Instagram has become a vast sea of black squares today in honor of Black Out Tuesday, an initiative intended to hold space, show reverence for, and bring about policy change after George Floyd’s brutal murder. While it’s certainly awesome to see our social media feeds united about something important, there are a few major problems with it.
These vacant, black squares, while incredibly well intentioned, are completely drowning out the online Black Lives Matter movement. They’re keeping activists and protestors from being able to see vital information. They can also never be a true placeholder for taking tangible action to actively fight for Black human beings who have been harmed, murdered, and systemically oppressed by the police, our government, and white supremacists.
The vast majority of people who are pointing all this shit out to us today are Black Americans. And they shouldn’t have to be the ones telling us to care more and do more. They’re already fucking exhausted.
As everyone can see from the protests and uprisings occurring across our nation, Black people are sending the rest of us a clear message. They are tired, justifiably angry, and in tremendous pain. They have collectively (and understandably) stopped trusting our country’s leaders to ensure their safety, and they are passionately communicating that they’ve lost all hope for those who took a sacred oath to protect and serve them. Black people live regularly with the overwhelming burden of oppression, discrimination, racial harassment, police brutality, financial inequities, and health disparities. They are also currently existing in a viral pandemic that has hit their communities the hardest while simultaneously suffering from a much more insidious virus – white fucking supremacy which has plagued our country since 1619.
As a woman living with a shit ton of white privilege, I will never – ever – fully understand just how exhausting it is to be a Black American. And to be completely honest, there are way more important things I can be doing right now than just sitting on my ass, filling up a jar with my white tears, and posting a black square on Instagram.
If you’re a white person reading my words, it’s high time to start giving yourself a real education. It’s time to take all of those uncomfortable feelings you’re processing and put them to radical work. And no, I don’t mean that this is your golden opportunity to harass Black influencers, educators, and organizations on how you can “do better.” You need to start using your own fucking skillset and influence to enlighten yourself, listen to Black voices, amplify their struggles, and become an active part in dismantling white supremacy.
Here’s a roundup of a bunch of stuff you can do ASAP in the name of anti-racism in addition to posting a black square:
1. Recognize your own white privilege.
There are some royally harsh, indisputable, and time-tested truths I have had to reckon with ever since I realized that I’ve been living this whole damn time in a privileged white bubble. I will never know or be able to accurately assume how it feels to live in a Black body. No matter how unsafe or torn down I may feel in this world, I am assuredly safer and more supported by our society than a Black person. My struggles and past traumas may be a huge source of personal pain, but none of these hardships occurred because of my skin color or heritage. My biological family tree will never include human beings who were stolen from their native country, enslaved, abused, hunted down, and killed on a mass scale. And I will never have to look back in anger, upset, and grief for the systemic oppression that my people have faced for over 400 years.
Acknowledge your white privilege. Then fucking do something about it.
2. Get up off the couch, stick a mask on, and actually attend a local protest this week if you are physically able to.
If you have a white body, go to a damn protest and use it as a literal and metaphorical barricade of peaceful, dedicated protection for the Black human beings who shouldn’t have to be out risking their lives even more than they already are right now. And remember to respect those around you by wearing a face mask. These protests are not about you, so follow the lead of black organizers. If you’re wondering about what you need (and don’t need) as you get out there, start here.
If you are unable to go in person, you can jump on the SURJ phone bank on Thursday, June 4th from 6-9PM EST.
4. Call Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey at (612) 673-2100 and County Attorney Mike Freeman at (612) 348-5550 to demand that they arrest every single police officer involved in George Floyd’s murder.
6. Contribute to the Official George Floyd Memorial Fund.
The last thing Black people need right now is the undue burden of having to educate white people about racism, police brutality, and systemic oppression while also experiencing it on a regular basis. Stop slipping into their DM’s to get a free education that they don’t owe you and start researching their work for yourself. Many Black online educators like Rachel Cargle and Layla F. Saad have courses you can take and books you can read, so what are you fucking waiting for? It’s so unbelievably critical right now to stop asking Black people and POC to do your white ally work for you. Do the work yourself, and pay them for their work when you benefit from it.
