If you follow me on Instagram, you may already have seen this list. My intention with this is not to take away from Black voices but to help white women understand how to learn from the Black community. Many racial justice educators are ready and willing to be your teachers (and they all communicate the advice on this list in their own ways). Loads of resources are available for your edification. This may just be the beginning ... for you, for a changing tide in society ... but keep in mind that Black Americans have been in this fight for literally generations upon generations.
Racial justice and diversity are not my expertise. I have been on a years-long path toward (what I hope is) effective allyship and community activism. I hope you are willing to journey along with me in whatever way makes sense for you.
For white friends who are new to racial justice issues, here is a summary of what I have learned by listening to Black People over the past few years and the past several days.
- Do the Work. In private. Do not share your reflections publicly. That’s performative (i.e., self-censored, for show). If you feel the need to share your experience, find a trusted friend (or a few) with whom you can share openly and honestly. If you want to share something publicly, amplify the work of those from whom you’re learning; point to their books or courses or Patreons, etc.
- Pay Black people. Don’t expect something for nothing. Join their Patreon. Buy their book or course. Show them that you value their work by sending them money via Venmo, PayPal or CashApp.
- Google it. Unless you have a real relationship with a Black person, do not ask them to explain anything to you. Do not DM them. Do not ask them questions in their social media space (unless they’re inviting questions). If you prefer a more structured learning environment, find someone who offers education on antiracism (e.g, Rachel Cargle, Layla F Saad). And then be prepared to Do The Work. (Also, if you feel like you need to ask someone how or where to purchase their work, you’re probably not looking at their ‘link in bio’ or their website.)
- Toughen up, buttercup. Doing The Work involves unlearning current assumptions, decentering white bodies/voices/experiences/tears, learning ugly truths about systemic racism, etc. We will make mistakes, and we will be called out for those errors. That is part of how we learn. If we dismiss or delete or diminish call-outs that may feel hurtful or shaming, we miss out on opportunities to learn and will continue to repeat the same mistakes. No one said this work would be easy. (P.S. Shutting up and listening; Doing The Work in private first; and utilizing google and other resources will likely result in fewer public call-outs.)
- Lean into what feels uncomfortable. Go beyond the headlines; do some research before dismissing proposed solutions that feel uncomfortable. Does “defund the police” make you squirm? Before you form an opinion, keep an open mind and find out what it really means.
- Find your lane. Once focus begins shifting from protests to community action, the volume of issues needing to be addressed can seem insurmountable. Come to terms with the fact that you cannot participate in all of it. Find one particular issue that speaks to you and your personal interests (e.g., mental health, the environment, voting rights, education). Find Black, Indigenous and People of Color who are already working in those areas and let them take the lead. Follow and support those people in a way that feels authentic to you.
- Practice self-care. If you’re feeling overwhelmed or that you don’t have the steam to keep up The Work, take a break and make a plan for returning to The Work on a specific date. For inspiration, look to models like Rep. John Lewis who have been at this work for decades.
- Wash, rinse and repeat. This is work worth doing, and it will be work we’ll be doing for the rest of our lives.