By: Nicole Bates
Over these past couple of days, I have been grappling with how to express my anguish about the state of our country right now. My heart is broken and I am sick to my stomach.
It is easy to get caught up in the fight for a cause, but it is also extremely important to remember that individual human lives have been lost to police brutality (a brother, a father, a son, a boyfriend, a girlfriend, a spouse, a friend).
With all that in mind, this is my message as a white woman to my other white followers:
When I was younger, I used to daydream about how peaceful it would be to escape to an island where there was no technology and no contact with the outside world. At the time, these idealistic dreams of escape were my way of coping with not knowing how to handle all the news of the evil, hate, pain and suffering of people in the world every single day. But this way of thinking is not going to help anyone or change the suffering.
AS YOUNG PEOPLE IN THIS COUNTRY RIGHT NOW WE CANNOT BE APOLITCAL. We have to vote, we have to be active in politics, we have to put in the work to make a better, safer world for our future and our children’s future.
You, yourself, escaping and avoiding the evils of this world is not going to stop the pain and suffering of others, specifically the millions of black Americans who have to live in fear everyday of being killed by the cops, who are meant to protect us and have disgustingly failed to do so over and over and over again. As a white woman in America, I have the privilege of choice to consume this news and then move on. However, it doesn’t really seem like much of a choice to me anymore. How could I move on knowing that such injustices continue to occur to fellow Americans? It is sickening. It is absolutely appalling.
You may feel burdened with a sense of “white guilt” for your position of privilege in society, but feeling this guilt is not close to enough to not be racist. Nothing will ever change if we don’t unite and take legitimate action against these injustices.
My frustration lies in the way social media functions in these situations. Though sharing information on social media is a successful way to spread the word about petitions, organizations to donate to, literature to read to educate yourself about racial issues in America, there are algorithms in place that make it difficult for us to reach people on social media who have radically different views than our own. So, though we can communicate with others who likely already share our views, in order to reach the people who, NEED to unlearn their racist ways, we need to do more than social media posts.
For some, social media may even be too toxic right now to engage with. It can be sickening to go on your phone and constantly see violent images of black men and women being beaten and killed. It is possible to express solidarity and take action without sharing these violent videos and images.
From my experience on social media, it’s quite jolting to see beautiful artwork honoring the lives lost to police brutality: George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, the list goes on, side by side with images of people enjoying a pool party with their friends. This emphasizes the fact that as a white person in this country you can move on from the violence going on across our nation. This emphasizes that because of your white privilege you are able to enjoy a pool party with your friends. It is simply not enough to post a story and then just go on to hang out with your friends as if nothing is going on. This country is literally on fire.
I am not saying that we cannot allow ourselves to take time to take care of ourselves and be gentle with ourselves during this time. But we have to acknowledge that posting an Instagram story or tweeting is never going to be enough to make change in this country. If we want to be anti-racist, we need to be active in the fight against racism now and ALWAYS.
And, even if you feel as though your morals and beliefs align with anti-racist rhetoric, you still need to listen and understand how as a white person in this country you benefit from institutional racism. It is an uncomfortable conversation, but it needs to be had, and it needs to start with facing the racism you see in your family, your friends and in yourself. To be anti-racist means that you are committed to actively fighting against racism in your day-to-day life even if that means you have to question some of your actions or positions and those of your family/friends.
First, we need to educate ourselves. It is our job to read about these issues; our job is to know and to understand these issues as they exist in our society today and their complex history. But it is not even enough to know, whilst we educate ourselves we must use the knowledge we learn and apply it to make institutional change. You can’t rely on others to educate you on this. You can’t rely the on public education system, that only considers history from the eyes of the white man, to educate you on this, you have to take action and educate yourself.
At a protest I attended in Worcester, MA on May 30th, a speaker on behalf of the independent socialist group said that, “We can’t just react, we have to be proactive too.”
I certainly have a lot more thoughts on the matter, but I am going to leave it at this for now as not to overwhelm with words. If anyone would like to reach out and further discuss any of these issues please feel free!
If you are in position where you are able to donate money to help the cause, below are some organizations you can donate to:
Massachusetts Bail Fund
George Floyd Memorial Fund
I Run with Maud
Louisville Community Bail Fund
Black Visions Collective
Minnesota ACLU fund
Minnesota Freedom Fund
Color of Change Fund
Even if you are not in a position to donate money there are still many things you can do to take action:
Justice for Breonna
Text Floyd to 55156
I am also beginning on the journey to educate myself on these issues, starting with the books I have accessible to me in my home (I am trying to avoid feeding the giant by ordering books from Amazon), if you want to join these are some of the books I have:
The Fire Next Time by James Baldwin
Nobody Knows My Name by James Baldwin
Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston
The Autobiography of Malcom X as told by Alex Haley
Dark Ghettos: Injustice, Dissent and Reform by Tommie Shelby
Natives: Race & Class in the Ruins of Empire by Akala
Black Prophetic Fire by Cornel West
“And don’t call me a racist!”: A treasury of quotes on the past, present, and future of the color line in America
Selected and arranged by Ella Mazel
Google Doc on Anti-Racism Resources:
Upcoming protests in Massachusetts (please remember to be safe at all protests!):
You can google more protests in your area as well as they will likely continue until all four cops responsible for George Floyd’s death are prosecuted to the full extent of the law.