4 Things You Can Do in Support of the Race Protests in America
Why I almost didn’t write this
For a while, I didn’t think I should write this post.
I’m in the privileged majority in almost every way. I’m a white, male, straight, Christian, upper-middle-class, college-educated American.
There are plenty of people who look just like me who are in positions of leadership and influence. They’re already expressing their thoughts and opinions.
The majority already has a loud enough voice. So I didn’t want to try and join the noise. I didn’t think adding another opinion of another white guy would help.
It’s also not easy to know what to say. It’s hard to know what to think.
Besides, this isn’t an issue that I have any special perspective or knowledge on. I’m much more qualified to write about plenty of other things. What else to I have to add?
It’s much easier to stay quiet and tell myself that at least I’m not hurting anything. And it’s still a good idea to default to listening first.
But I was recently convinced that I shouldn’t take a silent, inactive approach anymore.
Why I’m writing this now
Unless you’re living under a metaphorical rock, I don’t need to tell you what’s going on in the United States when it comes to race and violence.
And there are plenty of opinions flying around on this very issue. It’s easy for people to get angry for one reason or another and fire off a social media post. Or read an angry social media post, get angrier, respond, and continue the cycle of hatred.
My organization recently had a guest speaker on our (virtual) weekly staff meeting. Dr. Chinwe Williams is a trauma counselor from Atlanta and she’s African American. She shared her perspective as someone who counsels people of multiple races and how to cope with everything that’s going on.
One thing Dr. Williams said during this talk that was very convicting.
She said that to remain silent during a time like this is sinful. We all have to process our feelings and perspectives. But to not speak up and support our brothers and sisters who are in pain is just as bad in the long run as being the person who is hurting them.
We can’t afford to be apathetic — and apathy is more curable than you’d think.
Non-racist vs. Anti-racist
Dr. Williams also pointed to the difference between a non-racist and an anti-racist. Being non-racist is passive. It’s not being actively bigoted, but it’s also not standing up to those people who are.
Conversely, being anti-racist is an active stand against the practices and behaviors that aim to keep down people of different skin colors and backgrounds.
This distinction makes perfect sense, but it was one I had never thought of before.
For so long, I was complacent with not actively hurting others around me. But I was unsure of how to actively support them in their struggle for equality. And in doing so, I was being complicit in their situation. And their safety is more important than my comfort.
Even racists don’t actually think they’re being racists. There is always a rationale behind what they’re doing. And until someone of their own race challenges them on it, they’ll never change their views.
At some level, we’re all slightly racist. (Thanks for the reminder, Avenue Q.) So the question isn’t: Am I racist? Rather, the better question to ask is: How much of a racist am I willing to be?
What can I actually do about this?
If you’re like me, you’re tired of all of the opinions and discussion about this. There are always too many opinions and not enough solutions.
Sure, it’s appropriate to have conversations and take the time to process these complicated emotions. But unless we figure out the right actions to take, nothing will change.
Here are a few other options of things to try.
1. Stop deflecting, defending, and denying
Author and speaker Latasha Morrison has said that when it comes to issues of race, white people often tend to do one of three things:
Which makes sense. Conversations about race make us feel uncomfortable. We’re not the ones who are being oppressed, so we respond by trying to mitigate or shift the burden. Simply stopping that habit is enough to open you up to a new perspective.
This has been said before, but it bears repeating. Even if this situation isn’t our fault, it’s still our problem. Because this country belongs to all of us. And if any single group is being held down, it’s bad for all of us.
2. Do more than vote
Voting is an incredibly important part of being an American citizen. It’s the lifeblood of our democracy and we should exercise this right as often as we can.
But sometimes that’s not always enough. (Especially because voting is one area where racial minorities are often discriminated against.) Sometimes, you’ve got to put in some extra effort.
For some people, that means peacefully protesting.
And yes, it should be peaceful. The rampant violence and looting surrounding the recent protests have only served to undermine the cause of the protest. More than anything, this chaos distracts from the primary message and gives the majority just another reason to doubt and discriminate.
Even if you don’t want to protest (especially understandable during a global pandemic), you can still reach out to your elected officials to directly voice your opinion.
For instance, the Georgia state senate is getting ready to vote on a hate crime bill soon. And I’m preparing to email and call my representative to let her know how I feel on the issue.
3. Talk to your friends and family
Even if you don’t think you’re overtly racist, you probably know people who are. We all have that crazy uncle or a cousin who makes things uncomfortable at holidays by making comments. If you don’t know who that is in your family, it may just be you.
It’s hard to have conversations about race and politics with your family. You love them, but you didn’t pick them, and sometimes you’re not sure if you’d pick them if given the choice.
I’m not saying pick a fight with your conservative grandmother on her deathbed. But just know that you’re in a position of influence with many of these people. You may be the only one who can help them see a different perspective.
And the more you’re doing to be overtly anti-racist, the more they’ll take your stance seriously. And realize that the older generations aren’t the only ones you need to talk to.
4. Assume a posture of learning
Ignorance is bliss, but knowledge is power. When you don’t know something, you feel like you’ve got an excuse. But not knowing how to treat someone or holding outdated views is no longer justification — it’s just ignorance.
No one can make you change your mind. You’ve got to be willing to change.
Be open to learning new things. Be open to listening to people who are different from you. Read books by people of diverse backgrounds. Seek news from different outlets.
Until more of us are willing to learn, our culture will remain divided.
What do you think? How are you responding to this situation?