By Heather Nelson
Last night I cried.
I couldn’t stop replaying in my head the events of the last few weeks (months, years) in my head. Trayvon Martin. Michael Brown. Eric Garner. Tamir Rice. Philando Castile. John Crawford. Breonna Taylor. Ahmaud Arbery. George Floyd. And so many more.
We’ve become numb to it. Almost blind. We watch and we post about how outraged we are that black men and women are dying. We say we want change. We say we want an end to the brutality. But we do nothing.
I’m at fault, too.
The injustices in this world, this country, have left me shaken. I’m tired of opening my newsfeed each morning to read about more death, more violence. For the past couple of days, I’ve struggled to find the words. The violence, the outrage, the misunderstandings, the racism…. The blatant racism.
I’m disappointed. No — I’m outraged. I’m done pretending that saying I’m an ally is enough. It’s not. It’s clearly not enough.
Over the last (nearly) four years, the “president” shaped this belief that racism is OK. So, the most vile people emerged from their holes to express their disdain for those who want change. They soak in every word the Orange Man tweets. They hang on his every word. They use it to fuel their hate.
And sadly, we elected this fool. We aided him in his quest to spread false prophecies. We did this to ourselves. There’s no feeling sorry.
This morning, I was out pumping gas when I overheard two older black gentlemen conversing. One fueled up to go fishing, the other prepared to enjoy his Sunday. After talking about what fish the one man would catch, the conversation took a more serious turn.
“Stay safe out there, brother,” one of the men said.
“I will. Thanks, man,” the second one said as he loaded into his car. He glanced over at me, as I’d heard this entire conversation.
I nodded and smiled. It was my only way of showing a sense of solidarity. My way of showing, “Hey, I see you. I hear you. I want you to feel safe. I am not a racist.”
“Have a good day,” I said. I felt sadness welling up again. Sad, thinking about how black men, women, children feel unsafe. On guard always.
I do not want pity. Or comfort for this sadness. My sadness is so minuscule compared to what my black friends face. It’s probably not even a glimpse into how they’re feeling, especially at this moment.
What now? What can I do to use my visibility, my privilege, my whiteness to shape change? I feel so lost. And, yet, I feel so angered by fellow white community. So, I googled. (I literally Googled ‘How to fight racism’.)
I’ve come up with a few tangible things. I know there’s more, but this is a start.
- Support Activists
Attend protests in your area. Show up for the marginalized people in your community. Donate to the Minnesota Freedom Fund or a local bail fund for those who may be arrested in this fight. (Always check to make sure it’s a legitimate fund before donating.) Activists (especially now) at these protests are risking themselves in a number of ways. The current pandemic hasn’t impeded injustice; people of color are more likely to be arrested at these protests. (And there’s a high risk of Covid-19 exposure in jail.) Check with local organizations to see how you can help. I’ve found good information from keeping up-to-date with Black Lives Matter protests in my city.
2. Educate Yourself
I do not claim to know everything. In fact, I know there’s still more I need to learn about my privilege as a white person. It’s going to be uncomfortable to accept some truths. Here’s a few resources I’ve found from my research: Showing Up For Racial Injustice; 75 Things White People Can Do for Racial Justice; the book White Fragility by Robin D’Angelo; Monique Melton’s anti-racism work. “It’s going to take a lot of discomfort, a lot of asking questions and being honest, dealing with your feelings that come up…” — Monique Melton in the Forbes interview. Let’s just say, my reading list just doubled.
3. Call Lawmakers. VOTE.
You might be one of those people who think voting doesn’t actually do anything. You’re wrong. If you’re unsatisfied with how your government currently handles issues, vote or call your lawmakers. Tell them what you demand. Attend a city council meeting. Research those that you are voting into office — especially on a local level. And once again, vote.
4. Speak with Others
Speak truth to those that avoid or deny it. Do not stay silent when overhearing racist comments. Challenge those you know, love, or befriend that refuse to recognize the injustices being done to black people. Call them out. It will feel uncomfortable, but it doesn’t have to be hostile. It’s important to make people aware of their actions; do your best to educate. Use your voice. It’s your job to inform.
I accept that I will never understand what it means to be a black person. I won’t know what it’s like to be unheard, marginalized, disrespected, afraid. But I do understand (as much as I can) the oppression that exists. I understand that I have more to learn. And I know I want to use my voice to help others.
It’s not about being “anti-police.” It’s not about whose life matters more. It’s about the systematic oppression — the centuries of injustices towards black people. I’m tired of being silent. And I’m tired of watching death tolls (of black men and women) tick upward by the day. Aren’t you?