Artwork by @mongequentin
You’ve obviously noticed the lack of posting here on the blog over the past week, which I suppose was part intentional, part not intentional.
I am very apprehensive of being yet another preachy white girl shouting her newly woken thoughts into the void, so I thought it was important to carefully craft my thoughts and not post until I really felt like I had something well thought out to contribute to the conversation.
I’ve been posting pretty actively on Instagram in terms of sharing important messages by Black content creators, pieces of content I have found helpful, hard content that I think other white people really need to see because it is not being accurately reflected in the media, or how to support various important organizations as well as local resources for those in Chicago. (So I’m sorry for those of you who don’t follow me on Instagram and felt I was just not saying anything by not posting here on the blog!)
Truth be told though, when it came to crafting this blog post, I sat down to write every day last week and this morning, and I couldn’t get the words quite right until now. This post is the final (very long) compilation of so many thoughts as I continued to process, read, listen, learn, and repeat.
Reason being, I did want to simply re-circulate a giant list of fantastic resources that already exist out there on social media––all of which Black content creators have poured a LOT OF TIME (and an incredible amount of emotional labor!) into for the benefit of educating white people. (I will be including quite a few of those pieces of content in this post. Please give all of these creators a follow because the work they are doing is incredibly valuable.)
This whole week I’ve been thinking a lot about what my [ongoing] role is in dismantling racism is. Where can I be the MOST effective?
I came to the conclusion that the most powerful thing I can do is use my platform to amplify Black voices to white girls who need to hear them and likely would not have otherwise. (I’m also thinking a lot about what that means for my ongoing content here on the blog specifically, and I’ll share more on that later, but I would love to hear your thoughts as well in the comments as well.)
Let’s continue having hard conversations
I have always felt it was my responsibility to have hard conversations with you no matter the topic, because there are MUCH more important things than what I talk about 90% of the time here. (Clothes, shoes, beauty tips, etc.) My blog has always been the intersection of fun and real-life. I cannot claim to post “real-life” content while leaving out the ugly parts of our reality and how we can work together to change them, even if those parts are controversial or might make some people uncomfortable.
Every time I post something that even TOUCHES a controversial topic (others, aside from today’s topic, include Gun Control, Climate Crisis, Voting, etc) I always get the comments like, “I don’t come here for things like that” or “I don’t engage in politics” and honestly, that’s too bad.
I run a lifestyle blog, and guess what’s part of life? The need for a government that takes care of ALL its people. People dying. Murder. Rampant racism. Black lives. Women’s rights. The importance of voting. Making our country and this planet a better place to live for future generations to come.
So if you aren’t mad about what’s happening in the world right now and looking for ways you can help, I can ASSURE YOU, you’re not paying enough attention.
I feel a responsibility to have uncomfortable discussions with you and to continue to have them, because I believe that is a responsibility that comes with having a platform.
So, you guessed it. Today’s topic. Racism.
I, along with probably most of you reading this, am seeing America with new eyes. Let’s call it how it is: it’s pretty shitty that it took this long to get here, but we’re here. And I’m committed to holding us to that. We have a lot of work to do, but let’s work together to do the work.
First, I’d like to say how incredibly grateful I am for ALL OF YOU and this internet family of mine. Having this platform is an enormous privilege in itself and being able to have so many conversations with you–readers from all different backgrounds–makes me a better person every day. Thank you. We become better people when we are able to have these conversations with one another.
Second, I want to speak directly to my Black readers and readers of color for a second. I’m sorry I wasn’t showing up for you before. I realize that my lack of awareness and lack of participation is a massive part of the problem. But I’m here for you now, and I am committed to continuing to show up for you.
Also, thank you for your dialogue, your feedback, for sending me important resources, for DMing me last weekend saying, “JESS! YOU NEED TO BE LOUDER!!” or “HEY! Maybe you could stop posting about other shit and just post about this for a while because it’s WAY MORE IMPORTANT!” I understand it is NOT your job to have these conversations with me, or anyone else, but your voice, in particular, is incredibly appreciated.
I acknowledge how emotionally tolling it is to have these conversations (and how it’s ridiculous that it’s been solely on BIPOC to have them) but they MAKE. A. DIFFERENCE. I hope I can now use my platform to help take some of that weight off of your shoulders. Please continue to tell me what else I can be doing more of in order to do so.
Third–I’d like to use the remainder of this post to address those readers who, like me, are seeing America with their eyes wide open for the first time.
While I cannot offer any type of advice, or claim to be any type of authority on this subject (nor will I ever be), what I can do is speak about my personal experience and thought process throughout this week to further facilitate a conversation with a majority white audience.
Some things I’ve personally learned/worked through this week:
So…below I will jump into a few (many) thoughts and learnings of my own coming out of some personal reflection this past week. I think that it’s really important to be vulnerable and honest in order to grow, even if some of the honesty is cringeworthy and should have been completely obvious. So I need to walk that walk if I’m going to talk that talk.
I’d like to preface by saying to my BIPOC readers, and readers who are further along in their antiracism work than I am, some of this will likely be cringeworthy to read, and it’s certainly not my expectation that you will read it (or need to read it). You have much more important things to be doing with your time.
What this post IS meant to do, is hopefully bring some awareness and education to those who are in a similar place as I am, and to encourage productive conversation and action moving forward.
(Please note, these are just the tip of the iceberg, and is not meant to be a comprehensive list.)
Understanding privilege as a white girl
I have always understood that I had privilege (as do many of you reading this), but I never really FULLY grasped the extent of my WHITE privilege.
As a white girl growing up in a very white community, growing up, the word “privilege” was pretty much synonymous with “money.” Things like the car your parents bought you for your 16th birthday, the $150 sweatpants that said “Juicy” on the butt, or the fact that you could spend Christmas at your Florida house. In my world, that was what privilege meant. It meant you had an easy life.
