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 that I’ll do temporarily. 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 Fifteen: The Intersectionality Wars by Jane Coaston
…intersectionality as “not really concerned with shallow questions of identity and representation but…more interested in the deep structural and systemic questions about discrimination and inequality.”
“There have always been people, from the very beginning of the civil rights movement, who had denounced the creation of equality rights on the grounds that it takes something away from them.”
What I learned: I learned that Intersectionality is first coined by Dr. Kimberlé Crenshaw. I learned how it evolved from something she worked on as a matter of law and form of discrimination in courts that suddenly took flight and become a widespread phenomena, becoming defined as, “the idea that people experience discrimination differently depending on their overlapping identities,” — which absolutely makes sense to me.
However, intersectionality isn’t arguing for trying to create a “new caste system” where the straight white male goes from the top to the bottom, as many conservatives fear. Instead, it is trying to destroy the system that allowed this discrimination and inequality in the first place. It is summed up best in the article, so I’m going to offer the quote here:
But Crenshaw said that contrary to her critics’ objections, intersectionality isn’t “an effort to create the world in an inverted image of what it is now.” Rather, she said, the point of intersectionality is to make room “for more advocacy and remedial practices” to create a more egalitarian system.
In short, Crenshaw doesn’t want to replicate existing power dynamics and cultural structures just to give people of color power over white people, for example. She wants to get rid of those existing power dynamics altogether — changing the very structures that undergird our politics, law, and culture in order to level the playing field.
Day Sixteen and Seventeen: White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack by Peggy McIntosh
As a white person, I realized I had been taught about racism as something that puts others at a disadvantage, but had been taught not to see one of its corollary aspects, white privilege, which puts me at an advantage. […] In my class and place, I did not see myself as a racist because I was taught to recognize racism only in individual acts of meanness by members of my group, never in invisible systems conferring unsought racial dominance on my group from birth.”
What I Learned: I really loved how McIntosh brings to light that racism isn’t just a purposeful act of meanness or discrimination, but how it is also failing to recognize that the very systems we’ve built our country upon are racist and needs to be addressed at the root. Our silence against racism is just as important to recognize as a racist part of ourselves as actually a purposeful act of meanness.
Day Eighteen: The Power of Martin Luther King Jr’s Anger by NPR’s All Things Considered
Martin Luther King, Jr. realized that non-violent resistance offered a way to channel anger into positive forms of protest.”
What I Learned: This article and podcast recording discuss the anger of Martin Luther King Jr and how we learned to channel that anger in the positive force of protest that we’ve learned about today and continue to demonstrate as a way to express anger at the injustices that still remain. It is okay, and natural, to feel anger, especially when looking through the lens of racism and seeing all of the atrocities committed because of it. But it’s also important to know how to channel and use that anger to create change, like through peaceful protesting, voting and amplifying the own voices of those truly affected by what you’re fighting against.
Day Nineteen: Advocate for police de-escalation training to your local PD and government
Hello Chief Officer Burns,My name is Nicole Evans and I am one of the residents here in Lawrence. In light of the recent public focus on police brutality against black residents, I wanted to reach out and advocate that our police force here in Lawrence not only require mandatory de-escalation training, but make that the mandatory first response when handling civil disputes.I know on Twitter, it has been confirmed that this is already implemented. However, in your Policy Training Manual, under Section 428.3, it quotes that “Civil disputes tend to be confrontational and members should be alert that they can escalate to violence very quickly. De-escalation techniques should be used when appropriate.”I would like to advocate that the LPD policies be updated so that de-escalation becomes a mandatory response, instead of an encouraged option.I also ask that all members of the department are trained in racial justice and anti-racism, as part of your training, and that this training is updated and revisited often.I know that this work has already started, according to the District Attorney, but I ask that the LPD continue to not only do this work, but let our city and people know how this work is being done and keep us updated, so that we as a town, can continue to come together to fight systemic racial injustice.Thank you so much for your time.Cheers,Nicole
What I Learned: Honestly, this was a bit terrifying to do, because reaching out directly to our police force directly made me feel like I was putting myself directly in the line of fire. Am I going to be targeted for speaking out? Will be be arrested for using my voice? But, of course, isn’t that what black people do every day, by simply existing? That’s wrong on so many levels and I don’t even have an inkling of the terror a black person must feel, living in an white-dominated society and system.
Educating myself is great, but it means nothing if I’m not willing to act, which is why I sent that email today.
Day Twenty and Twenty One: How to Overcome Biases; Walk Boldly Towards Them by Vernā Myers
…help us reform our images of young black men, three things I am hoping that will not only protect them, but also open the world so they can thrive.Can you imagine that?Can you imagine our country embracing black young men, seeing them as part of our future?”
What I Learned: That quote above gave me chills. Her three tips:
- Get out of denial. What is your default? Who are you afraid of? Who do you trust?
- Move toward young black men instead of away from them, i.e., walk towards your discomfort
- Be willing to act out against those who speak in racist ways–including your family
Confront your associations. Confront your biases. Recognize them. And then do the work to unlearn them and do better.