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…
My sadness over the reality of our divided society overwhelmed me today as old lyrics rang in my ear, in the form of an old favorite song, Us and Them, by Pink Floyd. I used to listen to this song, hour after hour, with giant headphones, with my best friend, Leslie, back in the 70s. We loved that song’s ability to take us to another place. Its ethereal sound soothed us. The words were, well, just words, back then.
Imagine my surprise today when the same song, the same sounds and the same words ripped me out of relaxation to a horrific state of revelation. These words embody my greatest fears and disappointments in our current society’s state of affairs.
Take a look at these prophetic words:
Us and Them
“Us (us, us, us, us) and them (them, them, them, them)
And after all we’re only ordinary men
And you (you, you, you)
God only knows
It’s not what we would choose (choose, choose) to do (to do, to do)
Forward he cried from the rear
And the front rank died
And the general sat
And the lines on the map
Moved from side to side
Black (black, black, black)
And blue (blue, blue)
And who knows which is which and who is who
Up (up, up, up, up)
And down (down, down, down, down)
And in the end it’s only round ‘n round (round, round, round)
Haven’t you heard it’s a battle of words
The poster bearer cried
Listen son, said the man with the gun
There’s room for you inside
“I mean, they’re not gonna kill ya,
So if you give ’em a quick short, sharp, shock,
They won’t do it again. Dig it?
I mean he get off lightly, ’cause I would’ve given him a thrashing
I only hit him once! It was only a difference of opinion, but really
I mean good manners don’t cost nothing do they, eh?”
Down (down, down, down, down)
And out (out, out, out, out)
It can’t be helped that there’s a lot of it about
With (with, with, with), without
And who’ll deny it’s what the fighting’s all about?
Out of the way
It’s a busy day
I’ve got things on my mind
For the want of the price
Of tea and a slice
The old man died.”
A blog commenter, “SkinnyD,” put his two cents in, eleven years ago, giving his best interpretation of this, “oldie but goodie.” He wrote:
“Timeless poetry such as this has many levels of meaning.
Laid out before us by the artist so succinctly, yet so sublime.
All of us can see the reference to the nature of war, its cruelty, and futility.
However, I believe there is a more primal meaning to these words. It’s more about human nature, rather than the nature of war.
The “Us and Them” verse refers to how groups (tribes) of humans can be cruel to one another, but as individuals we like to think we would not act this way.
The “Black and Blue” verse refers to how, from the beginning of time and until its end, individuals are drawn to congregate and called to war. We like to think that as individuals we are called to war by our dehumanized leaders with their wicked words.
The “Down and Out” verse is the clincher that exposes one cruel aspect of human nature, greed. The greed of nations cause war and we can’t deny that is what the fighting is all about. Yet, in our personal lives, our greed can blind us to the suffering of the needy within our own society with people dying for the price of tea and a slice.
I believe the lyrics examines how we like to think of ourselves as individuals and how we truly act on a personal level.”
I agree, SkinnyD. If you’re still out there, props to you. Thank you for expressing what many were feeling then, and today.
Maybe I will cc my old BFF, Leslie, and get her opinion, after all these years. She probably feels the same…
Readers: What do you think about our world today? Has your view of reality changed for the better or the worse, since childhood?
Song lyrics by Pink Floyd
Comments by SkinnyD at http://songmeanings.com/m/songs/view/2812/
“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.