What a week.
So much pain. So much violence.
George Floyd, another unarmed black man, murdered by police.
Police who knelt on his neck and pinned him down for eight minutes and forty-six seconds. Nearly NINE MINUTES. An unarmed, handcuffed, prone black man whose only ‘crime’ was possible forgery of a $20 bill.*
In our very own state, DarQuan Jones, a black man in Des Moines, was brutally beaten and almost drowned by three intoxicated white men, who saw him and assumed he was trying to break into a nearby home. This story could have ended very differently had the two women who heard his screams not ventured to check it out. This happened just the week before the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis.*
I also can’t not mention the coronavirus milestone we passed last week: 100,000+ coronavirus deaths in the US. A virus that has disproportionately affected minority communities and people of color, due to a lack of access to health care in general, particularly health insurance coverage and preventative health care, as well as being disproportionately employed in essential industries kept open during quarantines.*
I’ve struggled with how to speak up about this. I am a white woman, who grew up in a white city, who lives in a state that is 90% white. My understanding of this privilege is only the tip of the iceberg of how privileged my life actually is.
How can I productively add to this conversation around racism in our country? What can I say that is anything of substance?
“Talk is cheap. Action counts” – Kwame Daniel
The advice I’ve heard from yoga teachers of color, such as Kwame, is for us to do the work.
The work of unpacking our deeply held biases and beliefs, the ones so deep we aren’t even conscious of them.
Identify our Implicit Biases
Harvard has a great tool for helping us identify our implicit biases (the attitudes and stereotypes that affect our understanding, actions, and decisions in an unconscious manner*).
Take the test here.
There are a number of tests you can take regarding your implicit bias around age, gender, religion, and many more, but the test on race would be a great one to do right now.
If you only do one thing from this post, I hope it’s this test. It might not be easy to learn about the implicit biases you unconsciously carry (I know this from experience), but it’s a powerful first step YOU can take in the anti-racist movement.
This resource guide compiled by Sarah Sophie Flicker and Alyssa Klein (aptly tilted Anti-racism resources for white people) has a whole host of articles, books, movies, and people to follow on social media to educate yourself on the topic of racism.
Because that’s another thing we’re being asked to do: educate ourselves on the topic of race.
If you have kids, this guide also has a section with resources for ‘white parents to raise anti-racist children.’
I’ve seen a lot of people recommending books about race by white authors. And while these may be great books and resources, I’ve been encouraged to start with books about race by black and other authors of color.
How To Be Less Stupid About Race by Crystal Flemming has been recommended to me as a great place to start.
Another is Me and White Supremacy by Layla F. Saad.
I also like to recommend places to donate to each month. The last few months it’s been the Northeast Iowa Food Bank, and while I still believe that’s a worthwhile cause, this week I’d like to highlight some other organizations you might consider sending a donation to in support of the Black Lives Matter movement.
Minnesota Freedom Fund: They have seen an outpouring of support in the wake of George Floyd’s murder, and are now encouraging donations to his family, and other local organizations led by black and people of color.
Official George Floyd Memorial Fund: “This fund is established to cover funeral and burial expenses, mental and grief counseling, lodging and travel for all court proceedings, and to assist our family in the days to come as we continue to seek justice for George. A portion of these funds will also go to the Estate of George Floyd for the benefit and care of his children and their educational fund.”
This is another fund started by the family of George Floyd.
LDF: NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund to support their efforts to “reform our criminal justice system, achieve educational equity, ensure economic justice for all, and protect voting rights in 2020 and beyond.”
Other Action Steps
Sign petitions, like this one from the LDF: NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, demanding accountability from the police.
Or this one, demanding justice for George Floyd.
If you’re looking for even more action steps to take, this article by Corinne Shutack has another 75 different ways we can take action for racial justice.
I particularly like the emphasis this article places on actions you can take right in your own local community.
While tensions are running high out there, I’d like to remind us (white folk) that it’s not our place to tell people how they should be grieving. How they should express their anger. It’s never our place to tell people how they should feel. To judge their actions in the face of oppression.
Unfortunately, this quote from Martin Luther King Jr. is still quite applicable today. I hope you’ll keep it in mind as the protests continue in our country.
“… A riot is the language of the unheard. And what is it America has failed to hear? … It has failed to hear that the promises of freedom and justice have not been met. And it has failed to hear that large segments of white society are more concerned about tranquility and the status quo than about justice and humanity.”
― Martin Luther King Jr.
To my students who face oppression and racism, I am so sorry. Please tell me ways I can do better, how I can help, and call me out on my privilege. I’m trying, but I know I can do better.
It’s important that we do the work, and I hope you’ll join me in it.
Let’s open up a conversation about it. Please comment and let me know your thoughts, or what you’re doing to learn more about this.
Let’s do the work together, let’s have the difficult conversations, let’s stand up for our black brothers and sisters to call out and end police brutality. Black Lives Matter. It’s way past time we took that seriously.