I’ve been reading How To Be an Anti-Racist by Ibram X. Kendi, and it seemed the day I downloaded it, I started seeing the phrase “anti-racist” everywhere. To be anti-racist is to actively be against racism; not only the individual acts as committed by individuals, but also the policies and systems that have shaped our entire country here in America. If it sounds radical, think it through: because the entire country was built on stolen land on the back of stolen humans, it has always bent to protect and benefit white people, and white men especially. Racism baked into policy may seem a side effect, but it’s real, it’s damaging, and it’s on-going.
Something that was really interesting and eye-opening for me was that Kendi explains how “not racist” is, actually, racist. I’ve considered myself “not racist” for … ever? But if you’re just “not racist,” you’re passive about racism. You may not commit an individual act of racism, but you aren’t doing anything to remove systemic racism or challenge racist policy. Your passivity is perpetuating the racism, which makes you part of the system that approves of racism, which is racist.
Well I don’t want to be an accidental racist anymore. Fuck racists, and fuck racism.
For the past 4 or 5 years I’ve been donating to the ACLU on a monthly recurring basis. Last month I added a recurring monthly donation to ActBlue’s bail funds program. If you have money, donating to organizations such as these is a good option. One-time donations are great, especially when there’s a lot of publicity for a specific organization and they can raise a ton at once. But recurring donations are what keep the lights on, and lets the organization plan their budget for the year. If you can, set up recurring donations for the anti-racism organizations that speak to you — or that people you trust are donating to. If you don’t have money, research the policy-makers who focus on anti-racist policy and volunteer. If no one in your voting district is anti-racist, demand that they become anti-racist. Write letters, write emails, and call. Remind them that they can eat your farts if they aren’t inclined to be anti-racist, and then take your vote from them. Run for office.
The past three years have been absolutely fucked, and we’ve all been so numbed by it (while the ignorant and racist misogynists have been thrilled) that when an outrage isn’t met with indifference it means something. At a time when people are seriously struggling with the ongoing gaslighting about literally everything that’s happening, that we are able to protest in gorgeous masses and hold onto these men and women, to say we haven’t forgotten them, and we don’t want any more of our young people to grow up victimized by a system that is unerringly brutal and over militarized, that means something. I don’t know that all white people will be able to get our heads out of our collective asses and dismantle the racism that’s been in our system since before the first day, but I’m cautiously hopeful.
Lately, I’ve been trying to protect my limited mental bandwidth. I spend my day taking care of 3 kids, while having Zoom calls with co-workers, and then I flip from childcare to work-mode whenever my husband gets home, and continue the calls and the tasks until I eat dinner, then I go back to it. It’s a lot of context-switching, and it takes a toll. On top of that, the pandemic turned me into an avid Twitter user. I was scrolling Twitter constantly. But a few weeks ago I had to stop. It was more context-switching from the political to “my cute puppy” tweets. I had whiplash, and the surging emotions were like a bowl of water being carried by a toddler. More water was sloshing out of the bowl than was being retained. Just another mess without any benefit, and ending up less instead of better. So I took Twitter and Facebook (same problem) off my phone’s homepage. They’re buried in the app list, but I can’t open them by rote any more. It helps. But that alone is “not racist” instead of “anti-racist.”
In the void, I’m listening better. I’m reading books by black authors about racism and their experience in a racist America. I’m filling the space I filled with non-productive, hurtful-in-its-volume chatter, with substance that can help me to change, and to then use my privilege as a white woman to amplify that change. We can’t wait for “them” to fix this and make the change we need to see. We need to be that change, and not just for a week or a month. We need to demand that equality actually means something for always. Black lives matter. Question. Vote. Donate. Show up. Volunteer.