Our house is burning and some people are still asking, “What about the water bill?”
What good is this water if I cannot drink it?
Last month, a lot of people realized things are messed up — some beyond repair. So what are we doing about it? What has changed beyond some — emphasis on some — white people being more willing to listen and learn? Are we supposed to be happy about a commitment to use the word “antiracist” more?
“It should devastate us all that in 2020 it took a cellphone video broadcast across the globe of a black man dying from the oldest and most terrifying tool in the white-supremacist arsenal to make a vast majority of white Americans decide that, well, this might be enough,” Nikole Hannah-Jones writes in her story “It Is Time for Reparations” for The New York Times Magazine.
Now is not the time for change around the margins. Now is not the time to study for six months until you no longer feel this rage burning in your throat. Now is the time for action. Now is time for big, bold change in our society, in our government, at our companies, and at our schools. But it’s also the time for small changes — individual purchases, support, access that can make a difference in Black people’s lives. We may overcorrect in some ways, and that’s ok. After 400 years of racist brutality, we can manage to give Black people a little extra for a minute.
If you hold any amount of power, this is to you. If you are a politician, CEO, business owner, manager, parent, teacher, doctor, police officer — and particularly if you are non-Black — this is to you. If you posted once on social media to say Black lives matter and have since gone silent, this is for you. If your commitment to bettering Black lives centers on educating or bettering yourself, this is for you.
You can prove that #BlackLivesMatter to you when you fix these issues, among many others:
- Black women earn $0.61 for every $1.00 a white man makes. (Institute for Women’s Policy Research)
- Black people are 3x more likely to be killed by police. (Mapping Police Violence)
- 99% of police killings result in no criminal charges. (Mapping Police Violence)
- Black girls are roughly twice as likely to be punished in school, and are punished more harshly when it happens, despite being no more likely than white girls to cause trouble. (USA Today)
- “5% of illicit drug users are African American, yet African Americans represent 29% of those arrested and 33% of those incarcerated for drug offenses.” (NAACP)
- 1 in 3 Black men will go to prison in their lifetimes. (The Sentencing Project)
- Black people in the US are twice as likely as white people to contract COVID-19. (CDC)
- Healthy Black kids are more likely to die after surgery than white kids. (Pediatrics)
- Black women have the highest maternal mortality rate, 2.5x that of white women. (CDC)
- Black people make up less than 7% of people in leadership positions at work, despite being 13% of the population. (US EEOC)
- The average Black household income is $33,321, compared to $51,017 at a national level. (US EEOC)
Until then, keep your hashtags and slogans, your splashy images, and your updated diversity pledges. Most of all, keep your committees. If you’re only now taking time to consider and learn, start by asking yourself: Why? Where have you been? Why are you not still pissed off that it took you so long?
Here are some things you can do that don’t require committees, approvals, or learning:
- Buy something from a Black-owned business today, tomorrow, and the next day.
- Follow more Black people on social media, share their names with your friends, and pay them for their work.
- Resign from a position of power and recommend a Black person to take your place.
- Volunteer or donate to a cause supporting Black lives.
- Tip a minimum of $15 — the minimum wage we should be guaranteeing in America — every time you eat at a Black-owned restaurant.
- Buy a book written by a Black person from a Black-owned bookstore.
Only after that should you find time for your committee. Here are things your committees should be studying:
- What has enabled your company’s leadership to remain disproportionately white and what actions will you take to correct it?
- How will you offer restitution for Black employees who have been systematically under hired, underpaid, and declined promotions and raises?
- How will you dismantle race-neutral and racist policies in your organization? What will replace them?
- How will you ensure no one race is dramatically over or underrepresented at all levels of your company?
- Money, opportunity, jobs, healthcare, safety: How will you make sure a Black person has more of that today than they did yesterday?
Right now, commit to making these words a part of your daily vocabulary:
Act: What action will I take today to help prove that Black lives matter? Is this action performative — or only benefiting me — or will it benefit Black people?
Amplify: What Black person deserves more recognition, opportunity, and money for their work? How can I share their message with others?
Amend: How can I use my position, power, money, and time to dismantle a racist system that has benefitted me while hurting others?
So that brings me back to my question: When the fuck are things going to change?
(If that word offends you more than the fact that Breonna Taylor’s killers are still free men and have faced no accountability for their actions, I’m not sorry. Channel that anger into something productive and seek justice for Breonna.)
How many more Black mothers will die giving birth while you hold meetings and seminars?
How many more Black men will be killed by police while you comment on Instagram posts?
Will I die before I can see change for my children?
Must my blood spill, too?
Will you feel more urgency then?
Racism is a humanitarian crisis. What are you doing to fix it?
As of today, I’m going to stop doing this work for you for free. Consider sending a tip to me if you found this useful on CashApp: ($)andyn or Venmo: (@)andynew.