(Sorry for the same intro, but it sums it up well, so honestly, I figured I’d just keep it!)
This is part of a new “blog series,” though I don’t like to call it that, because this is so much more than just a blog series. This is something I want to make part of my daily routine, something that I actively improve throughout my entire life: being a better ally towards groups who I’ve claimed to be an ally since college, yet never did anything to actually make that true.
So, as I spoke about before, I am following the Justice in June monthly guide to help make confronting my own white privilege and the racist system we’re built upon part of my day; to help build a foundation to start my lifelong journey as an actual ally. And I’m sharing this to make sure that a) readers of this platform know where I stand, b) that I use my voice to share what I’ve learned and share resources and c) encourage discussion and discourse and further learning with my readers.
Day Twenty Two: The Case for Reparations by Ta-Nehisi Coates
Having been enslaved for 250 years, black people were not left to their own devices. They were terrorized. In the Deep South, a second slavery ruled. In the North, legislatures, mayors, civic associations, banks, and citizens all colluded to pin black people into ghettos, where they were overcrowded, overcharged, and undereducated. Businesses discriminated against them, awarding them the worst jobs and the worst wages. Police brutalized them in the streets. And the notion that black lives, black bodies, and black wealth were rightful targets remained deeply rooted in the broader society.
Now we have half-stepped away from our long centuries of despoilment, promising, “Never again.” But still we are haunted. It is as though we have run up a credit-card bill and, having pledged to charge no more, remain befuddled that the balance does not disappear. The effects of that balance, interest accruing daily, are all around us.
By the dawn of the Civil War, the enslavement of black America was thought to be so foundational to the country that those who sought to end it were branded heretics worthy of death.
The federal government is premised on equal fealty from all its citizens, who in return are to receive equal treatment. But as late as the mid-20th century, this bargain was not granted to black people, who repeatedly paid a higher price for citizenship and received less in return. Plunder had been the essential feature of slavery, of the society described by Calhoun. But practically a full century after the end of the Civil War and the abolition of slavery, the plunder—quiet, systemic, submerged—continued even amidst the aims and achievements of New Deal liberals.
What I learned: I learned about redlining in Chicago in the 1940s. I learned about the National Coalition of Blacks for Reparations in America (N’COBRA). I read about the immoral segregation of blacks that kept them from owning homes and read lengthy descriptions of some of the acts of violence and cruelty that blacks have faced over decades of enslavement after being seen a lesser. Is it any wonder that, during the Cold War Era, when a white family was once concerned that a black family moving into their neighborhood suddenly decreased the value of their home by $2,000; that white people today are still devaluing black lives by refusing to wear masks against a virus that affects and kills blacks dis-proportionality from whites?
This article helped drive the fact home that racism isn’t only seen in police brutality and the deaths of black people. It’s woven into every aspect of our society, from education, to housing, to opportunities to the workforce, to the media, to sports and everything in-between.
Perhaps no statistic better illustrates the enduring legacy of our country’s shameful history of treating black people as sub-citizens, sub-Americans, and sub-humans than the wealth gap. Reparations would seek to close this chasm. But as surely as the creation of the wealth gap required the cooperation of every aspect of the society, bridging it will require the same.
Perhaps after a serious discussion and debate—the kind that HR 40 proposes—we may find that the country can never fully repay African Americans. But we stand to discover much about ourselves in such a discussion—and that is perhaps what scares us. The idea of reparations is frightening not simply because we might lack the ability to pay. The idea of reparations threatens something much deeper—America’s heritage, history, and standing in the world.
The early american economy was built on slave labor. The Capitol and the White House were built by slaves. President James K. Polk traded slaves from the Oval Office. The laments about “black pathology,” the criticism of black family structures by pundits and intellectuals, ring hollow in a country whose existence was predicated on the torture of black fathers, on the rape of black mothers, on the sale of black children. An honest assessment of America’s relationship to the black family reveals the country to be not its nurturer but its destroyer.
What I’m talking about is more than recompense for past injustices—more than a handout, a payoff, hush money, or a reluctant bribe. What I’m talking about is a national reckoning that would lead to spiritual renewal. Reparations would mean the end of scarfing hot dogs on the Fourth of July while denying the facts of our heritage. Reparations would mean the end of yelling “patriotism” while waving a Confederate flag. Reparations would mean a revolution of the American consciousness, a reconciling of our self-image as the great democratizer with the facts of our history.
Day Twenty Three and Twenty Four: Tips for Creating Effective White Caucus Groups by Dr. Craig Elliott
White Caucuses are an important mechanism for people who identify as white and/or have white skin privilege to do our own work. It provides us an environment and intention to authentically and critically engage in whiteness, white privilege, and hold each other accountable for change. We explore how to recognize whiteness and white privilege, identify and interrupt our internalized dominance, and collectively develop strategies for liberation and change.
Caucuses are our group-level work (building upon our individual self work) so that we individually and collectively can be effective partners for change.
What I Learned: This was a really great tool of how to start your own group to discuss and critically engage in discussing white privilege and what we can do about it. I forwarded it onto a work group I am hoping to be a part of, being lead by another white woman in my department, as I think we will definitely use this guide a lot. I also really appreciated page 17, it was really helpful.
