Many people want to help in the ongoing struggle for equality and equity, but they don’t know what to do. Activist DeRay Mckesson explains how we can all show up and stand up.
1. Own your privilege.
“Acknowledge that there is a privilege you have [if you’re white], and use the privilege to disrupt that privilege itself. I’ve had people say to me, ‘Well, I didn’t benefit from white privilege.’ [You need to realize] every Band-Aid in this country looks like your skin and not mine, baby dolls look like you, and the color ‘nude’ is your skin color. That’s what the privilege of whiteness looks like — it’s not about what you’ve done; it’s about what society does when it treats white as normal. It’s about you saying, ‘I have privilege, I have power, and I will seek out how I can use that privilege and those resources. I’ll ask marginalized people, ‘What is the help you need?’, as opposed to just saying, ’I think this is what you should do’.”
2. Talk about what’s uncomfortable and what’s important.
“There’s no winning in silence. If we allow white supremacist ideology to spread without being challenged, people continue to replicate it. And the question is: what do you do? You need to talk about it — you can’t change what you don’t talk about. And while we’ve had a great conversation [in the last year] about the symbols and about Confederate monuments, there is still so much work to be done that we actually don’t talk about — like what to do about police violence, or bail, or rehabilitation for people who are coming out of prison, or the opioid crisis. You don’t always see the trauma — it doesn’t show up in the same way as a man running a car through a crowd of people — but the impact on people’s lives is as disastrous as anything else.”
3. Be strategic in what you say and how you say it.
“People don’t respond well to being shouted down at the dining room table. If your goal is to change somebody’s mind, that isn’t the most effective strategy; if your goal is to make a point, then that isn’t an effective strategy. Try to show people what you mean, as opposed to just saying, ‘I’m right.’ It’s a long-game solution. Rarely do people come out of one conversation and say, ‘You know, my whole worldview has changed.’ It’s about setting a foundation, so that people over time can change. This isn’t everybody’s work — some people are much better at having conversations than other people.”
4. Activism isn’t just about protests and marches — it means voting, too.
“Many of the things that will change people’s lives are structural, so it’s about voting where you are and pushing for or against legislation in your city and town. Use your institutional power to change structures and systems. Who shows up to the hearings about police violence? Who is working on welfare reform? Who is working on bail reform? Are you willing to come out for three weeks of hearings, sit, and say, ‘This is an issue that is important to me, too’? Even when it may not be convenient? That’s what it means to show up.”
5. Figure out where and how you can do the most good.
“I think there’s a role for everybody. The things I care about might not be the things you care about, and vice versa, which doesn’t mean they aren’t all important. For some people, their space is being on Twitter and on Facebook and pushing out messages. There are some people who are better in the street than I am, and some people who need to skip the street because they can just go to the governor’s mansion. If the governor is your friend and you can talk to him in his dining room, do that. We don’t all need to play the same role. The cacophony of all of us doing work together will actually lead to systemic change.”
6. Start where you are.
“Harriet Tubman knew that something could be done. She started where she was and started small, and it turned into the Underground Railroad. It can often start with you and another person, or you and two people, having a conversation about what the world can be and here are the steps you can take. You need to take concrete steps — small ones, like steps on a ladder — to get to systemic change. Ask people what they need, stand in concert with those who’ve been doing the work longer than you, listen, ask more questions than talk. Those are all the hallmarks of the people I’ve seen who are the most effective.”
7. Ask yourself: what do I want the future to look like?
“When we think about resistance, we focus almost exclusively on the absence of oppression. We think: How do we end mass incarceration? How do we stop the disparities with regard to police killings? How do we stop police killings altogether? But when we tear down these repressive, oppressive systems and structures, something has to replace them, something that’s better. For example, we know there will always be rules, there will always be people who break the rules, and there will always need to be consequences. Do the people who enforce those consequences have to be the police? No. Does that enforcement have to mean prison? Absolutely not. We need to spend more time now talking about potential solutions. How do we help people imagine a conception of safety that doesn’t center on the police? How do we help them imagine a world where every adult can read? How do you help people dream in a big way that will actually change lives? It’s hard because we haven’t lived in that world before. But it doesn’t mean that world’s not possible.”
