As I start writing, there is a black church burning to the ground — in South Carolina no less. This is the seventh one in as many days. By the time this is published I suspect there will be more. America is again besieged by its racist past and doing little to put the spectre of inequality behind us. It is disheartening.
Much of the talk about racial violence has been coming from the black community — those most affected by racial disparity. The problem is that when you are screaming from the bottom, you might not be heard. If you are heard, you might not be taken seriously. Racism is not just a problem for black Americans. It is something that needs to be addressed in every corner of our society from the lips of strangers to the highest offices in our land. Hatred should find no comfort in a modern society.
I have been asked repeatedly, “What can we do?”
Black folks are asking — exasperated. White folks are asking because they don’t know how to respond. After years of convincing ourselves that we were a “melting pot” — eradicating the wealth of experiences that our differences bring — we are left with a mess of people who don’t understand each other.
So, what can we do? The answer is simple — Be angry, do something.
I blogged about this matter recently and I think it serves to share (in updated form) with my LEO audience: Be angry.
If you are one of my friends who happens to also be white you might be wondering why I seem angry lately and why it seems to be directed at “white” people. Trust me, I’m not angry with you and I’m not angry with “white people” but I am asking you to be angry in solidarity with me.
I’m angry that systems created to perpetuate a phobic and unjust society have yet to be dismantled. As it stands, that often means those with the privilege to be in the “majority” — even if only by proxy of skin color — feel as though they receive the brunt of my frustration. The way that power works doesn’t allow a lot of room for those on the outside of that “majority” to become invested in ways to affect large-scale change. It has to come from within. This means directly addressing issues like racism, sexism (and misogyny), homophobia and classism. That is where, if you are a friend who happens to fit in that “majority,” your partnership is integral.
If you are my friend, I demand this of you: Be angry.
- Be angry because the actual lives of your friends might depend upon it.
- Be angry because the actual lives of your own children might depend upon it.
- Be angry because the health of our nation definitely depends upon it.
Understand that when you see injustice it is not only my duty to speak about it but yours to address as well. When you see something problematic you have a duty to stamp it out, expose it, report it and as much as you can, squash it. Don’t allow it in your life or that of your family. It is poison. If you don’t understand the issue, ask someone you trust and read about it. When people are marginalized for whatever reason, we all suffer.
You might be wondering what you can do in the place of simply being enraged. Here are a few things:
- Speak the name of the problem. Learn the nuances of those problems. Read.
- When you see the media glossing over the problem: write them, call them and email them. Facebook them, tweet them. Correct their language. For example: Seeing a news outlet calling the Charleston shooting, an “Attack on Faith,” when the shooter himself called it an attack on “black people.” This should immediately result in direct action and response to correct that misinformation.
- Call your representatives, write letters and email. Demand action appropriate to the problem.
- In your own families, if you have relatives participating in unjust behavior, stop them. Correct them. Risk making them uncomfortable. Nowhere in our society should hatred feel cozy.
- Reflect on your own ideas and change the ones that can hurt someone else. Self-reflection should be a constant for all of us. We’re all implicated and we are responsible to each other.
- Run for office and do the work to bring equity from the inside.
The bottom line is this, be angry and do something. Your actions matter.