Backing Up the Frontlines

DnkN5srYQtOhjgtkZfy9lgAtlanta and the nation have reached a boiling point. I have participated in many social justice demonstrations over the years and was feeling some guilt that I was not out in the streets this week putting my feet to pavement in support of black lives. But pandemic, parenting, and other factors complicate my own and other individuals’ participation in such events. That feeling of guilt is not helpful; it’s self-indulgent and distracting. So, I’m trying to get over it quick and ramp up the antiracist work I have built into my own life. The frontlines are not for everyone. Frontlines, by definition, need back up. Systemic injustices require systemic change that is deep and wide. There is so much work to do and a lot of ways to do it. Find what works for your family, your abilities, your skills, and your circumstances. Choose some of the ways and make them habits. Make them who you are. Make them what you demand of others. Here are some places to start.

Materially support demonstrators. This is the frontline once removed. Provide food, water, medical supplies, signs, masks. Donate to bail funds. Donate to organizers.

Educate yourself. It is not on other people to do this work for you. Learn how you learn best: books, documentaries, podcasts, music, visual arts. There is no end to this work. (My next post will have a philosophy of race reading list for those who want to take a deep dive.)

Confront racism online and in your social circles.  Your friends, families, coworkers should not wonder where you stand on questions of racial equity. Don’t let those assumptions, comments, and “jokes” slide because you don’t want to “get political.” The choice not to address bias or injustice when you encounter it is a political choice.

Donate. If you are able, contribute financially to organizations that support vulnerable communities. There are so many groups on the ground in your community that need financial support. It can be a little overwhelming. Find something that is connected to who you are and start there.

Volunteer.  If you are able, contribute your time, energy, and skills to those organizations. Again, find something that works with your interests and your abilities.

Advocate. Take a look at the social spaces you already occupy. Are your schools, workplaces, neighborhood parks, and churches genuinely inclusive of all people? Do they codify and manifest fair and equitable practices? If not, talk to your community about making changes and start organizing.

Participate. Vote. Know who your representatives are, from the city council to the Senate. Have their phone numbers, Twitter handles, email addresses at the ready. Know what your city and state’s legislative agendas are and petition or lobby as necessary. At the very least, get your butt to the polls (or vote by mail!).

Talk to your kids about racism, white privilege, and injustice.  I feel that this is my most pressing task at the moment, as it is the one only John and I can really do. Don’t know how to start these conversations? Embracerace.org has a lot of resources. I am happy to provide more if you reach out to me by email or in the comments. Then, involve your children in your practices – include them in your grownup conversations, in your choices to donate, and read with them. Talk to them about inclusivity and fairness in their circles and see if they have ideas for how to make things better, then help them act on their ideas.

All my white folks, it is on us to dismantle white supremacy and live in antiracist practice. When taking the above steps, do not put the onus on your friends and neighbors of color to offer explanations or emotional support. When education and strategies are offered, SHUT UP, LISTEN, then AMPLIFY and ACT.

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