8. Feel the fear — and act anyway.
“Martin Luther King said, ‘The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.’ It bends, because people bend it. There are so many people who understand the power they have. They’re standing up across the country when the odds look like they’re against them, and they’ve learned to make sure fear doesn’t overpower everything else even if fear is still present. There are just so many incredible people who are willing to put something on the line to make the world a different place. That gives me hope.”
These remarks were taken from a Facebook Live conversation conducted with DeRay Mckesson at TED headquarters in New York City. To learn more, watch the video.
Three words: “Thank you, Sir.”
article via thegrio.com On Friday night, cheerleaders for the DeSoto and Cedar Hill high schools’ football teams in Texas knelt during the national anthem before the game between their two schools to protest the treatment of people of color in the United States. What’s more, on Tuesday, the DeSoto girls’ volleyball team took a knee during […]
Wow. I am aghast at this blatant racism against these lovely South African young girls! Great job young ladies. Keep fighting for the freedom to be yourself and love yourself just as you are. Your natural hair is the essence of your beauty as a creation of a loving God. Same stuff goes on in America…(smh)
TwitterTeenage girls in South Africa are leading a protest movement against their school’s discriminatory hair code–which they say targets black students’ natural hair–and is a symbol of the wider environment of racism at the school. Students at Pretoria High School for Girls began protesting last Friday after a black student was reprimanded for writing an…
“Get in where you fit in.”
Where’s that? Got a map? I am seen as “black” in America. I have chocolate skin and a doctorate-level degree. I am told I, “sound white,” on the phone. Imagine the surprise when I show up!
Actually, I am an adopted African American with the addition of Irish and Cherokee ancestry, so…I guess I am multi-racial. I was educated in an all-white community, so I didn’t, “get the memo,” about the anomaly of “sounding white,” until much later in life.
My two teenagers are… whatever I am (LOL), plus their dad, who is “white,” with German and Irish/Scottish ancestry. So they are…errr, light-skinned black children in America? Really, they are less than half black, but I explained the “one-drop” rule (look it up) to them early on, lest they make the mistake of getting out of line by acknowledging their ancestry in its totality! They, too, sound,”white.” Poor things…
Is Obama really our first black president? It depends on who you ask. My kids see him as “bi-racial, like they are.” However, many Americans see my bi-racial son as a black teenager while my daughter is called “exotic,” at times, her heritage turned into a sort of racial guessing-game. Nervertheless, they both pass the “paper-bag” rule. (Look it up)
To be honest, all this cr*p makes me tired. As you might have guessed, we would prefer being seen simply as “people.”
Fear not! Here’s an excellent NPR book review that moved me to think about the deeper issues that come with being of mixed-race in America, especially for this talented writer, Mat Johnson.
Novelist Mat Johnson Explores The ‘Optical Illusion’ Of Being Biracial
America is a young dumb country and it needs all kinds of help. America is a dumb puppy with big teeth that bite and hurt. And we take care of America. We hold America to our bosom; we feed America, we make love to America. There wouldn’t be an America if it wasn’t for black people. So you have some dedicated black Americans who will die a million deaths to save America. And this is home for us. We don’t know really about Africa. We talk it in a romantic sense, but America is it. And so, America is always going to be okay as long as black people don’t totally lose their mind, cause we’ll pick up the pieces and turn it into a new dance.
This blog post was first published on Bold.
My name is Richard Smith, and I am fortunate enough to live and work in San Francisco. The following words are mine, and mine alone.
I am typically classified by others as a “big, black guy”. I’m 6 foot 2 inches tall, and I weigh around 240 pounds. I have often been asked by strangers what position I played, or where I played college ball (I didn’t). I am a 29 year-old Jamaican male living in San Francisco, working as a software engineer. The words to follow are some thoughts I have had for a while, that I have only recently found the courage to pen.
