So Glad You're No Longer Remaining Silent About Racism

by Kelly Glass
Originally Published: 
Angry woman looking at cellphone
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Welcome to the conversation. It’s one Black parents have been having for decades. We’re happy you’re ready to join us. First, let’s discuss why we’re here. Your whole life, it’s been in the air, spreading like a virus. It’s in the schools your children attend. It’s in the conversations you have with your friends.

It’s the sheer indifference you demonstrate if you say things like, “I’m not political.” It’s the unhelpful way you might claim that we’re all the same and we’re all made equal. It’s the Martin Luther King Jr. quote you share while praising his penchant for “peaceful protesting” without diving into the more radical parts of his speeches and failing to acknowledge that he was murdered by a white supremacist. It’s in the way you stand by your intentions instead of apologizing for your impact when you’ve committed a microagression against a person of color. It’s in the things you say as much as it is in the things you don’t say.

Now that you’ve decided you can no longer remain silent, there’s something you should know: Your Black friends, coworkers, and even family members have been on the job for a while. They are more than likely happy to answer questions, but please don’t make them have to if you don’t need to. There are all kinds of training guides, written by Black people, for this very thing. You don’t even need to find a library — access them right here on the internet with a quick Google search.

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With that said, this feels like a good step. After all, the first step to solving a problem is to acknowledge there’s a problem. But, what’s the next step? If you happen to be one of the many celebrities speaking up against racism and even taking responsibility, there’s a lot you can do beyond ending your silence and talking about every single injustice against Black people you’ve closed your eyes to. While love may drive out hate, it doesn’t pay the bills — and racism is, at the root, an economic issue. Take a look at the United States’ legacy of slavery. Enslaved Africans brought to this country against their will built this economy, and Black people, their descendants, have been systemically kept from benefiting from it. How? That’s a whole other discussion, but please feel free to study ahead.

The next step, if you’re a celebrity, is to put your money where your mouth is. You no longer want to be idle? A bystander? Great. Turn down the movie role where the only Black people in the film are extras and criminals and tweet about that. Argue with every film director who tries to center you as a white savior in a film that should be telling the story of the Black experience from a Black perspective. Stop spilling your guts about the way you’ve participated in and benefited from racism, and write a check to benefit organizations fighting to end mass incarceration. Then, write another check to a grassroots mutual aid fund providing assistance in cities with a high population of Black people. Put down the sponsored weight loss shakes and pick up a product by a Black small business to showcase in your latest Instagram story. Invest directly into those organizations that have been doing the work to reverse the situation you’re now taking responsibility for in stylized black-and-white smartphone footage.

Not a celebrity? There’s work for you too. Move beyond talking about racism. Take stock of how you have benefited from racism, be clear you are against racism, and then set goals to be for anti-racism. Hold yourself, your friends, your coworkers, your family, and even strangers accountable.

As you do this, you might be surprised to learn you may have to still be silent, but in a different way. What is required here is the type of silence that occurs with open ears. Listen to Black people. If you’re centering your whiteness, trying to find the angle where racism directly affects you or trying to imagine your child as Trayvon Martin, Tamir Rice, or any of the many other Black children killed for being Black children, you’re just derailing the movement. And we don’t have time for more derailed conversations.

Thank you for joining us, and we look forward to seeing you again even when Black pain and trauma are no longer trending topics and hashtags.

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