My Dear Readers,
It's hard for me to write anything this week without it feeling trite.
Men killed because one had a broken down car and looked "like a bad dude" and the other for "fitting the description" and reading a book in his car.
The list of things that can get you killed while black is growing.
I say this not to be flippant about these deaths, but to illustrate just how fucked up this reality is for every black and brown person in the United States.. For three days now, I've read status update after status update from my black and brown friends who fear leaving the house or watching their husbands and sons go off to work and school, not knowing if they will come home or if they will be that day's new hashtag. One friend has a teenage son who sleep walks and she woke the other night to the sound of him leaving the house. Think about that for a minute. I get nauseous imagining her fear for him.
I've read updates that start with "If I am killed by the police, know this....",
I've watched videos of my friends crying, BEGGING for the violence and the killing to stop. Not knowing what to do or how to tell their young children about the very real possibility the public servants who are sworn to protect the populace, may in fact be the biggest threat to their lives.
That the colour of their skin, the size of their bodies, the fit of their clothes, the tone of their voice, are all things that automatically condemn them. But mostly - the colour of their skin.
We now know, even with all the proper behaviour, the respectful compliance, with hands up, and calm measured speech, black bodies will still be seen as a threat and as such, poorly trained police officers will default to pulling the trigger first and figuring out the "story" afterwards. They will be put on administrative leave with pay, and rarely will anyone be held accountable for the ever increasing deaths that lay at the feet of police forces in the USA.
I know a lot of people don't want to talk about this. It's too ugly, it's too tragic, they can't handle anymore bad news about another black person being killed for doing nothing more than BEING BLACK. They turn off notifications on those kinds of posts or unfollow, but not unfriend, the people sharing them. They feel it is too removed from their reality and therefore don't think about it too much.
This is a problem my dear readers. The THEY I am talking about is US. And this is our WHITE PRIVILEGE in action. This is us standing back because it's not white people being shot for having a broken down car, or reading a book while waiting for their kid to be out of school, or being 13 years old playing with a BB gun. We feel like it's not our place to say anything, to DO anything. That if we are respectfully quiet, all will go back to "normal"... eventually.
But I ask you... What is normal? Because, it's not as if the racism we are seeing now thanks to the immediacy of the internet and social media is NEW. It's just come up to the surface, it's been exposed, it's making us ALL take a good hard look at WHAT IT IS LIKE TO BE BLACK IN AMERICA and we can't ignore it anymore. Or, I mean you can and that is your choice, but I will tell you straight up, if this is how you feel, then YOU ARE PART OF THE PROBLEM.
I am asking you not to do this. I am asking you to go to that place that makes you feel uncomfortable, to do some soul searching, uncover your own racial biases, and question yourself and why you think/feel that way? Sit with that for a bit, decide how you can change these thoughts and feelings, and then make a commitment to do better.
Ok, you've gotten this far, good. Thank you. Now here are your next steps:
Start reading writing from Black writers who are out there every day, writing about their realities, their experiences, while also getting harassed (online and off) and called every bad thing you can think of, and who never give up. People like Ijeoma Oluo and Luvvie Ajayi and Kelly Wickham Hurst. Follow folks like Deray McKesson and Mikki Kendall on Twitter, and Son of Baldwin and Black Lives Matter on Facebook.
(I post a lot from all of the above on my Facebook page, so you can start there.)
Ok. Step three in this process is to walk the walk. Put your money where your mouth is. LITERALLY. Donate to organizations that are working to change the system. This is a pretty good list of organizations who could use your support and who are working towards that goal and can use all the help they can get.
If money it tight and a donation is out of the question, donate your time. Go to a rally, attend a protest march. Like Luvvie points out in the post I linked to above, "Be on the frontlines, showing that you have a vested interest in the well-being of Black and brown people. Do not monopolize the space but be present, so that those protesting can SEE allies. So that those people in riot gear can see faces that look like theirs."
This is going to take some work, my lovely readers. It's going to take more than words, more than Likes and Retweets and exploding heart emojis. I mean, sure, those will help, especially if you have a platform and can use it to move people to action, then yes, do that. Do that a lot! Amplify the shit out of the above writers and activists and others like them.
And here is when I will ask even more from you...
I ask that you don a Social Justice Warrior hat, wear it with pride and start doing the work close to home. Check in on your black friends and make sure they have the supports they need to process these tragedies. Have the difficult conversations with family members and friends who continue to perpetuate racial stereotypes, and tout the "but, but, but.... #alllivesmatter" banner. Call out the dude at work making jokes and then defaulting to the gaslighting defences of "black on black crime" and "we don't know the facts, we should wait for the authorities to tell us what happened" BULLSHIT. Don't tell your kids "we don't see colour", because that's a load of crap and your kids are not stupid. Talk to them about what is happening - this article has some great tips for white parents of white kids.
One final comment. You WILL mess up with one or more of the things I have asked of you. I know I have and I will again. It is OK to stumble, just don't give up. Get back up and try again. My wonderful friend Elisa told me the other day that I needed to be more visual and vocal about our friendship (yes, she is black), and about my own inter-racial marriage. SHE CHALLENGED ME TO BE A BETTER ALLY.
Race is not an easy thing to talk about, mainly because we've been conditioned not to, and it is time we changed this. We have to start talking, and then doing, and challenging others to talk and DO, and so on, and so on, and so on, and so on, AND SO ON....
We have to Fabergé the fuck out of our allyship, until no more black and brown bodies are being shot and killed in the streets in what is starting to look very much like state-sanctioned murder. Until the systems that uphold BOTH racism and white privilege are toppled and rebuilt, then and only then can we truly say that all lives matter AND MEAN IT!
NOW, MY LOVELIES.... OFF YOU GO!
GET TO WORK.
EVERY LITTLE BIT HELPS.
In solidarity and love,