I talk about race and racism for a living. As you can imagine I have some pretty interesting conversations quite often. Most often after workshops, round table discussions or presentations, it is inevitable that someone will raise their hand or come up for a private chat at the events end to ask one question, What can I do to fight racism?
In light of our current political climate and recent national events, I’ve taken some time to reflect and research best practice that will hopefully provide answers and support to those who are new to this journey and looking to take action.
The following is a list of actionable steps that we can all do in our day to day lives to fight racism. While this list is not all encompassing or considered the only pathway to fighting injustice in our communities, it is a way to begin if you are looking to enter this space. Know that you are needed and that it takes all of us to engage in this work. I encourage you to get involved and to join the movement.
1. Get out of your comfort zone.
Let’s face it. This country has yet to address its responsibility for the institutions of slavery and racism. We have not had a collective conversation about it. More importantly, we have not looked at ways to ratify the systems that are still in place that perpetuate and uphold racism. Because of this truth, we must understand that talking about and addressing racism head on is not a comfortable space for most people. It goes against our very socialization, our cultural norms and what we are taught. Know that for the most part, it wont feel good. You must be willing to get uncomfortable.
2. Take off the rose colored glasses.
Racism is an ugly truth. It exists everywhere. No matter who you are, you are either a product or perpetuator of racism.
3. Educate yourself.
This is perhaps the most important step and one that should be ongoing. Given the fact that traditional education omits the history of black and brown people in this country, you will need to broaden your knowledge search to include texts written outside of the traditional context.
4. Learn about your bias and dimensions of diversity so that you are equipped to challenge both your automatic socially constructed assumptions.
Self-reflection is key and critical. Take the Harvard Implicit Association Test to understand your biases (we all have them). Take time to uncover the many different dimensions that make up your identity and lived experiences. This allows you to identify and empathize with others.
5. Use your power and privilege to challenge and dismantle systems that marginalize and oppress.
We all hold power and privilege and must use it to challenge and dismantle racism. Do you serve on a parent teacher organization at your child's school? Are you a board member? Do you attend your local city council meetings? These are all examples of spaces where we each can use our voice, our vote or influence over policy and practice to make change happen for the good of all.
6. Hold your sphere of influence accountable.
How many times have you heard an off colored joke at the office or family picnic and gotten so uncomfortable that you chose to say nothing? Those are the moments that matter the most. By disrupting those who would otherwise perpetuate racism by their comments or ideologies, you not only make the offender aware of the fact that it’s not ok with you and hopefully keep it from happening in your presence; you open the pathway to further conversation.
7. Talk to your children about race.
During childhood, our attitudes are molded directly and indirectly by the race, ethnicity, and status of the people around us (teachers, classmates, parents, friends, doctors, nurses, waiters, custodians, etc.). By age twelve we have a complete set of stereotypes about every ethnic, racial, and religious group in society. You can choose to actively influence your children's attitudes and beliefs.
8. Advocate for policy that is equitable for all.
Use a lens of equity when supporting legislation, policy and practice at all levels. Who does this exclude? Who does it include? Who benefits most? Are we creating or perpetuating systems of oppression or opening doors so that all may benefit? These are a few questions to consider when creating rules and policies at work and school, when we operate in local government within our communities and when we create or support legislation at a national level.
9. Put your money where your mouth is.
Organizations that work to fight racism are often doing so without the support of major donors/funders. Use your resources to donate to these organizations and ensure that this important work continues.
10. Join the movement.
Find organizations or programs that align with your specific interests and join them. You can get involved in education, policy, efforts to fight food injustice or the school to prison pipeline to name a few. Do your research, have conversations and get involved.
Sherita Love is the Founder and Principal Strategist with ExpandED Equity Collaborative where she works nationally with organizations to create sustainable outcomes for people of color.
To learn more, visit www.expandedequity.com or contact Sherita at firstname.lastname@example.org.