Racism is shitty. It’s painful. Whether reinforcing stereotypes, tropes, or systems of inequality, it permeates American culture. It affects us all. However, America has a problem with denial which causes a schism in dynamics. The Black reality of American racism is never far from discussion and it does not comport to the current Post-Racial Narrative. Our history and realities simply don’t reflect the view that many of our White colorblind counterparts wish we shared. And though argued in practice, form, and intensity, racism is still part of the American standard. This I assert as Person of Color, and a Black man in America.
Fortunately, social media has exposed many of you to the unfair hand of policing and you’ve endeavored to understand the terms bias, prejudice, and systematic racism. And within the context of our current political discourse, the cause and impact of Mass-Incarceration and “For Profit” Prisons systems, have affixed themselves to national dialog.
Yet, you’re finding it difficult to break through to your friends or family who can’t see what you now find as blatantly obvious. Or, you want to be a better ally, but struggle in place, tone, and visibility, where you are not the center of attention or focus. How do you make a difference when so much seems stacked against you? Small voice, big world. Although I don’t purport to know it all, these are a few small actionable steps I share with my diverse, interracial family and friends who are just becoming aware of these realities. It will not dismantle the system of inequality that drives this country apart while upholding a racial hierarchy, although that’s the harder conversation we must eventually endure. These are very small things that have impact as we navigate to that place in our history that will drive change.
1. Grow Thicker Skin
It doesn’t have to be brown like mine, but since childhood, many of us have become desensitized to American racism and coded racial attacks. I hear the whistles and take the barbs. I’ve been called a nigger by racists, profiled by police, stopped for driving the wrong car in the wrong neighborhood in the wrong part of town with the wrong colored woman. Lazy, dumb, criminal, thugs, and “not a cultural fit” are all terms I’ve learned to deflect or swallow. Many of you will never know that feeling and struggle with the effacement of pride to develop these callouses. Realize that verbal attacks have evolved. The term nigger-lover is no longer vogue. Even racists, don’t like being called racists anymore. Get comfortable with hearing that anti-cop or anti-racist is now anti-white (the new race traitor). Gone is sympathizer, replaced for the pejorative insult for all “SJW”. You will be cajoled to do nothing, with appeals to suppress your White guilt, a term rooted in regression, not progress. It is a term once used to protect post-war abolitionists from predation, now evolved to protect a majority controlled status quo. We resist change. That’s human. We do so by developing self-defense mechanisms to maintain this homeostatic environment. Expect resistance.
2. Empathize, check in, but don’t Always seek validation
Yes, you feel the pain. I accept that and don’t expect you to be cold and disconnected from our realities. White family members struggle with this in particular, when dealing with new Black relatives. How do you relate? We appreciate genuine concern, but understand that many of us get behind the wheel of a car and don’t know if that next “routine stop” is our last. The constant news of a terrorizing force is burdensome, yet its often the messenger that gets the blame. With that said, just as we’ve maintained or developed self-regulating systems to keep our own mental health in check, you have to develop yours. Check in at the counter, but don’t make a deposit. I’m carrying enough.
3. Try not to unfriend your racist friends and family
I can’t reach them. To maintain our selves from the effects of ignorant of bigoted babble, we often dismiss our opponents or minimize their voices. It’s frustrating. But how are you going to change their minds, even if just a little, if you’ve cut ties. And no, you don’t have to win them over, but I’ve seen change. A year ago people discussing police brutality as an aberration, are close to acknowledging that their “might” be a problem. That’s a step in a journey. Watch them take it. If they’re truly toxic, bump ’em. Don’t let them bring you down.
4. Don’t let it Stand
Casual racism keeps the ghost of Jim Crow alive. The jokes, comments, and attacks that hide cowardly behind the Second Amendment, should not stand unchallenged. It is your right to address them, just as it was their right to make the statement. Your accuser will call you PC, but I implore that understand that society self-regulates bad ideas. Your voice matters. It is the defense mechanism, work around it. And be careful with your language if you care. Yes, privilege checking works, but as a reminder and way to raise consciousness. “Checking” has become so reactionary, that it is often perceived just as dismissively as the offending comment.
