I’ve been feeling really impotent around the recent injustice where white policemen killed unarmed black men and grand juries failed to indict them. This is not a new story. There has been systemic killing and imprisonment of Black folks for a very long time.
From the Instagram feed of Mx Justin Vivian Bond at last night’s NYC protests.
Two songs keep running through my head the last week since the Ferguson grand jury failed to indict, the verse of the 1983 Grandmaster Flash and Melle Mel song White Lines that goes “A street kid gets arrested, gonna do some time/He got out three years from now just to commit more crime/A businessman is caught with 24 kilos/He’s out on bail and out of jail/And that’s the way it goes/Raah!”
And the song by Le Tigre, Bang Bang! where they count the bullets that police shot into unarmed African immigrant Amadou Diallo in 1999, I just keep counting to 41. “There is no fucking way this is not about race./Who’s gonna call 911/When they can’t tell a wallet from a motherfucking gun?”
I feel really impotent because I don’t really believe the system is going to change and I don’t know what to do. Some people take to the streets and protest. I get really freaked out in huge crowds, especially protests. So while other people are taking to the streets to protest I’m wondering what to do to act in solidarity with Black folks and talk about the fact that Black lives matter and the disproportionate imprisonment of Black folks and the killing of Black folks by police officers is genocidal and it is wrong.
I think “justice” system is a misnomer. This shit has happened again and again why is it still happening? Why are the prosecutors who work with the NYPD all the time responsible for grand jury indictments? Why aren’t we addressing systemic racism in the police force? Why aren’t these police officers being imprisoned for murder? This article kind of sums up how I feel about the “justice” system, with the exception that I took criminal law and it made me sick to my stomach to realize criminal prosecution is basically a chess game where people’s lives are at stake.
What seems different now is that there is more more public outrage than ever before and more movement. Yesterday I saw a white plus size model I follow on instagram post about her outrage about the Ferguson grand jury and the Eric Garner grand jury results. I realized that by not saying anything I was not doing anything. So I needed to at least say something.
Something I know that I have the ability to do is signal boost, so here are some of the writings, actions and movements that have meant something to me that I want to bring to my readers. It’s important to keep reading and staying engaged in things, even when we feel powerless. There are still things to do. Maybe the system won’t change but we can open up people near us. We can call in folks who are doing and saying racist things, especially right now.
As Chris Rock tweeted, “Just found a new app that that tells you which one of your friends are racist. It’s called Facebook. #FergusonDecision”
December 18th—Healing Justice for Black Lives Matter: Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha started this by deciding to donate all of her proceeds from tarot readings the day of December 18th to the Black Lives Matter movement. She has catalyzed healers from all over the US to do the same (now they’re up to 50+ healers, in NYC, Toronto, Chicago, Oakland, Minneapolis, etc…). Check out the ever evolving event page to connect with folks in your town or who are offering herbal medicines, etc… to benefit this cause.
Read the Herstory of the Black Lives Matter Movement: It was started by three queer Black women and has since been twisted and co-opted. Know the herstory when you use the hashtag.
Black Lives Matter is an ideological and political intervention in a world where Black lives are systematically and intentionally targeted for demise. It is an affirmation of Black folks’ contributions to this society, our humanity, and our resilience in the face of deadly oppression.
From the Humans of New York Facebook page.
Check your language, and speak out even when it’s scary: I like when folks remind us that Stonewall was a “rebellion” not a “riot”–language matters in these movements and I think that the Ferguson protest was/is a rebellion. I also think it’s important to continue to signal boost Black lives matter. Sure, every human is worth dignity, but right now Black folks are being targeted, and we’re acting in solidarity with them.
Read 12 Things White People Can Do Because, Ferguson: “I am challenging white people to consider carefully whether failing to speak out or act because of those fears is justified when white silence and inaction mean the oppression and death of black people.”
Read about Monica Jones: Monica Jones is a Black transwoman who was arrested last year just for walking down the street by two undercover cops. The cops decided that because she was a Black transwoman she was soliciting sex work. This article breaks down “Walking while trans” as “a succinct summation of the interconnected biases against trans women (and trans people more broadly, sometimes called transphobia) and against people who trade sexual services for money or other things (sometimes called whorephobia) and bound up in that special sauce of racism.” Further, it talks about why it’s so important that Monica Jones is fighting back.
She was just deported this week by Australia when she arrived for a speaking engagement in a way that seemed clearly pre-meditated by Australian Immigration Officials.
Read about why our “justice” system is not about justice. If you’re feeling apathetic about what is going on, it should rile you up.
If you get freaked out about talking to people about racism, confronting folks or calling them in, read this masterpost about talking about Ferguson. It’s dense and full of info, and you need to give it some time, but it could really help you have these conversations that are scary and hard. It’s important to confront racism when you read it (on facebook) or hear it (at work/in your family/etc). As white allies, it is important to not just say we’re allies but do the work.
We want to give you tools to support that work and that dialogue. If you’re facing tough questions from friends, family, colleagues, or even perfect strangers, we hope this will help you answer them. We need to collectively build support and awareness to build a better society, and part of that means challenging those who assume “we are already there,” exposing those who would further marginalize already disenfranchised communities, and educating those who do not see why any of these things are issues in the first place.
Redistribute wealth: If you have means and want to redistribute wealth to help the grass roots folks on the ground, this google doc has info on various 501(c)(3)s mobilizing to help.
I was really moved by what the widow of Eric Garner had to say about the officer’s “apology” for killing her husband. So far the video has already got over 5 million views. If you can’t watch a video there’s a transcript here.
“No, I don’t accept his apology. No, I could care less about his condolences,” she continued. “He’s still working. He’s still getting a paycheck. He’s still feeding his kids, when my husband is six feet under and I’m looking for a way to feed my kids now.”
Marianne Williamson wrote a great article about the deficit America has regarding race relations after the killing of Mike Brown in Ferguson.
We need to apologize, and we need to make genuine amends. America needs to pay long overdue war reparations, and until we do, we will not move forward in any meaningful way. America needs more than forgiveness; we need genuine repentance, and restitution for our national sins.
A black person is killed by police every 28 hours. We need to do something. Confronting racism in our workplaces, families, communities, everywhere is something we can do to begin to create change.
In the words of my friend Mizz June, “Fight darkness with light. Combat rage with love. Unexpected reactions create change.”
If you have other articles/resources that have things white folks can do about racism, please post them in the comments.