Happy Thanksgiving and/or Happy Holiday Season! In the spirit of the holidays, I want to ask you a favor. Let me first confess something to you: I am exhausted. Racism is exhausting! With Nazi signs being painted on garages, racist graffiti at OPRF, and a banana, blackface, Bob-Marley Becky in our community, this anti-racist, social-justice warrior, this Black woman needs a break.
So, I am asking White allies, can I, and other POC, take a rest this Thanksgiving and you, White allies, do the excruciatingly hard and frustrating job of working on and fixing White racists?
Please? We need a break!
Yes, great! You want to be anti-racist this Thanksgiving! Thanks so much!
From my experiences, I have noticed my well-meaning, White allies while being absolutely sincere in the desire to be anti-racists, are actually woefully-underprepared, to actually fight against racists. So, instead of just asking you to “be an anti-racist ally” I’d like to offer my top five actions you can take that will actually help stop racism.
First, Say Something, and Say It Repeatedly.
My first tip is simple but probably the most difficult: If you are anti-racist, you need to say you are anti-racist as much as possible. Everytime something racist happens in our community and my White friends don’t publicly denounce that racism, it has the same effect as supporting racism.
This is the hardest one for many of my White friends. White folks etiquette dictates the social norm behavior, that says “don’t make waves with friends and family,” Thus, saying something like “racism is wrong” or “you are a racist” during Thanksgiving, is really uncomfortable and hard.
Most POC cultures (and I’m going to go ahead and add Jewish and Italian people to this groups) traditions makes calling people out easier, as we are typically louder and arguments/disagreements, much more overt voicing our problems with our friends and family.
The other thing I need you to know with being anti-racist is that you have say something, repeatedly. A common story I hear from my White friends is frustration after they confront a racist once. They get the courage to finally confront the racist and/or racist comment, and the person doesn’t respond well, they think they are done.
Please hear me, when talking to racist people, once is NOT enough. You have to say something, over and over and over. Calling out racismrequires repetation.
And, I love reading the ONE well-crafted letter you sent your racist brother/uncle! It really was well-written! But confronting a racist, one time, is well, not enough. In fact, if you only write once and then let it go, you have actually made racism harder for me and other Blacks/POC. Your racist ____(fill-in-the-blank), now is angry, and guess who he/she/they is going to that racial anger out on? Hint: not you. Answer: Black people and POC.
So I need you to say something and keep saying something about racism. I’m tired. 400 years. 400 freaking years is how long Black people have been working on educating and stopping White racism! And, well, you can see for yourself how much progress has been made. You have to be in the “say something” to racists game for the long run. This is a marathon, not a sprint.
So I need you to say something the whole time. Say something during appetizers, main dinner, dessert, even the NFL game after. Keep talking!
Second: Do something with White people.
A lot of White people like doing service projects during the holidays “to help those less fortunate.” Well, the folks who need a service project now, are white people. In the spirit of the holiday season, I am asking that you create an anti-racism event with those you think most need the education. Maybe instead of “grab-bag” or “White Elephant” exchange, how about implicit bias or White Fragility knowledge exchange, where you teach White people how not to be racist.
We need you to put your energy with those who most need your help; other White people. We don’t hear a lot about White anti-racist efforts, but they exist. Check out Showing up for Racial Justice (SURJ) and the Catalyst Project.
Third: Support something led by people of color without trying to lead.
This tip is a great practice because most White anti-racist allies(well, I can only speak for my experiences) suck at this one! White people need to humble themselves and allow themselves to participate in a group where they are not leading, their feelings are not centered, and where they take directions from people of color. I can’t even count how many times I’ve heard, “I don’t like it when people tell me what to do. I prefer doing anti-racist work, my own way.” Yeah…that’s part of the problem, Follow the lead of Black people or other people of color on dismantling racism. We have over 400 years in this anti-racism game
Fourth: Reading something.
Again, most White people do not have a clue about what racism really is and couldn’t adequately define it if there was a gun to their head. Racism is not about your feelings about other people. Racism really isn’t even about you, your feelings, or your history of support. (see number 3). Being anti-racism isn’t something that can be self-declared; you become “anti-racist” when Black and other POC say you are anti-racist. It is incredibly hard to truly be anti-racist, even for Black people! Black people struggle with internalized racism too.
The most definitive book on racism in America, without a doubt, is, “Stamped from the Beginning” by Ibram X. Kendi. It won the book of the year award (*we need to also talk about the need for White allies to get validation from other White institutions or White people, that something is “good.” Awards, NY Times, and academic credentials matters way too much to white liberals!) It is not easy reading but truly is necessary if you want to fully understand racism.
Here are some other books, written by non-White people, that are mandatory to becoming “anti-racist” about racism.
- The Miseducation of the Negro- Carter G. Woodson
- The Autobiography of Malcolm X by Malcolm X and Alex Haley
- Sister Outsider by Audre Lorde
- Heavy- Kiese Laymon
- The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander
Five: Write something.
Write an email, op-Ed, letter to the editor, blog post, a Facebook status update. Again, being brave to family and friends is very difficult for White folks, but if you are serious about being anti-racists, you have to be brave and break social norms. After you have said something to the racists, you may be exhausted and ready to quit. I know, I know, racism, and talking to racists, is exhausting. But talking isn’t enough.
Writing something publicly, that directly calls out racism and addresses racist people, is crucial. And, yeah, ____(fill in blank relative/friend) is an asshole and confronting them on the racist thing they wrote/shared, is daunting. Do it anyways.
So, feel free to try one or all five of my tips! Or do something else. But for the love of God, do something! Racism needs to stop. I’m tired and so are the spirits of my ancestors. Black people have been working to end White racism for 400 freaking years! You can see for yourself how much progress has been made. This is a marathon, not a sprint. And White allies, we need you to run with us for the long haul.
Happy Thanksgiving and/or Holidays and I wish you luck at dinner!