Dear White People, It’s Time for You to Work & Here Are 10 Ways to Get Started
It has been a while since I have published anything on here and I would love to commit to writing more regularly — but I won’t promise anything just yet. Since my first published article Dear White People, This Is Why I Speak On Racism is making the rounds again, I figured I may as well add to my Dear White People collection.
So let’s get straight to it.
The current events surrounding the state-sanctioned police murder of George Floyd has sparked recent protests and riots around the nation. The demonstration of outrage within the Black community is not because of this singular issue, to assume as such is inaccurate.
If you have found yourself over the last week showing more empathy to empty burning buildings than brutalized Black bodies — you are part of the problem. Destroyed buildings can always be rebuilt, destroyed lives cannot be. If you do not understand the systemic injustices that Black Americans are facing then you will never adequately understand why many are protesting and some are rioting.
White America has stepped on the necks and choked the life out of Black Americans for centuries and now many have reached their breaking point. This is what you are seeing. Sure, there are a few opportunists, but most are protesting peacefully and containing their rage in the process. If you cannot understand why people living under a system of violence may react violently — towards infrastructure and buildings their ancestors built — then thank God that you do not have to understand. That is a privilege many do not have.
— Garth Walker MD MPH (@garthwalkermd) June 1, 2020
If you were silent when George Floyd was murdered, please hold your tongue when critiquing protests and riots. If you do not understand why folks are rioting, educate yourself. Seek to understand the history of riots and protests, especially by Black Americans. I feel compelled to call out the hypocrisy of those who are quicker to condemn protests in the streets, than a police force that systemically murders Black people. To quote Dr. Martin Luther King:
“First, I must confess that over the last few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in the stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Council-er or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate who is more devoted to “order” than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says “I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I can’t agree with your methods of direct action;” who paternalistically feels he can set the timetable for another man’s freedom; who lives by the myth of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait until a “more convenient season.”
Whenever I read this quote I am reminded of one of my favorite Bible verses, Jeremiah 6:14: “They dress the wound of my people as though it were not serious. ‘Peace, peace,’ they say, when there is no peace.” It is not by coincidence that it appears in most of my social media bios.
If you call yourself a friend of mine, may I remind you of this other quote from Dr. King, “in the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies…but the silence of our friends.” Simply claiming you are not racist is not enough, actively being anti-racist is the goal. Simply being a liberal in a northern city does not mean you are automatically anti-racist, as Eugene Scott tweeted, “rejecting social conservatism is not the same thing as rejecting white supremacy.”
So, what can I do?
If you are a white person and are wanting to learn about this topic or are one of the many people that have asked me over the past week “what can I do to help in the fight against white supremacy and anti-Black racism?” or “how do I begin anti-racism work?” I have compiled a brief list of ten points or guidelines that will be useful to remember as you get you started.
Before sharing my 10 points it is important to note that I acknowledge my privilege within the Black community and that includes the privilege of being able to study this topic for almost the past 10 years (I began in 2011). While I share a collective that is called Blackness I know there are experiences within it that I will never fully understand because I have not lived them. The ability to listen and continually learn from those who have different experiences than me — even within my community — is something I deeply value.
With that being said, here are the 10 points.
Don’t expect Black people to do your educational labor for you. It is not their job to teach you. It is emotionally taxing to have to always be the teacher or expert in the room, especially when many of us are still learning and growing ourselves.
Follow Black folks that are already established within this field. “But how will I find their handle?” How did you find the makeup tutorial you butchered this morning? Google is free. Use it.
➋ Ask questions.
If you have questions, and you will surely have questions, ask a white co-conspirator or someone that “gets it” and looks like you or use google before asking a Black person. Why? Besides the fact, the question has probably already been asked? Refer to #1.
➌ Listen to and support Black voices.
I cannot stress how important it is to listen. It is the oldest form of learning. Also, supporting Black voices does include financial support. If you are using someone’s content for free, consider donating so the resources can remain free. If you are using written work, credit the voice behind it. Be mindful of the hours that have been spent creating the work you consume. Also, be extra mindful of the fact that every issue that has been raised by a white co-conspirator / your white friend stemmed from a Black person, I promise you. Respect this.
➍ Speak to and confront your white friends + family.
Talk to your racist Uncle that visits over the holidays. Confront Dan in sales for the racist jokes you heard him tell at work last week — did you entertain it with a laugh or endorse it with silence? Have a conversation with your parents on white privilege. Do you or those around you rationalize why certain demographics of people face injustice more than others? Do you avoid the r-word all together? Within your social circle is a great place to start talking about racism and solid practice ground for getting comfortable with being uncomfortable.
➎ There is always work to be done.
The work doesn’t end just because you participated in #BlackoutTuesday or because you wrote #BlackLivesMatter in your Twitter bio — it ends when white supremacy, a system you have consciously or subconsciously upheld and benefited from, is dismantled.
➏ Join the offline conversation.
Posting online is fine, but the real work takes place in your community. Once you have a solid understanding of these issues — listen in on conversations with Black folks. When the opportunity presents itself, join the conversation while remembering you are not the expert.
➐ Understand that you will make mistakes.
You will say the wrong thing. When this happens do not be defensive + fragile when corrected. Learn from it, apologize if need be, and continue.
There is a massive wealth of scholarship on racism + white supremacy in America that covers many different genres. Find an author you like and read their collection. Read their notes and check out their references too! If you have found this piece to be helpful, I have published over 20 different pieces, ranging from long reads to poetry, that you can read without leaving this site, that center on racism, white supremacy, and Black excellence.
➒ Put your money where your mouth is.
Donate to and advocate for/with organizations, campaigns, initiatives, and local candidates that promote racial equity and focus on eradicating police brutality.
➓ Repeat steps 1–9.
This is a lifelong process and there is much work to get done.
I purposefully did not include links or references in this piece, as I believe it is important to take onus if you are serious about doing this work. I do share a steady stream of resources on my Instagram and Twitter accounts and I’ll give you one freebie: books to read about anti-racism.