feel a need to express your opinion on what’s happening, the morality of certain actions and the way it’s affecting you. But, this isn’t about you. I am, calling you out on this and if you get defensive, I consider you read this.
Please refocus yourself when you need to on what is really important. In times like these, history will wash away the exact wording and the specifcs, until all that remains is the autrocity and what people did about it. Then, if things changed. Help shape the future to be something better by not letting the details get to you. Just like deciding to not turn conversations about women’s struggles into conversations about men, or vice versa, we don’t allow other issues to overshadow the one we are coming together for. It will likely feel strange, perhaps even silencing, to not focus on yourself. Later I have suggestions on handling that.
Dealing with Others.
I know and you know you have people in your life who don’t understand. They may be full coke racist or just diet coke but they are going to watch, to discuss, and debate you. I know the current ideas around problematic people is to cut them out of your life. Yet, I think it’s the job of an ally to keep those people as much as you can. Be the bell in the echo chamber of their life.
Grey, that’s hard! You say.
Yes, yes it is, but do it anyway.
I’m asking this of you because we can’t reach these people. For every Karen is her family, every chad has a group of bros, every Bill has a hobby and their lives intersect with yours. They exist because their communities allow them to and the reality is you are in those communities. By blocking them or staying silent you are allowing that to get worse. One day I’ll run into Steve from D&D but he will be different than what you expereince. I’m tired of educating your fathers and mothers, your grandparents, of steering your children. You would be ashamed of the version I meet. They are yours to deal with if you have them as church, D&D, dance, hobby (ect) community members.
They are more likely to listen to you, to be polite, and think on what you say. Take what you have learned from us (and with as much patience and compassion) give that to them.
If you get tired and can’t call in your white friends to help the dicsussion, consider removing the comments. so, people still have access to your post and yet this person can not keep going. delete their posts on your walls goading you or “haha” them, mute them on messanger. Choosing to disengage is something not everyone has. Social media is about audience and you control what those who come in contact with you have to read/see. Use it.
Highlighting the Good Over the Trauma
Trauma gets clicks but as I mentioned earlier, hurts people. Be sure you are focusing on passing on the material you think is more helpful, under appriciated, and clear headed. I’m glad to be seeing less photos of the murder but now it’s tweets and chain messages, and debates on looting. What I see much less of is the quiet majority of the protests, the arrest, what you are doing to change things, the communities coming together to support each other, HK protestors reaching out with advice. I’m not saying posting about what is unacceptable isn’t ok, but trust me everyone is seeing that. That’s the news and suggested articles and majority of people are sharing it.
What you post contributes to the narrative and the knowledge that others receive. There will be a shift in changing the story to focus on certain aspects and make this look bad. Just like what is happening with the virus. So share what shows the full story because the story about the Black men protecting the white officer, or sweeping after protests may allow people on the fence to question their position. Fight misinformation by spreading the correct information and removing the misinformation when you can.
So, we don’t live exclusively on the internet.(even if that’s what it may feel like). There is a lot you can do right now to help and make an impact. Clearly joining the protests is the most straightforward way but isn’t for everyone one. Choosing/ being unable to not do that for various reasons can be ok as long as you do other work. Most of my advice here is going to come down to donate your time/resources/ and effort. And to do what you can.
Check on your Black friends.
Not sure how to go about it? Here are some tips. Try to focus on your closer friends. Although sweet, checking on friends who you have very limited relationship can not give the effect you want. It can come off as trying to assuage your guilt. Sit with why you suddenly want to reach out but aren’t there in times where racism is less upfront your minds. Is it because you know your friend forgets to eat when stressed and has depression and want to make sure they eat and feel loved? Or is it because you feel a need to do something because you feel bad. Like a child who broke a lamp or a partner cheating suddenly being overly sweet can feel false. If you don’t have close Black friends and still want to, maybe it’s time to consider building those friendships.
Be them close or not, when in doubt don’t mention the reason you are hitting them up. A lot of people stumble here. They either make it about their feelings or are very awkward. Don’t do this. Consider ring theory. Bring the comfort in and the pain out. Then offer low stakes options for help. Offering specific things makes it easier to accept and not worry if they are asking for too much. It also simplifies the choice. It also helps clear up the questions we may have around strings and white savor complexes. Many will say nothing or try to deflect. That’s ok. The silence hurts more than a fumbled attempt at connection.
Better yet, don’t ask. If you know your friend loves tea, get their address from a mutual friend and send it. Drop off something at their house. Offer to distract them and talk about it if it comes up. Let them bring it up. If it comes up, listen. If all your Black friends choose not the confide in you, I would question if you are doing enough in your daily life to have earned that. If you have beliefs that stop them from trusting you.
Even if you aren’t in a city activity being covered by the news, trust that these things happen where you are too. What is your city doing about it? Your state? What does your community do about it? Is your city gentrifiying the area? Bring up how these issues contribute to the current climate. The nation scale isn’t the only place these issues are found
Call Out Excuses.
