White People, Please Don’t Give Into Despair
You have been working on your internalized racism — reading and taking classes and uncovering your biases — for months or years or decades. Working to become anti-racist.
You’ve made calls, signed petitions, you’ve called out your racist aunt at Thanksgiving and you’ve stopped letting anyone say “I’m not racist, I’m color blind etc.”
You’ve protested, made signs, and yelled yourself hoarse. You’ve supported black businesses, raised up black voices, stopped asking people of color to teach you.
You’ve raised kids or nieces and nephews who are anti-racist.
Donated money to bail funds and the Southern Poverty Law Center and the M4BL and so many more.
And when you wake up to another black murder and then another and then another at the hands of racists and police, you may wonder if you’ve made any difference.
You may be tempted to give in to despair.
But here’s the thing: despair is the belief that all the work you have done to root out racism in yourself and your corner of the world doesn’t matter.
It’s confusing the change you’ve helped push forward with the work there is still to be done.
It’s looking at what is yet to be done and deciding what you’ve done didn’t help.
That’s completely and utterly not true. Your efforts to change institutional racism and white supremacy and injustice matter.
And the changes that must be made don’t start and end with us. To think, as my friend told me, that ”you can read books, buy from black businesses and donate to the ‘right’ organizations, etc and racism would be solved is white arrogance.”
I don’t ever mean to promote that idea. I want to encourage engaged humble action.
But Jen, you might be thinking, I haven’t done that much. I’ve been lagging behind. I’ve been confused.
Then start from here. Start from wonder and love and steady effort. “I wonder how I can learn today? I wonder who I can help today?” Don’t make it about what you haven’t done cause that’s making it about you. Make it about now.
Share this message with friends and family who may shrug and say “But I don’t know what to do, the problem is too big, and besides, nothing ever changes.”
Tell them (lovingly) “Stop believing the Hollywood version of change you see in movies. That’s not how real change has ever happened or ever will. Real change happens because of millions of small acts by millions of people. What you do matters! Start today.”
Then share some of the zillions of excellent resources circulating but don’t overwhelm your people (or yourself) because then they may do nothing. Focus on being supportive and directing them toward consistent action.
You might find President Obama’s resources helpful. Or check out this extensive list of ways to help from Black Lives Matter.
I believe in you.