Black Lives Matter today, tomorrow, and always: 6 ways to start the work of anti-racism
Since the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis on Memorial Day, cities across the U.S. and the world have seen an unprecedented number of protests against police brutality towards black people. The momentum for police reform seems to only be gaining speed with daily protests, bills passed against choke holds and other policing powers, and a global reckoning of the racist systems that led us to this point.
SeaCare’s workforce is made of 97 percent people of color, and we want to support our employees as best we can. As many other prominent businesses and corporations across the U.S. have done, SeaCare is taking a stance against racism and police brutality towards people of color to say that we support the Black Lives Matter movement, and related protests that are happening around the world.
Along with showing our solidarity with black and indigenous people of color (BIPOC), SeaCare would like to provide a brief guide on how to start the work against racism. In the words of political activist Angela Davis, “it is not enough to simply be not racist, we must be anti-racist.”
Most of this information is compiled from black activists and people who advocate for communities of color. It is by no means comprehensive, but a beginning of the work it takes to be educated on white privilege and influencing change from there.
“We wouldn’t have to have Black Lives Matter if we didn’t have 300 years of black lives don’t matter.” - Jane Elliot, anti-racism activist
Recognize your privilege
In a YouTube video called 5 Tips for Being an Ally, activist Franchesca Ramsey explains that privilege “does not mean that you are rich, that you’ve had an easy life, that everything has been handed to you and you’ve never had to struggle or work hard. All it means is that there are some things in life you will not experience or ever have to think about just because of who you are.”
Ramsey goes on to explain that privilege is sort of like the experience of a horse with blinders on. You can still see, but you miss things that happen outside of your perspective.
There’s a common notion among white people that there are only good and bad players when it comes to racism. Many white people claim to be “color blind” and that they treat everyone the same. The sociologist Robin D’Angelo wrote an entire book about how white people often refuse to see themselves as contributors to systemic racism, which is appropriately titled White Fragility.
One of the messages in the book is that we grow up in a culture that promotes implicit bias against people of color, meaning that it’s not only white supremacist groups who promote racism, but the systems that white people have benefited from since the beginning of slavery.
Are you someone who doesn’t consider themselves to have any sort of bias towards people of color, or wonder how to address the topic of race with your family? Then check out this flowchart for people who get defensive when talking about racism.
In order to affect change and be an ally to people of color, it’s important to “understand the experience of those you want to support,” according to the global media site Mashable.
A good source to start with is the best-selling book So You Want to Talk About Race by writer and speaker Ijeoma Oluo. According to the National Book Review, "Oluo gives us--both white people and people of color--that language to engage in clear, constructive, and confident dialogue with each other about how to deal with racial prejudices and biases."
Time Magazine has a list of books to read on race topics, including children’s books that address racism in a way kids can grasp.
Accomplish two things at once and participate in the Black Publishing Power Initiative that ends on June 20th, which involves buying two books by any black author. The goal is to “Blackout bestseller lists with Black voices.”
Keep in mind that It’s not up to black people to bear the burden of educating white people about racism, the very institution of oppression that our race created.
Start uncomfortable conversations
The relationship between a caregiver and the person receiving the care is one of the most important for a senior and their family. Addressing the topic of race, if there is a person of color in the relationship and they are comfortable with it, can create additional trust in the relationship and diffuse tense situations.
Thinking about ways to be more considerate and conscientious around people of color is one place to start on the path to becoming anti-racist. Do you think before you speak? You could be saying racist remarks without knowing it.
Microaggressions are one not-so-obvious way that racism is allowed to persist. The Merriam-Webster definition is “a comment or action that subtly and often unconsciously or unintentionally expresses a prejudiced attitude toward a member of a marginalized group (such as a racial minority).”
You can visit this page from Vox, a website that explains the news, for examples of microaggressions and how to bring them to attention in everyday conversation. They can include any number of off-hand insults, such as, “you’re lucky to be black- it’s so easy to get into college,” or, what are meant to be compliments to black people, “you’re so articulate” (why wouldn’t this be the case?).
As the article explains, microaggressions are “different from overtly racist, sexist, or homopohobic acts or comments because they typically don't have any negative intent or hostility behind them.”
It may take seeking out experiences with people that come from a different background than you to see the weight and harmful impact of these seemingly innocuous comments. Open-minded dialogue and discussion can go a long way.
Check your sources
If your news comes from a majority white news establishment, then you’re probably not getting the full story of what’s happening on the ground with recent protests, or why we reached a boiling point in the U.S.
It’s easy to become distracted by coverage of “looting” and “rioting” in the news, but this can take away from the message of protests, according to the black media website The Root.
Calling for peaceful protests is one mistake white people can make in trying to be anti-racist, according to the writer and activist Jen Winston. In an Instagram post, Winston explained that telling black people how to react to centuries-old oppression is not the place of a white person.
“This also ignores the fact that many peaceful protests turn into chaos, and the instigators of the chaos are usually the police,” Winston writes.
Different sources tell a different story.
Promote racial justice in your own community
Showing solidarity by showing up to protest is just one way to support the black community right now. Many people in the greater Seattle area have held signs up in their neighborhood and on highway overpasses to show solidarity with the movement for police reform and against racism.
Facebook groups and community pages are good places to go for information about neighborhood action events. Being Neighborly Facebook groups encourage face-to-face connections among neighbors, for one. Nextdoor community pages, following Black Lives Matter hashtags on Twitter and Instagram (among others), and speaking to friends, family, colleagues to see what they are doing to be active are other ways to learn and get involved.
A monthly donation that supports the Black Lives Matter movement can directly add to the impact of an organization or charity. The e-commerce website The Strategist has a comprehensive list of organizations taking donations that include community restoration funds, policy reform and legal defense organizations.
The Intentionalist is a Seattle-based online directory that can point you to black and minority-owned restaurants and shops to show your financial support. This is especially useful at a time when local businesses are already struggling to keep their doors open.
Along the same lines, The Infatuation has a comprehensive list of black-owned Seattle restaurants by neighborhood, along with up-to-date information on which ones are doing take-out and delivery.
Mistakes will happen, apologize when they do
Here again, I’ll reference YouTuber Franchesca Ramsey, because she says it best regarding the process of becoming an ally: “Realize that you're going to make mistakes and apologize when you do. Nobody's perfect, unlearning problematic things takes time and work so you are bound to mess up and trip and fall. But don't worry, you can brush yourself off and get right back up. Just remember that it's not about your intent, it's about your impact, so when you get called out make sure to listen, apologize, commit to changing your behavior and move forward.”
There’s a lot of divisive rhetoric circling around the news and social media, not to mention people’s living rooms. It can be hard to listen to anything that contradicts someone's idea of reality, and it’s something that white people can have a particularly hard time with in regards to race.
Real progress will take stepping outside of our comfort zones, a lot of listening and learning, and wanting to evolve as a human race.
“Staying silent when you witness oppression is the same as supporting oppression.”