You have excuses, that’s why there is guilt, but as a group y’all need to call of these excuses in each other for not acting. I, in this minute just saw a post from someone eating expensive organic food wishing for the end of racism, encouraging probiotics… It is not enough to wish, and I simply did not have the bandwidth to challenge that excuse. If you do, you should. Do so with as much compassion as I give towards you.
Promote Black voices.
Unsure who to listen to during this? What you should be sharing? Share Black voices. Ideally Black voices that have done the work with intersectionality. Just like you, we have many voices in our culture. Worried about comfirmation bias? Good. A general way to check is by how many stories align with it and following reputable sources. A single (or few) Black voice saying what you want to hear doesn’t out weigh the rest. You haven’t stumbled on a secret belief/truth. You’ve stumbled onto someone majority of the community doens’t respect. Is that who you want to align with?
Keep up Covid Community Help.
Make or donate masks. Send food to shelters, volunteer etc. The Black community is being hit harder still and we need that help.
Donate to Black Mental Health Programs.
There amount of heartbreak I felt toward seeing so many of my loved ones hurting so deeply was immense. Many of us should be in healing enviroments for mental health. Be that therapy, groups discussions, or Black arts classes. Support that so we can heal.
Now, I know there is a lot of debate of if voting for Biden is the best choice over Trump, and although I have strong feelings, that’s not what I’m referring to. Are you educated on the laws that are passed locally? Have your considered how government affects Black people in your area? Are our schools being defunded, communities ravaged, Black mothers dying in childbirth, in your area? What is your government doing about that. Vote in that interest, and call for others to do so too.
Buy books and read.
Arm yourself with knowledge so that you don’t feel helpless or clueless. Create groups to discuss books amongst your communities. You won’t ever experience these things, but you can know about them.
Set up Groups to Discuss your Feelings with People Like You.
You may never be able to walk in my shoes but you can have a space to talk about your expereince with others. Talk about the guilt, the discomfort, the shame, talk about the fear with people who get it and back each other up as you move toward acting. If you are farther along on your jouney be patient as we were with you in the beginning.
Have the Hard Talks.
You know the ones. The ones with your family, your children, your interacial partners. It is your responsiblity to do so. I know there is a lot of debate about promoting fear, discomfort, inappropriateness ect but these are just excuses. We have these tallks within our communities because we have to. By choosing to avoid it, it shows that you arne’t willing to do your share. Don’t teach your child to be afraid of being racist, but to stand up to it, and see it in themselves. Challenge family using words you know aren’t ok. Talk about the N-word and the “bad” neighborhoods. Not talking about it doesn’t make it go away. Not making a choice is making a choice. Either you have this conversation on your terms or let your loved ones be told how to be and what is ok by someone else. So. Have the hard talks, so my children and their children have people willing to stand up with them in the future.
Support each other in your feelings and growth.
Check in on those protesting. Check in on those just starting to get into the heavy dark history of our country. Create systems of care to allow people to not only be able to start the work, but keep going even when it’s hard. Even in the face of shame and discomfort.
Not all minorities have the bandwidth to be kind to you about these issues. Why? Because there are so many people writing and making information and it is often at your finger tips. Not everyone in the community wants/can spend a week thinking and typing out an article catered for your audience, and, lift the heavy emotional toll of being kind while doing it. Appreciate those who do and expect your white friends to be the ones to be more gentle about it.
Donate services or skills to others.
Particularly those very disadvantaged, creating the work you are unable to, or starting a big change in life, may need your help. Sometimes people take for granted the little things and you won’t really understand the impact of even the smallest choices.
The work doesn’t stop in two weeks when the visible protests have died down. Keep. It. Going.
- Have those hard conversations
- Donate money or time
- Support those doing the work and teaching
- Speak out when you see things
- Watch and support Black media and artist
- Celebrate current Black life and acomplishments
- Acknolwedge those who are Black and socially under you. The amount of white college students who are unkind to Black custodians is astounding. the office workers who ignore the secretaries and cleaning crew. We notice. Acknowledge their humanity
- Invest in DEI in your businesses and work place. Push for change
- Read. even 15 mins a day
- Attend classes and events around race and racism
- Attend local townhalls and block actions that hurt the Black community
- Support Black business.
- Check back on older movements and demand action. An easy example is Flint
- Be wary of appropiation
- Check regularly if you are on the right side of the issues you come in contact with
- Listen more than you speak.
- Don’t make it about you.
- Don’t let guilt stop you.
- Be okay making mistakes.
- Take care of yourself.
- Ask for what is needed.
- When in doubt, act!
This of course is a non exhaustive list of things to do and consider, but is meant to get your out of the overwhelmed deer in headlights place, and into action. We are tired and need you to hold this, and push forward. Those who are tired right now are resting and will rejoin when they can. They may not thank you, they may have no time for your feelings and how hard it was, because they have a job to do. It is in the moment that you don’t abandon us, you are there even as the burden gets lighter and take your share of it’s weight, that you may witness the nods and appreciation behind weary eyes.
Be the friend your Black friends come to in times of trouble, not the one we have to make excuses for to our other Black friends in private.
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