Doing the Work

Over the past six weeks many books on antiracism have shot to the top of the New York Times Non-Fiction Best Seller List. The surge in sales of these books is a result of the Black Lives Matter uprisings around the country, and I suspect that a majority of the folks making the purchases are white. Self-education is an integral part of doing antiracism work, so I have nothing but support for people who are doing this. But we must not forget that self-education is only a part of the work. What happens after we finish reading?

For white folks looking to support Black Lives Matter and other POC-, Black-, and/or Indigenous-led organizing it can be difficult to figure out (1) where we fit in and (2) how to avoid putting ourselves in the role of the white savior. Here are some ideas outside of donating money (which is still a great idea):

  • Did you graduate from high school, college, or some other educational institution? Use your status as an alumn to support student-led organizing. Find out if there is a Black Student Union at your alma mater and if there are particular issues they’re working on. Ask them if there is anything you can do to support them as a white alumn, and then do your best to fulfill that request.
  • Do you work in a profession that has some sort of organizing body like a board of physicians, a bar association, a union, or professional association? Ask the leadership of that organizing body where it stands when it comes to dismantling institutional racism. For example, do they have processes in place to mitigate bias in deciding who runs the organization? What kind of pipelines have been set up to promote a greater number of Black, Indigenous, and POC in your industry? If there is a group of folks already organizing around these types of issues, ask them where you can plug in.
  • Are you a member of a religious community? Ask the same kinds of questions that I’ve suggested above for a professional organization. Where does leadership stand when it comes to Black Lives Matter? What kind of support is your religious community offering to communities of color?
  • Do you live in a neighborhood? Hold a bake sale or set up a lemonade stand to benefit a POC-, Black-, and/or Indigenous-led organization. Use this opportunity to get to know your neighbors and have some meaningful conversations with them about antiracism.
  • Is there a group that is organizing white folks in the service of antiracism in your area? Showing Up for Racial Justice (SURJ) can be a good place to start, but do an online search for “white anti-racist groups” in your town to see what’s out there. Some of these groups do a better job than others in supporting your local Black, Indigenous, and POC communities, so start exploring your options.
  • Reflect on the ways you are complicit in white supremacy culture. Undermining our colleagues of color at work is an easy trap to fall into, for instance, as is wielding our whiteness to get the outcomes we want. Be honest with yourself and see where you might be able to change your own behavior.

This is a short list, but hopefully it includes something you hadn’t thought of yet. Let’s push ourselves past education and into change.

© 2020 Judy Blair LLC