To the other white people out there: this is not the time to keep ourselves comfortable.
Do not remain silent in order to preserve peaceful relationships with friends and family, or mince words when others begin the litany: well he shouldn’t have run. He shouldn’t have struggled. He had a criminal record. He shouldn’t have been carrying a gun. A toy gun. He shouldn’t have talked back. The lives lost, and the people living in fear, are more important than our wish to avoid an argument. Every person who speaks up helps. Every person who doesn’t hurts. Because all the people who think these shootings were justified will assume you agree with them, and continue to act accordingly.
Do not respond to “Black Lives Matter” with “Blue Lives Matter” or “All Lives Matter.” No one questions whether white lives matter. No one has ever shot a police officer for hanging out at the park. What is it that feels so threatening about saying black lives matter that causes people to respond so defensively? If you feel that defensive urge, stop and examine it, and don’t spread it around.
Do not sit and feel helpless, say you are helpless, maybe post an article or two on social media and leave it at that. Do you have a blog? Even a teeny tiny blog that only family members read? Use it. I don’t care if you usually only write posts about origami and fishing. Let your readers know that these police shootings of black men and women, and their deaths in prison, are real and unacceptable. Tell them that when they don’t take action, the next death will leave blood on their hands. Write letters to your representatives, and to your police department. Let them know you are watching. Attend meetings for an anti-racism group, and remember that as a white person, it is not about you, you are not in charge, and you need to listen first.
Amplify the black voices that are already speaking up on this issue, and have been for years and years and years. They are the ones dying. They are the ones afraid that their kids are going to get shot or abused for wearing the wrong clothes, or having a broken tail light. They lead. They speak. We get out of the way whenever we can. Anyone who suggests that efforts to destroy systemic racism are somehow racist because they presume that black people need white help in order to be equal needs to do further research on what real anti-racism looks like. And do not assume it is a black person’s job to educate you. They aren’t here for you. You’ve got the Internet at your fingertips. It’s that easy.
What is White Privilege? (yes you can be white and poor or have a hard life and still have white privilege. I’ve dealt with both, and I still had tons of privilege the whole time.)
The definition of Institutional Racism. Understand that when racism is being discussed, more often than not it’s going to be unconscious racism. If you are not actively, purposefully racist, great, that’s a good first step. we all need to accept that we have been raised to be racist in ways that are so deeply embedded in our laws and culture that we don’t notice we’re doing it. And when we’re called out on it, we need to listen and educate ourselves instead of being defensive.
And here are whole lists of books we can read to educate ourselves. Start reading. And act. Be prepared to make mistakes. Be prepared to get called on them, and to listen when you do, instead of getting defensive. Do not expect pats on the back, because this is not about you. Direct attention to black voices rather than keeping the spotlight on yourself. Get uncomfortable. Because when we stay comfortable, people of color die. And if you value your own comfort over their lives and safety, what does that make you?