It’s Time to Get Over Your White Feelings and Start Taking Action for Black Lives

““One thing is for sure,” writes Meyerson, “it’s the responsibility of whites interested in ending racism to sacrifice their comfort, ask questions, and take cues and orders from black people without relying on us to show you and tell you how.” We white people need to actively work on rising to these responsibilities. And, in order to address a problem as widespread and entrenched as anti-black racism in America, first we’ve got to get past our own feelings.”

Read more: “It’s Time to Get Over Your White Feelings and Start Taking Action for Black Lives” By Ann Friedman

Walk with a fist raised?

Q: At marches/protests on issues on racial justice, organizers will sometimes ask the crowd to walk with a fist raised. I feel uncomfortable doing this, since the black power symbol is of a struggle I have no knowledge of, but many other white attendees seem fine doing it. Should I abstain from this particular request, or join in?

A: This is tricky. There is no real right or wrong answer here. People or all races have different opinions on this. The bigger question to ask is why are you doing this symbol and do you really believe in and promote black power?

More problematic is joining in chants like “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot” I have been to many marches where white people yelled “hands up” and black folks yelled, “don’t shoot” it was all problematic as fuck.

Actions like “die ins” are another time for you to ask why you are participating. Personally, I am a white person who has been assaulted by the police and my body has often been a target of the police. I have been a target not because of my whiteness but because of other identities I hold. Choosing to participate in “die ins” has felt right many times, especially if one of our goals is to block space with our bodies.

Learn more about black power and black liberation. Talk to others who you are marching with about their reasoning for doing different chants and actions and of course, listen to the black people around you. If someone asks you to get your white fist out of the air, listen and change your ways.

What to do?

Q: I want to help fight systemic racism, but all the advice I see for white people is along the lines of listening, protesting, speaking up… I get why that is important – but what can we actually DO? What policies need to be addressed? What kinds of things should we be writing to senators about, pushing to get on the ballot, voting for? What behaviors and policies should I be trying to change? Talking about racism is important, but the conversation should end with action items. It doesn’t help anything if white people walk away thinking, “Oh yes, racism is very bad and something needs to be done about it,” and return to business as usual, and I feel like that’s where I’m stuck. I’m just a regular person, doing what she can to educate herself, but with no idea how to affect the massive structural changes that need to take place. I want to be more useful.

A: This is a question we hear a lot. Here are a few ideas:

  • 11 things white people can do to be real anti-racist allies
  • Work with your local schools to make sure that they are teaching books by and about people of color. Also, talk to them about teaching a less colonialist view of the founding of the United States and the genocide of indigenous people.
  • Police reform is a mixed bag, ultimately we need to fight for a world with no police. Some reform measures to fight for are: De-escalation training for police, outside reviews of police instead of internal reviews, de-militarization of police, diverting funding from police to community service programs, eliminating the use of police forces in addressing mental health crises instead of creating special teams of mental health cops, banning cops that use excessive force from any employment in any type of law enforcement (public or private), ending “broken windows” policing. Some of these ideas are from Rachel Herzing‘s article onTruthOut Read more about the limitations of reform here on TruthOut.
  • Organize community training to intervene in situations of harm without police intervention
  • Put a sign on your front lawn or window and a sticker on your car. Find out more about that here on medium.
  • And seriously, LISTEN! It is not as inactive as it sounds.

Wearing a Black Lives Matter t-shirt?

Q: White people wearing a Black Lives Matter t-shirt or bracelet: Solidarity or appropriation? Trying to make a positive statement in my city, and, yes, maybe start a conversation if it happens, but trying to be sensitive about it. Thanks in advance!

A: Solidarity!

The statement Black Lives Matter is simply a statement demanding that humanity be respected and dignity be restored to black people. We need to join in solidarity and put our whiteness on the line.  In today’s climate, anyone wearing a Black Lives Matter shirt seems to be suspect to the police and many white people. Wear your shirt, talk to folks.

Co-founder of “Black Lives MatterAlicia Garza said in an interview with Fusion reporter Collier Meyerson,

“White lives matter / all lives matter is like saying ‘The sky is blue’ or ‘The sun rises in the morning and sets in the evening.’ In other words, it is not only obvious and goes without saying that all lives matter, we also know how much white lives matter–particularly when you are not white. White lives are the standards to which people of color are held accountable, and those to which people of color are taught to strive to obtain. And what’s so fascinating about ‘all lives matter’ or ‘white lives matter’ as a response to black people demanding our humanity be respected and our dignity be restored, is that it makes it that much more obvious that white supremacy permeates nearly every aspect of our social, economic and political conditions. In essence, most of the backlash to #BlackLivesMatter is in fact backlash in response to the fear of a black planet–or at least, an increasingly multiracial one where white people will no longer be the majority. Hence, the non-movement to re-establish once again that white lives matter and the hasty substitution of all lives matter for people who really want to say white lives matter.”

What does it look like to be an accomplice?

Question: I often get asked about “how to be in solidarity” with people of a different race or faith from you. People seem to be looking for examples.

Response: Larycia A. Hawkins, an associate professor of political science at the evangelical Christian college Wheaton College showed us this week what it looks like to stand with Muslim women.

According to the Chicago Tribune, “Hawkins announced last week that she would wear a traditional headscarf as part of her devotion during Advent, the contemplative period preceding Christmas on the Christian calendar. She wished to show support for Muslims who have felt under attack because of harsh rhetoric on social media and the presidential campaign trail since mass shootings in Paris and San Bernardino, Calif.” Continue reading