Dear All Frustrated Parties, including White Allies:
The past week has been… so many things —heartbreaking, disorienting, painful, numbing… It’s starting to look a lot like the stages of grief, only this grief is centuries old and never really goes away; it just cycles over and over again.
At this point in the cycle, you might be trying to claw your way out of the numbing stage into some version of yourself that can get past the hopelessness and try, against all hope, to do something productive about all of the pain you’re feeling right now.
For me, time and a night of bourbon and re-watching The Black Power Mixtape 1967-1975 was enough to reignite a semblance of…if not hope, then certainly a more productive rage. But now it’s time to deliver on that rage.
As much as we’d all like to organize a massive boycott or protest that would magically garner the right attention and change all the minds and fix everything, the fight is a struggle that takes place on a daily basis. The protests and big events are crucial, but they mean nothing if we all just go back home and do nothing until the next call to arms. We have to change our own lives, act on a daily basis if we want to see change reflected.
So, for all of you who are angry or sad or hopeless or numb and feel that there is nothing you can do besides post another iteration of that “Take Down The Confederate Flag” petition.
Here are three simple things we can all ALWAYS do to support the cause:
Buy Black, that is. By now this is an old call to action, but it’s a crucial one. Or as Lewis Michaux, former owner of the African National Memorial Bookstore in Harlem, says in the Black Power Mixtape, “knowledge is power, for you can be black as a crow, you can be white as snow, and if you don’t know and ain’t got no dough, you can’t go, and that’s fo’ sho’.”
If you have money, put it where it counts. Support Black-owned businesses and organizations. But don’t just support Black-owned businesses, you’ve also got to stop throwing your money at big corporations. The idea behind this call to action is to prove that Black lives matter by using the language that America speaks — money. Prove that #BlackLivesMatter by showing that #BlackDollarsMatter. Yes, this means you too, white allies. You don’t have to be Black to throw your money in the pot. Don’t know where to find those Black-owned businesses? Google it. Doing your homework is part of the work. And remember, this ish is work. But also, Support Black Owned (SBO) is a nice sit for finding Black-owned businesses.
It’s not enough to just “be down” with the cause, you have to know your shit, which means not just trying to get by on your 5th grade unit on the Civil Rights Era. You might be able to throw around some of the names and dates, but there’s a whole lot more to Black history and racism in this country than slavery, the Civil Rights Era, an the Black Power movement. Believe me, your history classes left out a lot, oversimplified everything, and flat out lied about quite a bit.
So, time to crack open some books and watch some films. If you don’t know where to start Google it! There’s no hand-holding in self-education. That said, here… try this lovely list for starters. And venture your way over to the “African American” section of the bookstore. Or better yet, since you’re on the supporting Black businesses tip now, do some of that book shopping at the Hue-Man Bookstore, one of the largest African American bookstores in the country (which, btw had to shutter its physical store a few years back… But maybe with more folk buying from them, they could come back with a vengeance). Now, go know something, so you can…
This one is particularly important for white allies. Most Black people think about race on a daily basis. We have to, we’re Black. Race hits you in the face everywhere you go. Ignorant white people, for some reason, don’t seem to think race has anything to do with them. But race is as much, if not more, of an issue for white people as it is for Black people. So, dear educated white allies, now that you’ve done all that reading, go forth and make other white people confront and talk about these issues.
One of the most common sadnesses that so many of my Black friends and family faced shortly after the horror at Charleston’s AME church was that when we went into work the next day at our predominantly white offices, no one… not one single person was talking about Charleston. So we’re sitting there full of sadness and anger and barely able to keep it together, meanwhile Dave and Linda are having a conversation about how they binged on adorable cat videos last night. It’s a slap in the face, another reminder of how devalued Black lives are in this country, that a tragedy like Charleston can happen and people aren’t even acknowledging it… at all (but the Boston Marathon Bombing was at the tip of everyone’s tongues at the time).
“The brutality with which Negroes are treated in this country simply cannot be overstated, however unwilling white men may be to hear it.” —James Baldwin, The Fire Next Time
The point is forcing people who would normally do a damn good job of ignoring these issues and certainly don’t have to confront them on a daily basis aren’t gonna just start caring, much less learn or change their minds. You have to force it into their faces. And, white allies, you have access to these spaces that many Black people do not. Even if they do, conversation about race with a white person coming from a Black person is often seen as hostile or hysterical or delusional. So, step up and correct that. Also, white allies, get your people. Y’all just need to start talking to each other and confronting race on your end. Racist and ignorant white people is a white people problem.
Or in other words…
Whatever changes you make, however you act on a daily basis to end white supremacy, the important thing is to keep on. The struggle is a lifetime fight. You gotta live it every damn day.
header image: Flickr/neil conway