Dear Lexual friends,
If you’ve been following me on social media, you’ve probably seen my posts about Black Lives Matter.
Although I’ve been collaborating with Black folks for years (you’ve seen and heard many Black educators on my podcast, for example), I’m always learning more, and always trying to do more. All of us can and should do more. (Here are some anti-racist resources as well as a list of Black-owned businesses and organizations you can purchase from and donate to.)
The revolution is upon us. And if you weren’t already aware of racism and the ways in which racism infiltrates every part of our world, and the ways in which racism and discrimination affect Black folks every day, well, it’s time to change that.
All around the world, white people (and people with white passing privilege) are waking up. But one of the issues with “woke” white people is that with this realization of how Black folks continue to be oppressed by systemic racism, comes feelings of guilt, outrage at these injustices and misplaced actions that can do more harm than good.
Even though we may have good intentions and really want to help Black folks, we white people must take care to be responsible as we take action — and take informed, educated, and meaningful action.
So if you’re asking “what can I do to help?”, here are a few tips on how to get started.
Understand and Recognize Your Privilege
You can’t truly work towards truly making sustainable change in the #BLM movement without first realizing and admitting there’s a problem — and that problem is that our systems (government, health, social, etc.) have been built by white people (colonizers) who created a system that makes it very, very difficult for people of Color to succeed. As a white person with white privilege, although we can’t change the past, it’s up to us to do this work towards helping to create a better future for Black folks and other POC.
What IS “white privilege”? You’ve likely been hearing that term being floated around, but might not know exactly what that means and how it relates to you.
Having white privilege doesn’t mean you haven’t worked hard to get where you are. It simply means that you’ve never had to face stress, injustice, or the threat of violence based on the color of your skin. You were afforded opportunities not made readily available to folks of Color — including jobs, social resources, health care and education and housing, to name a few — and were never discriminated against solely on the basis of your skin color.
Having white privilege might make you feel guilty. But keep in mind that you’re not responsible for the actions of our ancestors. And getting mired in guilty feelings means you’re centering and focusing on yourself, rather than taking meaningful action.
And PLEASE don’t make your other white friends feel guilty or get angry at all the injustices facing Black people that you’ve JUST awoken to yourself. That is NOT helpful! Be a listening ear for your white friends, someone they can talk to and work out their own process of unlearning old thoughts and behaviors and learning new ones. Being outraged about something that you have not personally endured is counterproductive and can be harmful to the cause.
Now that you recognize the advantages afforded to you based solely on the color of your skin, it’s your responsibility to use your white privilege for good and to help dismantle the system that has been oppressing Black folks for centuries.
If we’ve been navigating the world with a massive amount of privilege, it means that we’ve been blind in many ways in which Black folks have been discriminated against, because we’ve never dealt with that ourselves.
We have a lot to learn. We haven’t had to face traumatic life events or injustices due to our skin color. We’ll never understand what that’s like for Black folks who have to deal with racism and a system that was created to hold them back. But we can LISTEN. We MUST listen.
When a Black person is sharing their experience, listen. Hear their voices. Try to understand what they’re saying. Think about the ways in which you’ve benefited from, and participated in, systemic racism — whether you did it consciously or not. Take time to educate yourself and watch films, read articles, or books and make sure to pay Black folks for their education & coaching.
A fantastic opportunity to do that is at Listen to Black Women, an event being produced by the Atlanta Institute of Tantra at the end of July. Check it out here for more details and find out how you can get involved to attend and/or help sponsor and promote this event.
Be Open To Discussion & Correction
Being an ally will be messy. It means we will mess up, not know all the answers, and will likely say the wrong thing. We may get into discussions that make us question most of what we thought we knew, which may also reveals our biases.
When confronted with our mistakes and being held accountable for them, a natural reaction is to feel defensive. But white fragility isn’t appropriate when we are trying to be a better ally. If you’re called to discussion or correction, welcome it with open arms. Apologize sincerely and appropriately. Listen to what’s being said and where you went wrong. Explain how you will change your behavior to do better next time. And then… do better next time!
Being open to learning is a crucial way to make lasting change… because dismantling systemic racism is a lifelong process. The need to learn about racism and make change doesn’t go away when the #blacklivesmatter hashtags stop trending on social media.
Take Actionable Steps
It can be easy to fall trap to social media trends around racism and revolution. While it’s important to use our social platforms to amplify Black voices to raise awareness, the most impactful actions you can make will be outside of social media. You don’t have to loudly announce each time you help a Black person or contribute in some way to the movement. In fact, doing so is highly performative and is NOT an authentic marker of allyship, because it seems like you’re only helping for the goal of recognition, a pat on the back, or an assertion that you’re a “good person”.
So, what CAN you do, beyond retweets and Facebook posts?
Start by educating yourself. Read and listen to Black folks and their suggestions about how you can help. But also keep in mind that it’s NOT the responsibility of Black folks to do the work for you and educate you about racism.
Make sure you are having the important and difficult talks with yourself, your family and friends, and in your community. If you hear a racist joke, tell your friends it’s inappropriate and why. Passively participating in racist behaviors, even if they don’t seem like a big deal and you don’t want to rock the boat, will simply continue the same discrimination as ever.
Support the Black community by buying from Black businesses, donating your money to Black organizations and Black folks in your own communities and circles of friends. Pay Black folks for their work and their labor, especially when they’re helping educate you and others about racism. Protest alongside Black folks, but stay in the background in a supporting role and make sure your voices are not louder than theirs. VOTE. Write your state representatives often to incite them to create lasting change in our society.
Join me and others in amplifying Black voices and breaking down the oppressive white systems so we can make the world a better place — one in which Black people can THRIVE!