Standing in solidarity for racial injustice isn’t just a thing you do for a moment, but rather adjustments and adaptations that you make in the way you love going forward.
It goes beyond participation in Blackout Tuesday or pausing for a moment in silence.
If you, as a non-black person, have said I don’t know what to do or I don’t know what to say, this post is for you!
Grab a cup of Joe, sit in your comfy chair and get your scroll finger ready.
I Am black but I don’t speak for all people
First and foremost, this post does not speak for all black people. But this post is from a black person that is willing to take the time to help you figure out where to go from here, from my perspective.
And this is no shade to my black friends who won’t or can’t, cause I get that too.
This post was written because my heart tells me that if I want you to do something I need to help guide you, or be okay when you give up from the “i don't know what to do frustration” that can happen when you are getting mixed messages or being chastised when you try.
Which is a good segway to my first point.
Check Your Heart
Ask yourself why you are doing this (whatever you are doing as an attempt at solidarity at any given moment) and why you feel the need to speak out, take action, or even donate.
Because now is not the time to be checking boxes.
You should be approaching this as a life changing event in the way that giving birth, getting married, relocating, or setting out into the world on your own changes you.
Ask yourself if your urgency to do something now:
- Is it because it is what seems like you should do?
- Is it because your friend did?
- Is it more that you are worried about being what you want people to think you are versus who you really are?
Then ask yourself:
- Does this really pain you?
- Have you lost sleep?
- Have you felt tears well up?
- Have you imagined and felt what it must be like to live a day with skin that has color?
Even if you answer yes to any or all of these questions, you may still not know what to do.
And that’s okay.
If you can’t amplify the message without centering yourself in that message, you are not ready to do anything.
And that is that is also ok. Sit still.
This Is Where The Work Starts
The work starts with you figuring that part out.
Racism is the issue and it's easy to think it is not a big deal because historically it has been made to not be a big deal.
But have you ever stopped to think about your skin color determining every single move you make?
Have you had to think about what the outfit you wear will make you be perceived as?
Have you thought about if you smiled enough to make those around you comfortable enough to not feel threatened by you?
Have you heard your friends talk about a place they traveled and thought I’ll have to check that out, but checking that out meant researching if it seemed okay for people who looked like you?
Have you then decided to take said trip and planned where you would stop to use the bathroom or get food in towns that seemed to be “okay” with people that look like you?
Have you been driving down the street doing nothing at all, and got sweaty and tight just because you see a police car? Then immediately thinking about where your license is and the best way to grab them as not to get shot if you get stopped.
And then felt the sigh of release from all that tension, when the copped turned in a different direction and you “made it”.
Have you went to buy or rent a new place and beyond checking out that the place fits your budget, style and lifestyle, had to feel the place out to make sure that your kids can hopefully be safe at home and in the neighborhood doing regular everyday things – like walking home from the store wearing a hoodie.
There is not ever a time where black people are not thinking about the fact that they are black.
The list goes on. I can guarantee you that there is nothing that we do as black people that we don’t think about our skin color.
Because the moment we do let that guard down, someone says a racial slur, infers something, or makes an inappropriate joke that reminds you anyway.
But wait, can you imagine all the energy that takes in addition to doing all the regular stuff that people do – date, get married, raise kids, go to work, pay bills, deal with family dynamics, worrying about your kids education, pursuing your dreams, and all the things you already do?
Now that does not even fully encompass why we are really physically tired, but emotionally and mentally too when we say we are tired. Which is kinda like everyday.
So examine your heart before you do anything.
Know Where You Stand
As with anything, you have to know what your position is. Because it will be challenged by someone – they may look like you or they may not. Know your position and stand firm in it.
You have to educate yourself to know your position. Do the work.
Listen to podcasts, audiobooks or read books that teach you about history beyond what you learned in textbooks.
Dig deeper for more beyond the surface that what you think you know about something.
As you read about one, it should be leading you to the next. As a matter of fact here is a complete syllabus on institutionalized racism.
