Yesterday I finished my 11th cycle of chemotherapy. During the past week, my mind felt full of gravel rather than thoughts. I was aware of the news, watched it with sad eyes, but didn’t have the energy to engage in a meaningful way.
But now the chemo haze has lifted and I’m back to my normal action-oriented self. If you know me, you know my family, you know that I am raising 2 black boys and want them to grow up happily to pursue their dreams, without fear or hesitation. Racism in this country is not new, but the recent events have suddenly brought it to the forefront in circles that previously had ignored it. While it’s devastating that the video evidence of horrific murders of black people was the catalyst to spark these broader conversations now taking place — I am hopeful as I now see more people wanting to engage, wanting to do better, and to be part of solving this pervasive and deep-rooted problem of structural racism in America.
In this post I am going to share some tools and strategies you can use to make a difference. These are not things that I have made myself, but what I have learned about and found helpful. This is by no means a complete list— and if I have left something out that you have felt useful, please add it in the comments below. We need to work together to make a change. It is NOT ENOUGH to post a meme or hashtag BLM on social media. Let me repeat: That is not enough. If you are hurting, if you are sad, angry, FEELING this in any way— then, funnel those feelings into action, and be able to participate in the process of making our country what we want it to be.
So where do you start? There are several broad categories and many opportunities to be involved. Don’t get overwhelmed. Think of this as an endurance exercise— we aren’t racing, we don’t need to do everything at once— but we need to do do the things that make us uncomfortable, challenge ourselves, and our society to become better than what we are. Here are the 4 major ways, as I see it, to make a difference.
1) Listen First, then talk about it. Don’t pretend to know someone else’s lived experiences; listen to people without pressuring them. Educate yourself — work to learn more than you do now. Talk about racism, implicit biases and injustice, maybe talk with people who may not always agree with you. You won’t always say everything right, and that’s ok. But you need to be part of the conversation.
We need to talk to our kids. This might seem like a daunting task, but it is one of the MOST IMPORTANT things we have to do. We need kids to be aware, be able to identify racism when they come across it— because they likely already have. Once they can identify it, as they get older they will be able to address it easier than if they had not learned about it at all at home. If you are not sure how to start this conversation with your kids here are a few suggestions:
This is an awesome Webinar put on by Dr. Kira Banks — founder of Raising Equity, a program that helps to give children tools to be able to critically think about equity in the world around them. This webinar has a panel of 4 other parents who are also professionally involved in racial equity and inclusion work, and helps identify HOW to start having these conversations— not IF you will. (Because the fact you will is a given, right?) It’s a little longer than an hour long, and I HIGHLY recommend you to make the time to listen.
If you don’t have an hour for the webinar, perhaps a few articles can help you (especially if you feel ill-equipped to start these conversations without a little coaching), to broach the subject with your kids about race and racism. Start here, here, here and here.
2) Read about it. Reading to your kids can help spark more conversations, so this can be a good first place to start as you want to engage your kids in more discussion. Look here, here, here, here or here for lists of children’s books that talk about race, racism, diversity and inclusion at different developmental levels to start.
There is important reading for adults as well:
The picture representation above has many books that will help add to the adult conversations, self-reflection and awareness that may not be available unless you are actively looking to educate yourself by reaching for these on the shelf. The New York Times put together An Antiracist Reading List, which was written by Ibram X. Kendi, who authored 2 of the books included in the illustration above— “Stamped From the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America,” and “ How to Be an Antiracist.” Many bookstores are also curating antiracist book lists for adults — examples here and here.
Gosh, there are so many great resources— and more articles every day. This op-ed by Kareem Abdul-Jabber published this past weekend in the LA times is worth reading. This is an amazing list of other resources including reading material, as well as movies, podcasts and even people to follow on social media who are helping move the needle forward.
3. Spend Your Money Wisely. Donate to organizations working for racial equity and justice like the NAACP or the Equal Justice Initiative, or any of those listed below. This takes minimal time, but has a large impact.
If you want to donate to help people protesting this week there are many resources and information on how to do so here. And, on a more local level, try to support businesses owned by people of color when you are able.
4. Get Out The Vote. I can not stress this enough— fighting against racism should not be political- it should not be debatable, there should be no question that we should work towards this goal together. But, here we are — in 2020 — fighting against racial biases that have been supported by our laws and legislature for far too long. To change this, we need to elect leaders who understand these issues, who will fight for equal treatment under the law, who will value BLACK LIVES. SO— how can you help with this? First- make sure you are registered to vote. You can figure that out here. Next, help other people register to vote, and educate yourself on what will be on your local ballot. With COVID-19, there have been less door-to-door outreach to discuss the issues with voters, but there are still other ways to get involved. Get in touch with the campaign of someone you would like to support. More generally, you can get involved with writing postcards to voters, or contact your local chapter of indivisible.
As I mentioned at the beginning— this is by no means a complete list, but a start. Please add other ideas below, and comment with what YOU are doing to tackle racism in your community.