I'm not going to sugarcoat this one for you. It's going to be hard. It is hard. For the people who are experiencing racism every day every moment of their lives, it's harder if we don't have these conversations. Below you will find resources and writings by POC (People of Color) about racism, allyship, and what it means to “help”. For me, the first step is listening-with-intention to the hard stories, unfathomable pain, and how to do better. At the very bottom, you will find prompts to help you think through a time you witnessed or experienced racism. It’s happening every day even if you don’t “see” it.
Understanding the past
Our history is our legacy. It doesn’t matter if we were there or not. Our learned behaviors come from our ancestors and their life experiences. Only over generations of people actively changing those learned behaviors will there be visible change.
This is a free resource with thousands of pages dedicated to preserving, educating on, and sharing Black history. It is used globally as a reference tool for students, educators, and the public. This is a small list of what you can find but is a place to start.
- Racial Violence in the United States since 1660
- African American History
- Lynchings in the United States since 1865
- Global African History
- Using BlackPast.org in the Classroom
Lasting change for society starts at home with the children in our lives. Teaching our whole history is the only option going forward. Even if you don’t have kids, knowing how to engage kids in conversations about racism and history is imperative to effecting lasting change.
- Woke Homeschooling
- Coretta Scott King Book Award Winners: books for children and young adults
- 31 Children's books to support conversations on race, racism and resistance
- How White Parents Can Talk To Their Kids About Race | NPR
- Teaching Your Child About Black History Month | PBS
- Your Kids Aren't Too Young to Talk About Race: Resource Roundup from Pretty Good
Allyship & Listening
There are many resources and books by POC covering this topic and how non-POC can be allies and anti-racist. I believe POC words are the ones we need to be reading/hearing. You can find a few of them here.
This an excerpt from a piece by Holliday Bishop on performative allyship. You can read the full article here. I highly recommend you take the time to read it and examine your own actions/experiences.
“Do something that no one will ever know
As Lil Wayne said, “Real Gs move in silence like lasagne.” This is never more true than in activism. Sometimes real activism requires us to step up and shout. But far more often, it requires us to carry out simple daily acts that no one will ever see. If, on reflection, everything you do is public, it’s likely you’re a performative ally. Challenge yourself to do things quietly, like changing the things you buy, giving your platform to a BIPOC, or educating yourself on the history of racism without telling everyone about how educated you now are. That way, you know you’re really down for the cause — and not the cause of looking like a woke person.
Simply “saying stuff” is easy. You know what’s hard? Not buying stuff you want because the supply chain is violent. Turning down a job because the company employs child labor in Africa. Calling out other white people when they say something clearly racist. That shit is hard. But if you want to be a true ally to BIPOC, you have to be willing to do it. Anyone can post hashtags on social media. And the fact that this is seen as an act of activism is deadly.
So this is a call. For all of us. To get honest and real. To look at how much we really care. To understand that when our allyship does more for ourselves than for the people it professes to help, we have a problem. Be an activist who actually acts. It’s too late in the day to be anything but.”– Holiday Phillips
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For my white (and white presenting) friends and peers with public platforms. __ The last few days I’ve had many conversations with white (white presenting)friends and colleagues who have public platforms. And what I’m seeing right now is a lot of white leaders concerned if they are going to get it “right” or “wrong” when speaking on issues of race. __ I’m not sure if anything you say (outside of actually facts) can be “wrong.” However, what you deem as your good and right intentions may get you called out or called in for deeper examining. When that happens, more listening than speaking is needed. More acknowledgment and wanting to do better should be centered vs. upset feelings and lackluster apologies. __ Understand that black people and black leaders are tired and fed up. I personally have never been more tired (mentally and emotionally) and fed up than I am right now. I will do my best to Call people in (vs. call out) but I will not cuddle or sugar anything for anyone any longer. Because it’s not and hasn’t been effective. __ Right now everyone has to rise up. Good people have to do better. And white (white presenting) leaders who uphold privilege, I believe, have a duty to learn out loud because it helps everyone that follows you. If you get called out, sit with it. Think how does this apply to me? Can I do better here? If so, how? What can I continue to work on that allows me to show up as the leader that can have tough conversations and will not retreat when my feelings are hurt or I have been misunderstood. __ The thought should be: Black people are dying, discriminated against, looked over for so many things so I can do hard things like say the wrong thing, acknowledge it, correct it and move on. __ Most of us know the hearts of the people we know (IRL or online) but now more black people are challenging white (and white presenting) people to do better—not just with words but with actions. And just like growth in anything we all have to be comfortable with being uncomfortable for the sake of progress, humanity, and justice for all. __ This is evolution at best.
Engaging in the conversation
Conversations can only continue when people show up to continue to have them. Choosing to engage in hard conversations is how we change the world. A conversation happens when two people decide to engage with each other and interact. The first step of an intentional conversation is listening with intention. Being in the moment with the other person and being open to hearing their experiences is listening with intention.
Conversations about racism are happening now and need to continue happening. Even when it’s uncomfortable and makes you feel sick inside. Keep showing up, listening, asking questions, and hearing the answers.
- Have you ever experienced or witnessed racism?
- What happened?
- Who else was there?
- How did the experience make you feel?
- Was anyone there that could have helped? Did they?
- Looking back would you have done something differently? What?
- How do you feel about it now?
- Why is this particular moment important to you?
- What do you want people to remember about it?
You can find a similar script about social justice and injustice here.