The recent tragedies — Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, Christian Cooper — have been devastating and consuming. So, what can we do next? How do we strive to be more conscious and try to combat racism? I’m not an expert in any way, but I’d love to talk together about five first steps we can take….
1. Making the goal to become anti-racist.
In the words of Angela Davis, “it is not enough to be not racist, you must actively be anti-racist.” We have to actively recognize our privilege and confront racism, as well as learning and listening as much as we can. It’s not enough to just be neutral and live your life; we have to actually do the work.
One of the first steps is to realize that even people with the best intentions can be racist in some ways. We all have unconscious biases — views we’ve absorbed from society and may not even realize we hold — and we need to recognize these before we can do the work of dismantling them. “It’s not: either you’re racist or you’re not. It’s to what degree are you prejudiced, against whom, and why?” says Padma Lakshmi. “To be socially conscious, we must unlearn toxic attitudes and behavior that have been passed down to us over generations in our communities or even in our families. We all need to question our biases, educate ourselves and commit to bettering ourselves.”
“The beauty of anti-racism is that you don’t have to pretend to be free of racism to be an antiracist,” says writer Ijeoma Oluo. “Anti-racism is the commitment to fight racism wherever you find it, including in yourself. And it’s the only way forward.”
2. Reading books.
As a white person, I’ve been trying to educate myself. Books that have helped so far are White Fragility and Between the World and Me. Next up: How to Be an Anti-Racist. Do you have others you’ve found helpful? (I like this illustrated list, as well.)
3. Listening, watching and learning.
Aside from books, I’ve been grateful to learn from the people behind the Instagram accounts Conscious Kid and Rachel Elizabeth Cargle. I also found the This American Life podcast episode Three Miles really eye-opening, as well as the HBO documentary Student Athlete. Next up: 13th on Netflix. I’m simply trying to read/watch/listen as much as I can, in as many ways as I can, because, as they say, you don’t know what you don’t know.
4. Recognizing systemic (or institutional) racism.
Lastly, this might be obvious, but it’s important to keep front of mind: this is bigger than individual racism — there’s, of course, major systemic racism. It’s not just about people making offensive jokes, there’s an entire system in place that keeps people of color out of power and from accruing wealth — for example, redlining, the school to prison pipeline, housing discrimination, the wealth gap, healthcare discrimination, mass incarceration, police brutality, and much more. I’m looking forward to watching this series to keep learning.
To help support organizations doing good work, many people have asked where to donate. Here are some great places: NAACP, Black Mamas Matter, Equal Justice Initiative and Thurgood Marshall College Fund. Please leave other recommendations in the comments, if you have them.
Please let me know what you’re reading, doing, thinking… I’d love to know. Thank you so much for talking about this with me. xo
(Photo by Christine T. Nguyen/Minnesota Public Radio.)