I, along with many of you I imagine, have been doing a lot of internal work, assessing what roles we play and have been playing within the conversation around being actively anti-racist; be it accessing your own internal biases and privileges and see hopefully how you/we can do and be better. But if I may allow myself the opportunity to add to the discourse- this isn’t a sprint or a quick fix; I don’t think this is something which can be done with a 5 step hack on how to be anti-racist, it’s also not something you can do today and it will last you a couple of years. There is work involved, actual active work, hours to be clocked, expansive labour to invest.. Read along and hear me out.
For a long time I struggled with finding my voice, not that I didn’t have one, but I guess I struggled to find a way to articulate it clearly. Be it because I wasn’t able to speak without getting upset or simply raising my voice. Or for fear of becoming the label of the Angry Black Woman. I have worked hard on taking a step back, on listening and not hearing what I would like to hear- actively taking a step back and reassessing what someone is in fact saying. Listening not to reply but to actually hear. Which does sound a little confusing but hear me out. I shifted the source of which I was replying. Instead of being frustrated and upset or feeling attacked, I took a step back, breathed and then came from compassion. If someone is willing to have the discussion, then the least I could do is to listen and meet them with openness. Which, trust me, can be so very hard to do, Especially when it comes to micro aggressions or flat out racism.
This is the case, especially when it comes to the conversation around racism, White privilege and supremacy, these are buzz words in which people tend to have an immediate, almost visceral reaction. But I often wonder about the conversations the people who benefited from these structures and who have benefited for centuries, have been having. How are they attempting to navigate the world in order to be actively anti-racist? Do they even see their privilege? Because let’s face it, the world would be in a much better place if the people who maintain the power, actually spread it out, if they were less greedy and thought more about equity. The majority of us though, aren’t really here to make this a lifestyle, we’re riding a wave because it’s trending and soon enough we will receed back into our regular lives and completely forget or shift our perspective.
The majority of the bandwagon hoppers are essentially looking for quick, Instagram worthy, caption grabbing ways to show the slither of anti-racist work they were suddenly epiphanized to and are looking for praise. Call me a cynic, I can handle it. But at the end of the day, this isn’t some trend that will die, moreover that should die. My Blackness cannot be turned off tomorrow because I’ve decided it doesn’t suit my Instagram theme. Showing up in the world based on whatever version of my Blackness the situation or crowd demands is exhausting- so, it won’t be over for me and if you consider yourself a true ally- then it shouldn’t be over for you either. Maybe the drop in popularity is because we’re all sitting back and gathering our collective breaths from the barrage of resources, books, podcasts, videos of educational and vital information to be absorbed…maybe.
Don’t get me wrong, the work is constant, never ending and to be quite honest- it’s not the slick, sexy, streamlined work or posts which catches people’s eye, but I suppose if you want to be a decent human being- it is never ending, right? We should always be evolving into better versions of ourselves and we can only do so if we’re open, willing and consistently putting in the time. So since you’re looking for it- here are some bite sized things you CAN do and continue to do:
- Be Actively Anti-Racist: Not just today, but tomorrow and the day after and then repeat, repeat, repeat. There are Black people today, tomorrow and the next day. Their lives matter, their safety matters, their generation matters. So do the work, it’s not one you can clock in and out for- because when we slip up, a life is taken and divides get bigger. So, repeat, repeat, repeat.
- Listen: This may sound like a really simplistic thing to do, but no matter how “woke” you think you may be, you will never truly ever know someone’s experience. It is there’s to own, but what you definitely can do is actively listen. Listen to gain perspective, listen so their voices can be heard, listen because that in and of itself is activism.
- Educate Yourself: There is a wealth of knowledge from people who have made it their life’s work, well before it was trending. Support them, buy their books, read their papers/blog posts, consume the data, so that you are well equipped, when the time comes to use it- trust me, you’ll need it. Nothing shuts a racist up, quicker than facts. One thing I think is also important here, is while I respect the White authors who have written about this, I still think it’s very, very important to make sure you are reading books from the Black educators, the ones who have dedicated their lives to the work/cause. Not the ones who are merely jumping on a trend or capitalizing on the timing. Let’s not lose focus on what the movement is really about.
- Use Your Privilege: In whatever way it exists/manifests in your life- use it. Not only will Black and Brown people thank you, it could literally save their lives. We know this, but we tend to forget it when it counts- there is power in numbers, so use your privilege. Protect the vulnerable within your community- there are endless ways in which you can be the change, even if it’s only small and local. Ripples can and will be felt.
- Performative Activism: Posting something on your Instagram grid and making a statement about how you’re there for the Black community, yet behind the scenes your organization doesn’t have diverse voices, doesn’t post diverse body types, stories or peoples their dues- is disengenuous. There needs to be actual, tangible changes, that’s how we pull each other up, giving fair and balanced opportunities to EVERYONE. Holding businesses and companies accountable, taking receipts- now is not the time to stop.
- There is no “right” time: The idea that there is a “right” time to talk about race, is in and of itself a privilege, not something everyone can afford to “choose”. It should also be noted that the system which has been at play for far too long, is relying on us to wait for the “right” time (and hoping the time is never right). They do not want to be inconvenienced, because they are comfortable, the right time has allowed the structure to remain the same and for the power structure to maintain its oppression. So, speak up NOW, call out racists NOW, use your voice NOW. There is literally no RIGHT time.
- Use your wallet as a form of activism: One of the main reasons many brands chose to post a statement online, is because they saw it as detrimental to their business if they didn’t. Not all were doing it because they truly believed in the movement or in anti-racist work. One thing they know well is dollar bills. We need to be much more intentional with where and how we spend our money. Which companies are we freely giving our hard earned, not equitable dollars to? How are they spending it? We need to do the research and ultimately, maybe spend our money into putting back into our own communities and supporting Black and Brown owned businesses. #pulluporshutup
I fully accept that this work isn’t what would be classed as fun, but at the same time anything that has real meaning and importance isn’t meant to be sexy- it’s meant to be transformative. We previously blogged about not doing work for others, you have to invest the time to educate, watch, read and learn- the work starts with us, it will then impact the people around us and this will have an impact on greater society, because all too often we tend to forget that we ARE society. What do you guys think about this?