10 things we can do daily to counter racism

  1. Label white things, i.e. “white people,” “white Southern culture,” “good white hair.” Note: do not label “love.” Label things inherent to white people or irrevocably corrupted by them: label hate; label a proclivity to violence; label TV; label subjugation; label Cracker Barrel; label EDM. Label to separate but also to level. If there is a white media, then an empowered, equally exclusive black media can arise. Not as counterpart or competition but as independent of. As a mirror and an original.
  2. Promote negative stereotypes about white people. They will be okay. Rebrand them by the crimes they commit because they have branded others solely by real or imagined deficiencies. Because they too are full human beings and therefore capable of evil and deviance. In this way, remind people of what they know to be true. White people will still sit on their wealth in the morning. They will not understand your pain any more clearly. Remind them that they are the same as we are. That we all share in the imperfection that is humanity, that they chose to paint Adam & Eve, not just Jesus, with white skin. In this way, at first glance, they will no longer shine brighter than you.
  3. Recognize colorism; reject colorism. Embrace the authentic diversity of blacknesses, embrace deep blackness, embrace melanin, embrace, but do not prefer, lightness, unless you simultaneously prefer darkness. Unlearn your habit of affirming what resembles whiteness in people of color. Do not worship pale skin, straight hair, light-colored eyes. Worship color. Worship sable. We must do this for a time, until we value all blacknesses equally.
  4. Practice saying “that’s racist.” Subtle as racism is, you must speak the fact of it into acknowledgement. Say the words in the mirror, slowly. Enunciate. Feel the purr, the “ra” like “rage,” like “rip,” like “roar.” The hiss of the concluding syllable, a verdict, a guillotine sliding shut. Practice pronouncing it in different tones: casually, until the declaration has no effect on your emotional equilibrium. Dramatically. Matter-of-factly. Sassily. Incredulously. With disgust: why should racism be stylish? As far as you’re concerned, you’re doing your racist friend or acquaintance a favor. Say it with warmth, with a smile. Say it, then pause. Sit in the silence for a while. Laugh nervously, to get it out of your system. Become comfortable with the sound of their future nervous laughter. Do not laugh with them. Do not speak again until they do. If they ask you to explain, do so only after they explain themselves. “How was that not racist?” You will witness further racism unfold in their explanations. Hate is intuitive. They know what they are doing.
  5. Prepare counters to microaggressions. Make a list of every untoward thing you’ve heard too often. Write down every response you thought of too late. Practice pronouncing them. Make flashcards of them. Memorize your justified retorts. When a white person touches your hair, run your hands through theirs. When a white person calls you articulate, say “That’s racist. Why is that remarkable?” When a white person mistakes you for another black person, tell them what they are doing. It is all about rejecting the emotional baggage that they drop in your lap with a tip, expect you to carry. After responding, return your focus promptly to blackness. Reward yourself for speaking up, especially after the first few times. Find a mirror and whisper compliments to yourself. Text a black friend. Give a black stranger the nod with extra gusto. Be prepared to challenge whiteness but do not meditate on it. Balance this with acts performed for the benefit of your people.
  6. Prefer black people. White people will be okay. Surround yourself with black friends. Love and learn more about your family. Cheer for the team from a black country. In a diverse room, greet the black people first. Create and spend time in exclusively black spaces. Always give the nod. Be open to black people from other countries. Consume art by black artists. Patronize black businesses. Celebrate and share black accomplishments. There are enough people telling white people’s stories, preferring white people, and actively avoiding you. Do not expend excess energy to preserve white feelings. White people: be open to relationships with black people. Treat them the way you would anyone you found worthy of your inner circle, but see all of them. Including their skin.
  7. Produce and/or promote nuanced black stories. Write novels, plays, scripts, articles featuring black protagonists. Write sentences beginning with the word “I”; inhabit that. Fully. Write broadly about life, with details specific to yours. Recognize your experiences as legitimate research. Watch, listen to, look at, read, and pay for the work of independent black creatives. Know the legacy of black art that makes these stories possible. Identify and consume the black canon. Tell positive stories; we’ve heard too much about one side for too long. Write explicitly about race. Write about black protagonists who experience things other than race. Draw strength from these stories when racism tells you lies.
  8. Take up space. Sit comfortably on public transportation. When walking, let other people adjust to your trajectory. Let other people adjust to the space you take up. Stop in the middle of the sidewalk to greet a group of friends. Go with your entire team to the function. Move freely on the dance floor. Save seats. Insist on the seats you paid for. Practice speaking freely in all-white spaces. Apply for everything; go wherever your hard work takes you. Live as if your race does not affect your sense of physical freedom; it is a self-fulfilling prophecy.
  9. White people: stop studying us. Stop talking about black on black crime, black issues, black history. We are not your niche. Stop talking about reverse racism. Start talking about racism. Begin studying yourselves. Read A People’s History of the United States. From our many recommended works, read only the white authors if you must, but read. Google a think piece. Afterward, let your guilt mark your thoughts, not just your emotions. Respond productively. Write papers on white on black crime, white prejudice, white hate, white immunity from punishment, white blindness in hiring, casting, socializing. Then let’s talk about black people. Come to the topic of us on your knees, apologies streaming down your face. You owe us centuries of deference. If you think this unfair, you have yet to truly understand that we have been paying for the sins of your fathers and mothers for years. If you think this racist, you have yet to transcend your hatred of us, and we cannot speak truth, or reason, or empathy, to hate.
  10. Unmark yourselves. Practice referring to black people as “people.” Call black art “art.” Call black culture “culture.” Call African American Vernacular English “speech.” At the same time, love blackness. Practice saying, “I love black people.” Call your hair “good hair.” Mark yourselves and your things as “good.”
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