Whenever I read an article or see a headline that says, “The surprising racist history of…” I think, wait, this shouldn’t be surprising because the United States and much of the colonial and Western worlds were built on the backbone of slavery, oppression, and racism. There is racism in everything. Including ourselves.
This should not be a surprise.
Yet even then, I grew up in an environment and in a time—California in the 1980s—where I was often taught that “we don’t see color,” and it was easier for white people (like myself) to pretend that racism didn’t exist, or that it was something in the past, that since slavery had ended this was all in the past, fixed. Equal opportunity and hard work were now our common equalizers.
But it’s not over. It’s not fixed. Not anywhere close.
Bias, oppression, and inequity are baked into every action, every moment, every system. Research has shown very clearly that we all definitely do see color, and we behave differently based on what we judge about the people around us.
We are either actively working to dismantle systems of oppression, or some of us are living into the advantages of these systems at the very real cost and expense of other humans.
The ability that some of us have to be safe and stay home, the ability to feel “too tired” to talk about something, or even to watch things unfold from within our bedrooms—that’s not something everyone has access to. Racism and sexism cost women and people of color their lives every single day. While some people worry about saying the wrong thing on social media, other people fear that they might be shot in the streets, jailed indefinitely for being Black, or lose a loved one because of systemic racism. Black women die at three times the rate of white women during childbirth, a cause that has been linked to ongoing racism and repercussions of slavery more than any other factors.
Today I want to talk about a few resources that are useful in starting the conversations about race and racism. It begins with education and discernment, and continues with conversation. From there, it’s going to take a lot of work. Hard work. Uncomfortable work. This is bigger than any single person, and everyone plays part. Reading books, listening, educating yourself, having conversations with others, speaking out, and taking action is all part of activism.
Today I have four lists for you—lists of books, people, conversations, and actions to dig in and keep doing the work.
Pretending things don’t exist is a valuable skill when you’re four years old and afraid of your bad dreams, but as an adult, it’s time to face the monsters in our closets. We are all a part of building the future.
- So You Want To Talk About Race, by Ijoema Oluo
- White Fragility, by Robin Diangelo
- How to Be an Antiracist, by Ibram X. Kendi
- Biased: Uncovering the Hidden Prejudice That Shapes What We See, Think, and Do, by Jennifer L Eberhardt
- The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness, by Michelle Alexander.
- Between The World And Me, by Ta-Nehisi Coates.
LISTEN TO NEW PEOPLE
A few summers ago, I went through my Twitter feed and roughly counted how many people I was listening to that were men, and white. It was astonishingly high—the majority (80%?) were white men. The voices we listen to and read matter, and it stacks up across media channels, friend lists, newspapers, magazines.
So I spent the better part of the day unfollowing nearly everyone, and I made a commitment to follow and listen to predominantly people of color and women. What I hear and see now is completely different, and it’s amazing. I still follow and listen to all sorts of voices, but opening up my Twitterverse to a larger number of voices—and recognizing my own complicity in accidentally silencing important voices—has been one tiny but important step.
If you want to change up your own Twitter feed, feel free to go browse who I’m following and change up your stream. Or follow some of the accounts below (list below first compiled from Micahel J.A. Davis):
- bell hooks https://twitter.com/bellhooks
- Jarrett Hill https://Twitter.com/jarretthill
- Alicia Garza https://twitter.com/aliciagarza
- Patrisse Cullors https://twitter.com/OsopePatrisse
- Charles H.F. Davis III https://twitter.com/hfdavis
- The New Jim Crow https://twitter.com/thenewjimcrow
- Ta-Nehisi Coates https://twitter.com/TaNehisiCoats
- Laverne Cox https://twitter.com/Lavernecox
- Rachel E. Cargle https://twitter.com/RachelCargle
- Kimberly Bryant https://twitter.com/6Gems
- Ericka Hart https://twitter.com/iHartEricka
- Minda Harts https://twitter.com/MindaHart
- Michelle Kim https://twitter.com/mjmichellekim
START MORE CONVERSATIONS
Patti Digh and Victor Lee Lewis host a month-long seminar series called Hard Conversations: Introduction to Racism. The next session is July 1-31, 2020. They have an additional course on Whiteness, Race, and Social Justice that’s starting June 23.
If you’re in my Startup Pregnant Facebook Group for working parents, we’re doing a free book club this June to read and discuss the book So You Want To Talk About Race, by Ijoema Oluo. Come join us.
Reading is a start. Having conversations is a start. But reading is not enough, and posting on social media is not sufficient. There is more to do. Donate, protest, march, vote. Rethink your business structures and your payment systems. Hire and promote people of color. Pay real money for work that matters. Spend money on black and POC-owned small businesses, especially now. Stop spending money on corporations and businesses that are actively racist or that harm black people. Give money and time to advocacy groups. Fund the ACLU. Call your senators, write letters to your local institutions. Make the important phone calls.
Places you can donate:
Northstar Health Collective: a Minnesota-based medical organization that provides support for protests, working on reducing the rate/impact of COVID-19 in minority communities.
Minnesota Freedom Fund: provides cash bail to disproportionately targeted low-income, minority communities.
- The Loveland Foundation: makes therapy a priority for black women and girls.
Black Visions Collective: a Minneapolis-based organization aimed at generating awareness about the kinds of issues plaguing Black communities across the Twin Cities metropolitan area.
Reclaim the Block: an organization aimed at holistically uplifting marginalized communities in Minneapolis through housing support, violence prevention, youth programs, and emergency mental health response teams.
ACLU, American Civil Liberties Union, which helps defend and advocate for the civil rights and liberties of our citizens.
Rest and restore when you can, if you can, and if you’re tired as a white person, imagine how tired you might be if you were born black, brown, or any other non-white color. Give someone else time and space to rest, because this is going to take all of everything we’ve got for months and years to come until we break this system and rebuild.
It’s time for change.