People are dying — children of all colors and faiths, Black men and women, Jews. The ideas of truth, honor, life, and liberty are besmirched every day as people cheer for a false god and others stay silent. Our president encourages, praises and embraces white nationalism. Spurred by his deep disregard for the truth, for compassion, for anything that resembles what makes this nation great, he has incited a level of violence and hate that is unprecedented in recent history.
We are on a precipice, one where at any moment our democracy may end. For those white Americans who have not fallen under his spell, it is time to question and acknowledge our level of participation which has brought us to this point. Expressing our honest outrage is not enough. To blame Trump for his very real part in inciting this violence and hate is not enough. As a white woman married to a Black man, it is incumbent on me to do everything within my power to stand up and bring change.
But it isn’t just up to those of us who love Black people. It is up to every white American, who says they care, to take a stand and stop being complicit in protecting a society that doesn’t value Black people’s lives. Make no mistake; we are culpable in the virulent hate we are now seeing.
HOW CAN YOU AS A WHITE PERSON DO THAT? HOW CAN YOU CHANGE? HOW CAN YOU STOP BEING PART OF THE PROBLEM?
- First, listen. Listen and listen some more. Do not claim to know or understand what it feels like to be a person of color. You can’t. Do not patronize or tell a Black person you are not racist. By a definition of racism that is defined as power over another based on race, we are all racist. The question becomes are we woke?
- When you see someone in harm’s way be prepared to stand up and say something. Being silent is not ever an option in the face of active racism. Be willing to take on other white people.
- When a Black person tells you that a joke or a statement is racist. Listen. Don’t tell them you meant no harm. You have no idea what it means to live in a world where stereotypes too often define how people treat you.
- If a progressive, stop equating economic equality with real equality. I have watched as progressives have eschewed identity politics. They believe that creating an economy that benefits everyone will somehow change what is in people’s hearts and bellies. They couldn’t be more wrong. To not deliberately address the issues that are specific to Black communities and Black men and women is to be ensconced in one’s privilege. It is to deny the very real ugly that has been part of the fabric of this nation.
- Do not ever let anyone utter racists comments or tropes in your presence. Too many of us are more interested in a Happy Thanksgiving than rocking the boat. To be “woke”, to be an ally means to stop accommodating anyone’s racism at any time, even when it may be uncomfortable and even if Aunt Mary may never speak to you again. Be willing to lose people in your life who spew hate.
- Catch yourself when you start to think and deal with a Black person based on a stereotype. We have been inundated since childhood by the media, including entertainment and the news to believe that Black people are to be feared, that they aren’t as intelligent, that they are not as cultured and are to be dismissed. When you find yourself thinking that way, change the channel in your head. Name it. Acknowledge it as a racist thought. It is a powerful way to change.
- If you have children in school encourage them to engage with children who don’t look like them. As a parent reach out to other parents who don’t look like you. It is your job to make them comfortable and welcomed, not theirs.
- When schools, colleges, institutions of any kind exhibit their racism, speak up. Write, email, call whatever it takes to let them know this is not okay. Sadly, these incidents happen more often than not so you will have no shortage of opportunities.
- Vote in every single election. Know who you are voting for. Know where they stand. Are they willing to push aside issues that matter to Black people because they aren’t popular or because they are trying to please the white nationalists? Vote.
Black people owe us nothing. The very foundation of this country was built on the back of enslaved Black people. They have given up their lives, their self-respect, their families and their right to live without fear because we, white people made it so. We are still the majority. We are in power, and our greatest goal has been to maintain our privilege. As a result, it is up to us to make and bring change.
To do any less means that you don’t understand the moment we are living in.
Donald Trump has unleashed a primal anger as he has convinced many white Americans that their way of life is in peril. They are beginning to fight back and take lives. If you do only what you always have done, then you will be complicit not only in the continued persecution of Black Americans but in the destruction of the American experiment, our democracy. We can no longer stand if white Americans don’t find a way to strip their privilege away and to finally acknowledge that we are all created equal. It’s white Americans’ turn to do the heavy lifting.
Jan Harrison, Co-founder of Garnet News and founder of Aliiez.com
Printed with permission by Aliiez.com