Day Twenty Five: My Father Stood for the Anthem, for the Same Reason that Colin Kaepernick Sits by Keith Woods and When Calling the Po-Po is a No-No by Karen Grigsby Bates
Love of country can’t be accurately measured by whether someone sits or stands or slouches or sings. It’s not that simple.”
What I Learned: The article discusses how you cannot condemn Colin Kaepernick for kneeling during the national anthem, though so many did, because you cannot tell how someone feels for America by how they respond to listening to the national anthem. Instead, we should be looking at why he knelt and what we can do to fix a system that makes it to where some Americans feel they cannot stand proudly when singing about their country.
In the past few months, several white people have been recorded calling police on black people who are going about their legitimate business in myriad ways: mowing the lawn, using the pool, sleeping in the dorm common room.
“You have an alarming tendency of white people starting to use 911 as their kind of customer service line when they have any friction with a black person,” notes Professor Jody Armour, who teaches at the University of Southern California’s Gould School of Law.
But Melissa DePino says her fellow white people need to understand something crucial: “calling the police on a person of color for just going about their life is extremely dangerous, given how our police and criminal justice systems work.”
If white people don’t speak up when racist behaviors towards blacks and other people of color are manifested, she says, “our silence is complicity.”
What I learned: In the second article, it discusses how two black men were arrested at Starbucks because it was claimed that they were using the space without purchasing anything, which was against policy–despite the fact that witnesses saw at least two white people use the space–one an older white man who sat for 45 minutes without purchasing anything–and yet, the cops were called on them, but not the white people doing the same thing. It shows just one example of the racial injustice that blacks must deal with every day, especially as white people will call to report them just living their lives–something that could be a true threat to their lives, given police brutality in America. We must do better.
Day Twenty Six: Donate to anti-white supremacy work
The National Council is committed to abolishing incarceration for women and girls. As formerly incarcerated women, we believe a prison will never be the place for a woman or girl to heal and advance her life. Prison most often causes further social and economic harm and does not result in an increase in public safety. The prison experience increases trauma in women and, if they are mothers, to the children they are separated from. It deepens poverty in the individual lives of incarcerated people and the overall economic stability of their communities. We believe that the current criminal legal system has failed and needs to be dismantled. We have better solutions. Join us in our work to end incarceration of women and girls.
What I Learned: I donated $25 to The National Council for Incarcerated and Formerly Incarcerated Women and Girls.
Day Twenty Seven and Twenty Eight: How We Are Preparing Some Kids for College–and Others for Prison by Alice Goffman
But Chuck and Tim, kids like them, they’re committing crimes! Don’t they deserve to be in prison? Don’t they deserve to be living in fear of arrest? Well, my answer would be no. They don’t. And certainly not for the same things that other young people with more privilege are doing with impunity.
Right now, we’re asking kids who live in the most disadvantaged neighborhoods, who have the least amount of family resources, who are attending the country’s worst schools, who are facing the toughest time in the labor market, who are living in neighborhoods where violence is an everyday problem, we’re asking these kids to walk the thinnest possible line — to basically never do anything wrong.Why are we not providing support to young kids facing these challenges? Why are we offering only handcuffs, jail time and this fugitive existence? Can we imagine something better? Can we imagine a criminal justice system that prioritizes recovery, prevention, civic inclusion, rather than punishment? A criminal justice system that acknowledges the legacy of exclusion that poor people of color in the U.S. have faced and that does not promote and perpetuate those exclusions. And finally, a criminal justice system that believes in black young people, rather than treating black young people as the enemy to be rounded up.
What I Learned: This discusses how the jail system is set up specifically to jail young black people, when they already have so much of the world set up against them, instead of setting them for success, as we do for young white people. As Alice says at the end of her talk, we need to end mass incarnation and build a new criminal justice system, but where the emphasis is placed on justice, not on criminal.
Day Twenty Nine and Thirty: Buy books, materials and supplies for educators
What I Learned: I chose to buy books for my friend’s classroom from the book bundles offered through Mahognany Books, a place where they focus on all black books. She teaches kindergartners and I’m going to surprise her with a package of them to utilize in her classroom.
And with this week, I’ve wrapped up the Justice in June series, a resource compiled by Autumn Gupta with Bryanna Wallace’s oversight. It was incredibly eye-opening, moving, heartbreaking, uncomfortable and needed. It’s an amazing first step for you to take, if you’re looking how to be a better ally.
For me, it shows just how much harm my silence and inaction has done in my first 27 years of my life, but it allow provides guidance and a stepping stone to do better–which is a lifelong journey, btw.
For me, I don’t want to stop talking about this on my platform, because I hope what I learn can help others, as well. So, now, once a month, I’ll have a new allyship post, which will detail some of the resources I’ve read (or want to), videos to watch, petitions to sign, actions to take and places to donate. I hope these posts are helpful and will help give you ideas of what you can do as well.
Together, let’s make this world a place where every person can be free and have the rights that a straight, rich cis white man gets automatically.