Sunday, November 30, 2014

recommended read of the day + a constructive To Do List

This is an essay, in The Washington Post, called "What White People Need to Know and Do After Ferguson." In the spirit of people who have asked me to write more about my sources on race, gender, class, politics, etc., I'm posting the essay here for you to read.

But this article doesn't really give the kind of step-by-step instructions that lots of folks seem to be wanting right now. White folks, that is. They say, "Okay, let's just say hypothetically-speaking that you're right about racism still existing in America. How do you want me to fix it? Tell me what to do." To such folks, I offer you a very practical guide on how to Fix Racism (assuming, hypothetically, that it actually exists). (This Practical Guide only relates to ending racism against black people. Because what goes down with that version of racism is a different thing than what goes down with racism against Latino folks, or people of Asian descent, etc.)

Practical Guide for White People on How to End Racism Against Black People (Assuming it Exists)

1. Go to the library and take out a couple books about racism or white privilege or the U.S. prison system. Read them.

2. Go back to the library. Check out books on hip hop, jazz, gospel, rap, the Confederate flag, the history of slavery, generational trauma, police violence, black art in America, and the commodification of black culture. Read those books.

3. Pretend that you have a black friend. Pretend that this black friend goes with you everywhere. Except for, like, the bathroom and the shower. Because that would just be weird. As you go around your ordinary life pretending that this black friend is with you, take notes on whether having someone black with you affects the way you talk.

4. Actually make friends with black people! The U.S. is 13.2% black. Therefore, make sure 13% of your friends are black. Let's say you have 20 real-life, actual, close friends with whom you spend a good deal of your time. 2.6 of them should be black. Let's round up to three. Maybe you think this is unfair, because hey, you're white, and don't most people stick to their own racial category when it comes to friends? Maybe so and maybe no but this isn't the Guide to Being Comfortable. This is the Practical Guide for White People on How to End Racism Against Black People (Assuming it Exists).

5. Maybe you don't like point #4 because you don't know how to make friends with black people. Or because it feels racist and weird to go make friends with people just because they're black. Fair enough, I guess. So why and how do you make friends? Walk around for a week asking yourself that question.

6. Google the term "school to prison pipeline." Read what comes up.

7. Research whether there is a Ferguson protest in your area. If there is, join the protest.

8. Every time someone says something racist to or near you, respond.

9. Every time you go to the grocery store, post office, Target, or gas station, ask yourself how your experience would be different if you were black. Not if but how.

10. Read sociology. Read poetry. Read a lot of poetry. All of it written by black people. Go to poetry readings. Go to spoken word gatherings. Admit your own prejudice. Admit your confusion. Admit being overwhelmed. Take naps. Take walks. Read psychology. Read only books written by non-white people. Google things. Walk around your own neighborhood. Walk around other neighborhoods. Walk around predominantly black neighborhoods. Pay attention to your own body language. Think about the intersection of race and class and gender. Think about the differences between race and class and gender. Ask yourself how your life would be different if you were the same gender but also black. Ask yourself how your life would be different if you were the opposite gender and also black. Ask yourself if you feel safe in the neighborhood you live in. Ask yourself if a black person would feel safe in the neighborhood you live in. Ask yourself what it means to feel safe. Ask yourself what it means to be safe. Ask yourself why safety matters. Ask yourself how it feels to live in a country where racism is systemic and where racism has been so deeply internalized by white people that they--we--cannot recognize it as racism. Write letters to the editor. Tweet. Write poetry. Know you will fail at recognizing your own prejudice and your own privilege. Do not give up trying to recognize it. Do not ever give up trying to change your ways. Go on picnics. Go to lectures. Educate yourself. Educate yourself more. Do not allow yourself to be complacent. Be relentless. Be outspoken. Except when ou are listening. Listen more than you speak. Make art. Learn about politics. Protest. Protest more. Go on walks with your friends. Cry. Get enough sleep. Figure out who is hungry in your town and feed them. Figure out why they are hungry and figure out what you can do to overturn those causes. Risk failure. Assume you will fail. Remind yourself every day that it is better to fail at this than not to try.

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