5. Stop Sharing Fight Videos Depicting Black Violence
That is not our norm. Yes, it happens, just like it happens in any culture, but the current narrative we’re fighting is against the justification of killing a violent race. When you share those images with people that don’t have any other exposure to Black people, that’s what they’ll remember.
Shut that down.
6. Limit Graphic Videos Unnecessarily Depicting Black Death
Facebook is becoming the largest purveyor of Black Snuff films. I haven’t found a credible study yet showing the effect of these videos on Black self-imagery or the long term desensitizing effect on attitudes, but already I hear the casual dismissal of life. Don’t let that happen. When sharing be conscious of those you impact.
7. Buy Local (and buy Black)
This is a hard one for most Americans, including most Black people to do. Black owned businesses are not prevalent and their names can be deceptive. BET is no longer Black owned, so watching the HIP HOP or Lifetime Achievement Awards does NOT COUNT. The idea of buying from a specific race may seem inherently racist. However, when the argument of modern day racism comes up, we’re told it’s a “Class” thing or an “economic” thing and that racism itself does not exist. Well, if that’s true, then you’re just making an informed decision on where you invest to improve the living conditions of a specific hyper regional locale. Instead of only buying fair trade items from and overseas market, find ways of putting money back into those local communities. That helps revitalize depressed standards, increases opportunities which in turn decreases crime, which increases investment, which reciprocally provides those communities with power in the pursuit of self-determination. This has the biggest impact in generating financial leverage required for a political voice. America will not remove money from politics. We need financially viable Empowerment. Republicans should love this strategy – its not a handout. Now, if you have a desire to give money instead of buying, there are charities that focus on Black education, first time family support and youth counseling, mentoring of Black youth, and great community outreach. You might have to partner with a church (due to limited access), but ensure transparency. Know where your dollar’s going.
Note: Giving local can sometimes go further than monolithic national organizations that are subject to attack, deal with higher overhead, or have broad scope. Understand its a long game and success often grows slowly, plant your dollar locally. BLM is not the only group out there, and there are long standing locally managed community endeavors that need support.
8. Vote Local
Remember that if you want to change the policing policies and systems, you have to vote local. Becoming a low level police officer, doesn’t really do it. And by the time you’ve ascended, you’ve changed. Your Sheriffs, District Attorneys, etc., are locally elected. They answer to Mayors and Governors, the legislative branches. The demand for accountability of police BY police does not work. Holding police accountable, starts with first holding their bosses accountable. If you want to change the laws and exert the pressure required to change their inaction, it happens with the legislature.
Riding While Black:
9. Phone at the Ready
If you see something, don’t just say something, VIDEO and upload immediately. ,This might save a life. It’s becoming increasing likely that police may immediately come after your phone. We’ve let legislation slip regulating citizen help. Don’t let that happen. I love to see allies on the lines during protest, however I can’t ask you to take the bullet. You can be loud and visible. Making your presence known is ok in some instances. Be cautioned that some officers or statutes may hit you with an interference charge. Know your law.
Offer your friend a ride. After the Terrence Cruthcer shooting my wife came to me in tears stating:
“As a woman living in America, I know fear. However, my biggest fear now is watching you, a Black man, walk out that door and never returning because a police officer decided it was your time. An expired registration she be a ticket, not a death sentence.
If your Black friend is shielded from police, this may assist in deescalating any particular situations or at least fuck with police aim. Also, make sure they chip in for gas. They wouldn’t get away with that with any of their Black friends.
Now, of course this is a very short list which only scratches the surface. There are hundreds of things you can do to help address racism. Whites make up nearly 70% of the population Blacks only 13%. In terms of visibility, you’ve got more access to change minds. Which brings me to stats, know your stats, but don’t get distracted by misleading ones that imply causation, when there is none. America hates math with a secondary disdain for science, but let a Black person get wrongfully shot by a police officer and everyone’s a data scientist correlating race and criminality, with no deference to context. Its a separate issue.
In addition, keep reading. Understand that school integration, happened within the lifetime of most of our parents. That’s Jim Crow’s age. Acting like it happened hundreds of years ago, is dishonest. Keep working, chipping, and when you’re ready to level up on the revolution, check back for more.