8. Stop spending the vast majority of your time participating in the voyeurism of triggering video footage of Black people being abused and murdered, and start following and donating to organizations like Reclaim the Block, Black Visions Collective, and Black Lives Matter that are trying to prevent Black people from being abused and murdered in the first place.
9. Read “Me and White Supremacy” by Layla F. Saad, “The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness” by Michelle Alexander, and other books on anti-racism.
10. Follow, support, and donate to Campaign Zero, a data-informed platform that presents comprehensive solutions to end police violence in America.
11. Be willing to have uncomfortable conversations with your white family and friends about exactly why George Floyd was murdered.
Speak up and correct misinformation when it’s shared. Tell the white people in your life what you are personally doing right now to dismantle white supremacy, and ask what they are going to do too.
12. Learn about the complex and white-centered history of rioting and looting, specifically the Tulsa Massacre of 1921 which resulted in the brutal murders of several hundred Black families, business owners, and American citizens.
And if you’re taking to social media with MLK quotes as a way of telling angry protestors to stop rioting, remember that he was brutally murdered by white supremacists.
14. Talk to your children about the events of this week to ensure that you raise white human beings who won’t allow Black human beings to be abused, oppressed, and unjustly murdered.
15. If you witness police brutality against a Black human being or someone being a racist fuck, actually do something about it. Unless you actively speak up for, advocate for, and protect Black human beings from unjust harassment and violence, you are complicit.
16. Call, email, or write to your state legislators and governor to support state-wide criminal justice reform to reduce mandatory minimum sentences for non-violent drug crimes.
17. Listen to – and believe – the Black people in your lives when they’re talking about racism, oppression, and discrimination.
Do not tell them how they should feel or what they should do. Don’t ask them how you should feel or what you should do. Do not give them advice. And, when you are called out for not doing enough to help, listen and learn from that, because now is not the time to be defensive.
19. If you attend a school or are an educator, investigate ways to incorporate further expansion of slavery, the civil war, the Jim Crow era, segregation, and the Civil Rights movement into your educational institution’s curriculum.
Also, make sure that there are books, toys, and educational materials that center (and accurately represent) black voices.
20. Call, email, or write your state legislators urging them to end cash bail and donate to The Bail Project, an organization that provides a National Revolving Bail Fund to prevent incarceration and combat racial and economic disparities in the bail system.
21. Attend local town halls for political candidates and ask them what they’re doing to end mass incarceration, reduce mandatory minimum sentences, reduce or end solitary confinement, decriminalize weed, end cash bail, and divest from private (for profit) prisons.
22. Read this comprehensive Google Doc packed to the brim with anti-racism resources for white people.
23. Sign up for Rachel Cargle’s FREE 30-Day “Do the Work” online course, along with financially contributing to and taking classes on anti-racism by her and other Black educators like Layla F. Saad, Shishi Rose, Rachel Ricketts, and Erika Hart.
24. Memorize this list of white supremacy culture characteristics, and actively work to dismantle them in your life.
26. Donate to The Loveland Foundation, an organization that helps Black women and girls receive funds and resources to support their mental health.
27. If you’re someone running around shouting “All Lives Matter” or “I don’t see color!” stop doing that immediately and read this article instead.
I get that a lot of white people may be pissed as hell for how Black Americans have been and continue to be treated. And I am also painfully aware that some of you refuse to acknowledge your privilege and refuse to be an active participant in dismantling systemic racism. I’m not writing this for anyone who isn’t willing to accept and own their inherent white privilege.
But if you’ve made it this far, there’s a reason you’re still here. Black human beings need you to still be here. I implore anyone living in a white body to heed my words. Instead of wasting precious time trying to wrap your mind around fully empathizing with Black human beings, know that you can fight for someone else’s right to safely exist in this country simply because they deserve it as much as you do. No further explanation needed.
So, you need to show up after Blackout Tuesday as well, and you must start filling those squares with everything you are currently working on within yourself and your greater community to dismantle white supremacy. Black people can’t afford to wait any longer while we sit around in disconnected complacency. Let’s finally stop wasting their time and putting their lives in further danger just because we’re too afraid to risk making our privileged ass lives less comfortable. It’s past time to get a little uncomfortable for the benefit of collective humanity.
Make a commitment today to the Black Americans in our country. Say better, do better, and be better.