For a long time, I felt it normal to feel out of place, or like I don’t belong in “White spaces,” because I’m Black. I thought it was normal to feel apologetic that I may have looked or seemed “threatening” to passersby, if I thought I invoked any feelings of fear or discomfort in my presence. I would say things like, “oh, well I understand that I’m a big, Black guy, and that if I don’t shave for a few weeks and walked down the street at night, I’d probably be afraid of me, too.”
It’s crazy to think of how hard I have tried to mind my manners, mind my presence, mind my appearance, how I walk, how my clothes fit, how long I glance at strangers for, how different I look in a hoodie vs. in a collared shirt, or even not speak in slang (even jokingly) for fear that people would expect it from me, and not actually see the humor, or the sarcasm.
It’s equally crazy how much more comfortable I feel around other Black people, or in other countries. I took a trip to Cuba for 2 weeks, and everyone there actually thought I was Cuban — which was surprising, but kind of awesome at the same time. I’ve never felt so accepted in my life. Even in Canada, I felt more comfortable than I do in Silicon Valley.
Here are a few things I have grown accustomed to experiencing:
- Being the last person sat next to on the bus/train (sometimes, nobody takes the risk)
- Being followed around stores by security
- Being told by cab drivers that I’m the first Black person they’ve ever had a positive encounter with
- Walking down the street and having someone step off of the sidewalk, and around a car (or cross the street) to avoid walking past me
- Seeing and hearing people lock their car doors or clutch their purses/bags as I walk by
- Being asked things like, “So, what’s it like being a black guy in Silicon Valley?”
- Being mistaken for another Black person at work
- Surprising people when they initially discover I’m a programmer
- Surprising people when they find out I actually hate watermelon (and shattering other Black stereotypes in the process)
- Feeling relieved when people don’t verbally address the fact that I’m Black
- Feeling out of place when I can’t identify with certain pop culture references or cultural norms (like being able to swim, liking baseball, listening to rock/country or playing golf), because I grew up differently
- Feeling like I have something to prove because I’m Black
- Feeling like I was chosen for certain photo/video opportunities at work and during other activities to feign diversity and acceptance
- Being the most athletic person in a particular group, and having people say things like, “…of course it would be the Black guy”
The ones in bold are the ones that have affected me the most.
I usually don’t like talking about the topic of race, because I know everyone has something they are struggling with. I know that it may not seem like a good reason to you, but it’s been my reason. Everyone has a cause that’s dear to them, everyone knows someone or is someone that is going through someserious shit. You know what I mean.
But, in light of the sheer amount of nonsensical shootings, beatings, and stories of racially-charged vandalism, I felt like I had to say something. Anything.
Two of my younger brothers are coming to visit me next month, and I’m mentally preparing to discuss with them the realities of being a young, Black man living in America. I will tell them if they feel anything I’ve mentioned above, that it is normal for them to feel that way, but that doesn’t mean it should be. I will tell them that I have worked so hard to teach myself how to write code so I can make a better future for myself, and to be a role model for them.
At a certain point in my life, I realized that I had no positive role models (let alone ones I could relate to), so I set out to become a positive role model for my siblings. I didn’t want them to have to resort to gangs, violence, or go looking for love to find ways to identify with others and gain acceptance. I wanted them to learn to love themselves, and learn to love & empathize with others. To always be open-minded, seeking growth and understanding over judgment and contempt. To learn the value of hard work, and to truly believe that they can have, and achieve anything they can dream of.
I’m not trying to say that Black lives are more important than anyone else’s.
The amount of senseless shootings and beatings by the police towards other people of color is alarming. The fact that this can happen to me anywhere, at any time, for any reason makes me not even want to go outside at times, and makes me fear for the lives of my family since it can happen to any of them, too.
Nowadays, the fact that I’m terrified of being pulled over (thankfully, I don’t own a car, but I still rent one on occasion), and sometimes feel out of place simply walking down the street makes me feel like an intruder in my own home.
I’m not saying I have it worse than anyone, and I’m not trying to garner any sympathy. I’m not trying to say that Black lives are more important than anyone else’s, but there is a deep-rooted, systemic problem of racism, judgment, and hate-mongering in America that seriously needs to be addressed.
I just wanted to get some thoughts off of my chest. Feel free to do what you’d like with that.
Thanks for reading. ❤️