More on social justice work for the privileged.
[Author’s Note: This series started with “An incomplete guide to social justice work for the privileged”. In the wake of the Ferguson Grand Jury’s decision, I’m writing another entry in the series.]
I wrote this in list form because this is how I can think today.
01. Your anger will never entirely fade. That is a good thing, a sign that you are aligned emotionally with your ethical core. You are angry about injustice. I validate that because in the days and weeks ahead there will be so many people who will try to invalidate it, to erase it, to take your anger and disarm it. They will tell you that since you’re not Black/from Ferguson/Poor/Young/American/etc. you have no right to this anger. They are wrong. You have a right to be angry about injustice.
02. As a white person1 one of the biggest and best powers that you have is getting people to listen. Do you have a blog that gets even occasional views? You have a bully pulpit from which to magnify the voices of those on the ground. Do you have a pretty active social media presence? You have a megaphone from which you can reshare those who are telling the story as it is written on their bodies and their lives.
03. Specifically in Ferguson, specifically right now, the community Library has taken on many duties that should devolve to the state, like caring for children. Got ten dollars you can spare? That ten bucks can keep a kid from being on the street where he might get shot like Mike Brown, if you give it to the library. Money feels facile and like you’re not doing anything, but it’s (at least in this day and age) a white people superpower. Use that power like it is going out of style.
04. Join a sunshine org in your city/county/state. I mentioned it in that first entry, but I am going to keep hammering this one. Show up at city council meetings as part of that org and put on your “white person best.” Show The Powers That Have Placed Themselves Above Us that you give a fuck about Black lives, Latin@ lives, Asian lives. That you are willing to show up in your business clothes and give a shit. It is amazing (spoiler alert: not amazing in any sense) how often white people think other white people don’t care. PROVE THEM FUCKING WRONG.
05. Be someone other white people can come to for information. Volunteer to 101 the hell out of this situation. When white people come into conversation and say something ignorant, educate. Whenever you are comfortable and able, put yourself in front of them and call them in. Don’t call “out.” Don’t say “Oh that’s racist horseshit” no matter how much you want to. Invite them to the discussion. Make a place for them at your intersectional, progressive table and ask them to join you in the metaphorical supper.
06. Can you go to a protest? I mentioned this one before too, but I’m saying it again. Put your white body between the cops and the protesters. Be willing to use your privilege to shield others from violence, but also be willing to have it stripped away from you by those who would do violence. Understand that you will be protected from some of it, maybe, but that what you risk suffering in this act is still only a drop in the bucket. Do it anyway.
07. Build with your own hands. Store in the area had a window broken out by a rioter? Help board it up. Neighborhood worried about what will happen during riots? Volunteer to help provide relief and calm at a community center or church. Be visible as an ally, but do not demand recognition for it. Make it clear to those who are watching that you will throw your lot in with those the system sees as the least among us, but do not ask for cookies. Do it because it is right, not because you need to be ego stroked.
08. Learn first aid, how to treat those who have been tear gassed, how to help people in the throws of asthma attacks and other breathing difficulties, and what to look for as a danger sign in someone who’s just been brutally beaten. Use the fact that your white skin is less likely to be criminalized to go and offer aid to those who are suffering. Use your hands to heal.
These things feel slow and small, but they share something in common. They take privilege from being something you’ve received without earning it to something you can use against the system. Something you can leverage to help those who were not given it.
That’s what you do right now.
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White is here a stand-in for privileged. It’s easier than disclaiming every single time. ↩