Look to understand systemic racism embedded in politics, education, employment, the criminal justice system, housing and so much more.
Imagine The Burden
As you research these things, stand in the shoes of a black person. Imagine the burden of the bricks stacked against us.
Look at your opportunities and examine them with this new knowledge and imagine how different life could be if you had those same bricks stacked against you.
Use Your Voice
Speak up in your families, friend circles, and comfort zones afforded by your privilege.
When someone says something that is not okay, speak on it, when they tell a joke, don't laugh awkwardly and ignore it, ask them to explain the joke – they will be more uncomfortable than you, I promise.
Alot of your family members have lived through the era of slavery and the civil war era – it was not that long ago with the Civil Rights acts being passed in the 60s.
It is possible that your family members have been witness to or even participated in things they are not proud of today.
Because we are shaped and molded by our experiences, they may have biases they don’t even recognize. Speak up and grow and make them grow too.
Speak out when you see things that are not okay in the workplace, public places, schools.
Your voice being used in those circles is way more effective than most things you will do or say publicly.
It is easier to be corrected by someone you love, someone that looks like you, or that you feel comfortable with.
And we will all be better for it.
Be Open To Correction
Be patient and open to being corrected. You may say or do something with the best intentions, but not understand the lens it is fully viewed through.
Just like I don’t know what it is like to be white, you don’t understand why black people respond the way they do or what may have triggered them.
If something you did needs to be addressed, be open to hear what someone is telling you, and learn from the moment.
But if what you did was and is just as intended or misunderstood – stand firm in your position (the one you figured out before you even spoke or acted).
Use More Than Your Words
We are paying attention to the people who speak out and those who are silent. And not just with words but with actions.
Don’t stop when the news reel stops. It’s gonna happen, the shift where the news gives you something else to be outraged about.
You can be mad about more than one thing. But don’t let this cause, this issue, this problem, to not be one of them.
Put your money (and time) where your mouth is. Everything that is truly worth something to you will cost you something.
Don’t just speak, don’t just post on social. Put your money where your mouth is. Contribute to black causes or causes that further work to level the playing field. Make investments (monetary and time) in black owned businesses, causes, and more.
Need a place to start? Forbes compiled a list of 75 black businesses to support.
But this is just a start. There are so many more!
Expand Your Circle
Start to examine your circle of close friends and acquaintances. If you don’t have any, or even more than a few people that don’t look like you in your circle, it is time to change that.
Having a diverse group of people with diverse perspectives and experiences is life changing.
When you have people you love that don’t look like you, you learn from them, you experience things with them, and you talk to them, which allows you to feel for them in a different way when the things that happen affect them, but not you in the same way.
You show your kids an example of change rather than waiting for them to be the change cause you put them in a diverse playgroup or school.
Go do things you wouldn’t normally, join a book club, sit next to someone that doesn’t look like you when you go to paint nite, take a class. Just do new things and put yourself in new circles.
Understand Your Privilege
Understand the fact that you have it does not mean that you have not had a hard life, hardships and unfortunate moments. But instead it means that your skin color has not been the cause of those things.
Your privilege does not mean that you have not had a hard life, hardships and unfortunate moments. But instead it means that your skin color has not been the cause of those things.
Consider that I, a black woman, am sitting here taking time out my night to write up more than 2000 words to consider how to treat me, think about me, and simply feel for me, and people that look like me.
I implore you not to treat this as a campaign that will have an end or closing date.
There is no end date here.
This is ongoing.
Examine your thoughts, actions and motives and operate from a space that truly is different or better than where you are now.
Let’s learn from this and grow from this.
It is not an event.
What you are doing now should be helping you become the best version of yourself today tomorrow and the days weeks months and years ahead.
You will talk to your children and lord willing your grandchildren about this year and this time. Make sure that what you will have to share with them will tell them that you stood for change and what was right.
Not because it was the thing to do at the moment but because your eyes heart and mind was opened in ways you didn’t know it wasn’t.
That will help you determine what to do and what to say when you otherwise don’t know.