So the bottom line is this: if we want to bring about real change, then the choice isn’t between protest and politics. We have to do both. We have to mobilize to raise awareness, and we have to organize and cast our ballots to make sure that we elect candidates who will act on reform. ~Barack Obama
America is gasping for air.
We’re drowning. In hate, racism, violence, anger, pain … exhaustion. A toxic sea of it that’s so turbulent and heavy that it’s hard to keep treading water, let alone make it to shore. The waves keep washing over our heads, choking us. There is always panic.
And the waters are rising, as the storm rages on.
This past week, a tsunami swept over America. People who had never felt particularly called to racial justice were confronted by their kids, who saw a video of a black man being murdered by the very cops they’re supposed to go to if they get lost in the park.
How can this be? They wonder aloud. He wore a badge?
Their confusion is warranted.
Because you don’t have to worry about that if you’re white, is the honest answer most parents won’t give.
It is complicated. But it is not complicated at all.
White America and Black America are different Americas. Some of White America hasn’t understood that. Has resisted that. Has made excuses, false comparisons. Whataboutisms that help distract them from the obvious.
But this… this … this murder. This we can see with our own eyes if we don’t look away. And it’s hard to turn away from the truth of the moment.
That the occupant of the White House tries to inflame rather than calm, roils our already-turbulent waters.
As has become normal, it is up to We the People to lead during this time. To listen, to comfort, to cry with and for. And we have risen to this awful occasion.
I’ve been heartened to see so many people who haven’t been involved in racial or social justice suddenly asking how they can help. Asking what they can do.
There is much to do. Much of it starts within ourselves, and our circles, and the areas and people we influence.
But a word for my non-BIPOC friends who have found themselves newly energized. Who want so deeply to help, and whose normal reaction when they see a problem is to join in and do all of the things. To take charge, and to fix, and to solve.
My caution, friend, is to tread softly. To recognize that you’re walking on wounds that have been opened. Reopened. Torn open. Flayed.
You are so needed. Your voice and participation are important. Show up. Respect. But listen first, before you speak. Listen to black leaders, black voices, black women. Pitch in, but recognize that you’re a visitor in a space others cannot leave.
You can be angry with and you can be angry for, but you do not get to own this moment.
Through the pain of our country, as we tread in the sticky waters of this era, we are seeing the best of ourselves and the worst of our natures.
May we continue to hold each other above the waves, for as long as storm rages on.
Let’s get to work.
Actions for the Week of June 2, 2020
Tuesday: Buy, read, and engage with books on anti-racism
To my non-BIPOC followers: One of the most important jobs of an ally is to continue seeking education. Remember, there is always more to learn. Today I’m shouting out book resources in particular. Historical, cultural, and racial education through books is unique because of the depth, perspective, and research offered. Titi Tasha curated a 26 page, well researched list of books, categorized by topic on a Google Document. This is a great place to turn whether you’re just getting started in anti-racism literature or you’re looking for a new suggestion.
Afrotech published a list of black-owned bookstores to support online. I also encourage you to seek out a local, black-owned business in your community for your purchase. If the bookstore you’re trying to support is currently sold out of copies, check to see if the bookstore is connected with libro.fm. Libro.fm is a website that allows you to buy audiobooks directly through your local bookstore.
After you finish your read, share it with someone else who could benefit from learning more. Leave a note in the book about what you gained and pass it on safely, adhering to physical distancing (aka social distancing) recommendations, to a friend.
Wednesday: Mental health and self care
There is a lot going on in the world. And, it’s normal to feel overwhelmed or stressed. You need to prioritize your mental health to be an effective organizer, advocate, or ally. Brittany Packnett, an activist, writer, and educator, recently shared her thoughts on addressing self-care as a black woman working for justice on Twitter. Please take a look at her Twitter thread here.
For non-POC readers, remember that stepping back from difficult topics is a privilege. You must ask yourself if your feelings are rooted in a healthy, growth-oriented discomfort or if you’re feeling unhealthy levels of stress. There are ways to stay healthy while also staying informed. One tip I have is to make a plan of action. How will you stay involved in activism against police brutality when this fades from the media? Will you continue to give to organizations supporting black communities? Will you continue to pressure your government officials to cut policing budgets? Write down your goals to be actively anti-racist and hold yourself accountable. To get started, check out this Essence article that highlights trans and non-binary activists you should follow on Twitter.
Thursday: Addressing immediate needs through donation
A lot of wonderful organizations are circulating on social media with opportunities to donate. This can be overwhelming, but it’s important to commit time to researching how your money can best support activists on the front lines. Here are three ways I recommend giving:
- Bailout funds: This website lists bailout funds specific to cities around the country.
- COVID-19: This organization supports minority COVID-19 patients who have been disproportionately affected by the virus.
- Local BLM chapter: Find your local BLM chapter here.
Friday: Adopt a State with Vote Save America
The crew at Crooked Media just launched a new voter-engagement initiative via their action arm, Vote Save America. The initiative, Adopt A State, remotely connects Democrats across the country to battleground states with highly competitive races in November. By committing to a state, you sign on to learn about phone banking, texting, and organizing opportunities for candidates that need your support. This is a great way to effectively focus your energy in preparation for November, especially if you live in a solid blue or red state. All you have to do is sign up with your email on the website under the state of your choice (Arizona, Florida, Michigan, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, or Wisconsin) and they’ll connect you with the appropriate resources.
WHEW! GO TEAM!
P.S.: Why don’t you make someone’s day and send this pep talk to a friend or two? I bet they need it.
If you’d like to sign up to get this pep talk and action list in your in-box each week, you can do that here. Welcome, friend!
P.P.S.: If you want to help support this work you can do so via Patreon at
https://www.patreon.com/smalldeedsdone or via paypal at https://www.paypal.me/smalldeeds
My deepest gratitude in advance.
Thank you for reading. Thank you for writing. I read and respond to every e-mail. (Really! I really do!) We’re in this together. Don’t you forget it.