The events of last week (and the week before, and the week before that…) have left me feeling lots of words that end with “less,” like speechless, helpless, and sleepless, while at the same time making me feel hopeful, mindful, and purposeful.
I’m sure a lot of folks out there want to say and do something, but aren’t sure what or how.
So, pasted below is from my thoughtful coworker, Charla Hodges, on what you can do now. As she says, it’s an evolving document, and today I’m sharing it in its current form. Please read it. Click the links. Take it to heart. And turn it into action.
What Can I Do Now?: An Evolving Document on Ways to Address Race, Politics and Equality in Our Work and Lives (July 2016)
Given the events of last week, I found it therapeutic to share a list of actionable items that we as individuals can do to heal our space and world. These are merely suggestions from the perspective of me (Charla) as a middle class, African-American woman. These ideas are under no circumstances comprehensive or meant to be representative of the entire African American race, nor of all people of color. Nor will they be a panacea for changing the systems in place. It is merely to suggest ideas of ways to support immediately and individually, in no particular order.

  • Educate others about voting requirements/help people register to vote: There are a lot of changes to the voting laws this year that can have consequences on our local, state and presidential elections that in turn, affect the lives of many. Please be willing to share that information with everyone you know so they are properly informed. Find more information here and share with others widely.
      • As a follow up, you can also drive people to the polls and keep others informed about candidates platforms
  • Read and stay informed…: There are tons of resources online and in your libraries that you can read to learn more about the effects of policing, guns and community disinvestment in Black and Brown communities. I have included a few options below:
  • …But do more than attend a training/read an article – actualize it in your life!: We learn a lot at trainings and readings, but it is all very meaningless if it makes us “feel good”in the moment and we can add it to our resume, but we do nothing to mitigate the problems in society. The golden nuggets that you receive in trainings are great, just make sure that you act upon them, however that may look (via convo, offering support, etc)
  • Be aware of your own biases and privileges: Acknowledge that white and/or middle/upper and or male and/or heterosexual privilege, etc exists. To act like they don’t exist is physically, mentally and emotionally hurtful, especially to the group that is systematically made to feel less than. There will be times you will be uncomfortable with your privilege and that is the time to reflect on the root of that uncomfort.
  • Speak up but know when to listen: Sometime privilege can be useful in showing that we are different in our perspectives on life, but united nonetheless. In this case of the recent shootings, speaking to other white persons in day to day convos (friends, family) about ways to be allies and what you can do to show you are not in favor of injustice is important.  It feels powerful to know that your race is not fending for themselves in this fight for injustice or that you are unseen. At the same time, also be willing to listen and give space to hear what Black and Brown persons are saying.
  • Stand in solidarity (in person): If possible, attend a rally, email your law enforcement/meet with them, attend a vigil, protest, start a petition, start an in person conversation in your community about these issues. We need your support more than on social media, but in a meaningful way in person.
  • Put down your phone/computer/iPad,etc and get to know someone who does not look like you: Self explanatory – getting to know others in a genuine way may make you or others less fearful of persons you don’t know. Have coffee, dinner, go on a walk, etc.
  • Raise the little ones in your life to be respectful of all people: Kids are the future and racism/prejudice is very much a learned behavior. Make sure that you are encouraging and promoting diversity and acceptance with kids you work with or have in your family. Talk about the importance of not bullying, staying safe, being a good friend to all and the like, and introduce them to people who come from all walks of life, as long as it doesn’t present a safety or emotional risk to them. A nice children’s book available to younger kids is called “Skin Again” by bell hooks.
  • Support efforts like “ban the box,” or fair wage campaigns: Alton Sterling was killed while selling CDs. Eric Garner was killed while selling loose cigarettes. The thing that these two examples have in common is that these men were both doing something in order to make money to survive. We don’t know the details of why they chose to do this (nor does it truly matter) but money making strategies like these are sometimes a sign of lack of employment opportunities in an area. It is no surprise (to me) that there is a trend of significant disinvestment in communities of color (environment) as well as an unwillingness to give a second chance to those with records (systems) or don’t “fit” the mold of professionalism (perceptions).

There are many local and national organizations and movements to be a part of. Ban the Box is one that doesn’t directly involve police or gun reform, but can have serious improvements on the lives of people of color. Ban the box is a movement to eliminate the “do you have a criminal history” question from an employment application, which allows those who may be formerly incarcerated to apply for a job without the initial stigma of having their application passed over due to a conviction. This allows the employer to focus on skills and fit initially, vs. the record itself, giving more folks a chance at employment opportunities. Support fair wage employers and advocate for retailers to pay their employees a living wage. Orange County Living Wage gives a list of businesses that pay a living wage – patronize them when you can.
Again, this is by no means a comprehensive list, but one that I hope is helpful in the beginning steps of learning, growing and healing.

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