Taking action for Racial Justice: Resources, Ideas, People-to-Follow

I’ve been grappling, again, with what to do with the feelings of anger, anguish, helplessness, grief, fear, and despair after the deaths of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and Breonna Taylor, which are just the most recent and most publicized lives lost to a systemically and systematically racist, unequal society.

As a first step, I decided to do the following:

  1. Take stock of where I’ve been: Create a List of What I’ve Read and Done
  2. Synthesize What I’ve Learned
  3. Consider How to Do Better: Compare What I’ve Done with Recommendations — e.g. 75 Things White People Can Do — and outline strategic next steps for getting involved.

I’m *not* saying these are the best things to have read or done, just what is true for me so far. I created this for myself to take stock, and I offer it now in case it’s helpful for others who may be asking, “where do I start?”

This is a work in progress: it’s in no way meant to be a definitive list, and I’d love to hear your thoughts. I will update as people send recommendations of organizations, books, podcasts, people — please send, comment, etc.

1. WHERE I’VE BEEN

B. Educating Myself on Broader Issues of Power and History and Society and the Brain — i.e. how people and societies work (selected list of favorites)

C. Following Social Justice Leaders, Seeing them Speak, Listening to their Interviews

D. Other things I “do”…

2. WHAT I’VE LEARNED

  • The problem is policies, not people. People are people are people. When life outcomes of any kind can be highly correlated with race, ethnicity, or religion, the issue lies in unjust policies, not those individuals. This is not to say we don’t have agency, just that we are shaped personally (and the options or possibilities available to us are shaped even more profoundly) by the social and political contexts in which we are embedded. There may be individual people who are lazy, disingenuous, poorly intentioned, or even evil — but that is true regardless of skin color, religion, nationality, or political affiliation. Most people are just people, trying to do the best they can — and highly influenced, whether they know it or not, by the policies and systems that surround them. This means we shouldn’t be acting to “fix” people, rather fix the systems they’re in.
  • Racist and Anti-Racist are not fixed identities. We all think and do racist things, no matter our skin color. Ibram X. Kendi speaks to this beautifully in How to Be Anti-Racist. We are quick to label people, and this leads to shame, which is a barrier to transformation, not a catalyst for it (shout out Brene Brown). As Bryan Stevenson asserts, we are all more than the worst thing we’ve ever done. We can all examine ourselves, our actions, our words, and learn to be more compassionate, more antiracist, daily.
  • Our racial tension is not accidental, it is actively maintained. There are those who benefit greatly — financially and politically — by keeping white people and people of color suspicious of one another and feeding the flames of tension. We should be skeptical about any attempts to paint an entire group — whether white, black, Christian, Jewish, Muslim, American, Mexican — as having particular characteristics. As Kendi says, “the problem of race has always been at its core the problem of power, not the problem of immorality or ignorance.” Or, as Coates says, “race is the child of racism, not the father” — since the beginning of humans those in power have invented differences between groups and used it to keep power. The reasons have included nationality, ethnicity, religion, skin color, and more. Every time poor white and black leaders have come together in America, there’s been a concerted effort by some in power to undermine it, to fuel poor white racism, and keep the poor from working together across racial lines to challenge the status quo.
  • #AdultHumansaretheRealProblem — No “ism” or “ocracy” will save us from ourselves. In fact, there is no one “capitalism” “socialism” or “democracy” or “communism”. Each is debated in theory, and altered in practice in ways that make them unrecognizable from theory or from one another. Systems are constantly evolving and as soon as institutions are established, people will be devising ways to use them to their own advantage. Humans are driven by multiple motivations, and we always have to acknowledge that, whether intentional or not, there has never been a system that does not oppress or discriminate. Which is why we have to establish visions, principles, and values we share, and evaluate our systems and policies around those, not around an ideology or ism. The devil is in us, and the details. So is the hope.

3. WHERE I’M GOING

A. Educating Myself on How to Take Action Locally

I’m finding out who represents me, following them, and starting to learn about local government:

B. Continuing to learn: “Up Next”

Added Bonus: RECOMMENDATIONS FROM OTHERS (Thank you! Please comment or message me more that should be added)

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Combined from Noun Project Adrien Coquet, FR; and Eliricon, FI

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Solving systemic problems to create a more just, loving world. Transforming education for human flourishing and thriving democracy. Co-Founder @ REENVISIONED.

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