Bearing this in mind, it’s easy for a white person to say, “I wasn’t privileged–I’ve had a job since I was 13” or “I grew up poor in a broken home, I had NO privilege of any kind, my life has NEVER been easy.”
And while you may be white and your life may be hard or have been hard in the past, it has not been hard BECAUSE of your skin color. That is what white privilege is.
I do not fear when my husband leaves the house that he might not come home because of his skin color. I would never be afraid to approach a police officer. I would not be afraid to YELL at a police officer. I’ve RUN from cops in my idiotic teenage years and not ONCE did I ever think the ramifications would be worse than a drinking ticket. Hell, I even jaywalked right in front of a cop car yesterday with zero cares.
I can buy any brand of makeup I want because they all make my color. Almost every brand of shampoo is for MY hair. I’ve never been followed around a store. I went to a school where I had access to tutors and where the teachers looked like me. I had the ability to be part of any extracurricular activity I wanted.
I am almost never made aware of the color of my skin in everyday life.
I was easily able to social distance for the past three months. It has never occurred to me that the healthcare system is not stacked against me and that it is not that way for everyone.
These are just a few examples.
Reflecting on what privilege, especially white privilege, really means is not something I’ve ever REALLY done before. And while most white people are very much AWARE of racial inequality in America, we think it’s because of racist PEOPLE. You know, like the KKK, or horrible, corrupt cops. BAD PEOPLE.
But what white people don’t TRULY understand (and never will) is that it’s easier to be white than Black in America because we live in a culture where race inequality is literally engrained into every fiber of our society because it was in fact designed that way. (If you are skeptical of this fact, this is a good video to watch.)
Yes I knew our public education system needed a lot of work. I remember reading about redlining briefly in school, but I thought that was in the past. But this intentional system of oppression that is still very much a reality every day was something I really did not fully grasp at an in-depth level until I really dug into it this past week.
(FYI, if you need a refresher on what “systemic racism” means, this is an excellent video!)
Self-reflection is not an optional part of the “helping” process
I’ve been noticing a lot of people who have been posted black squares in solidarity this week, but have gotten wildly uncomfortable or defensive at the thought of actually doing much beyond posting the black square or donating to one or two charities.
I’m just speaking from opinion here, but I feel like if you haven’t done the self-reflection and education part–figuring out how you personally have been playing a role in systemic racism, that’s probably why you aren’t motivated to take much action beyond that Black Lives Matter graphic you posted before shutting down Instagram.
“Me and White Supremacy” author, Layla Saad, writes in her book (which I’d highly recommend by the way)…
“Antiracism work that does not break the heart open cannot move people toward meaningful change.”
And I agree with her. If you are white and you aren’t yet feeling angry, heartbroken, shameful, and overwhelmed right now, I’d ask you to consider whether or not you’ve any introspective work on the role white supremacy has played in your life in ways even unbeknownst to you, and how you’ve been contributing to the problem.
While I HIGHLY recommend the entire book, (make no mistake, it’s one big uncomfortable and overwhelming lightbulb moment after another, but one I wish I could personally give to every white person) I wanted to share this particular excerpt on the topic of “white exceptionalism,” because I think it applies to so many of us––(myself included).
“White exceptionalism is the belief that you, as the person holding white privilege, are exempt from the effects, benefits, and conditioning of white supremacy and therefore that the work of antiracism does not really apply to you. I have come to see white exceptionalism as a double-sided weapon that on one side shields people with white privilege from having to do antiracism work under the belief that “I’m not a racist’ I’m one of the good ones…”
It’s not the right-wing nationalists and overtly proud racists who carry a sense of white exceptionalism. They often wear their true beliefs for all to see. They are clear about who they are, what they stand for, and who they see as a threat. Rather, it is of then the white liberals who believe that their progressive ideologies separate them from the racism of the extreme right. It is the people with white privilege who believe they are not an impediment to antiracism who carry white exceptionalism like a badge of honor.
“They can’t mean me. I voted for Obama. I have Black friends. I’ve had partners who are BIPOC. My kids play with nonwhite kids. I don’t even see color! When they talk about racism and white supremacy, they must be talking about those other kids of white people. Not me. I’m one of the good ones.”
Sound familiar? None of these things that you have confidently declared as evidence that you are not racist erases reality. You have been conditioned into a white supremacist idealogy, whether you have realized it or not. You are conferred unearned advantages called white privilege, whether you chose it or not…And your individual acts of voting for a Black president or having relationships with BIPOC do not erase any of this.”
If you’re like, “shit.” When you read this, that’s the point! Acknowledge it.
Don’t get defensive when you realize you could be doing more. Don’t get defensive when someone calls you out or asks what you’ve been doing. Take it a moment to self-reflect. This is an opportunity for growth.
Some questions I’ve been asking myself:
For me, it was very uncomfortable when I started thinking about why I’m only focusing on this now. I don’t remember where I read this, but the most helpful thing for me is to just start by asking “why?” This lead me to a lot of other realizations as well. Here are some questions that I asked that might be helpful for you too!
“Why am I just NOW realizing how dire this situation is?”
“Why am I just NOW moved to react to racial injustices?”
“Why do I only primarily follow white accounts and buy from white businesses? Why am I just now realizing that I do that?”
“Why am I just now learning about the terms, ‘ally’ and ‘white fragility’ and ‘systemic racism?”
“At what times of processing everything this week have I been most uncomfortable, or defensive? What does that mean? What do my reactions tell me about what I could be working on?”
“What excuses have I made for not being more involved in the past? What is my excuse for the excuse and why?”
“Have I ever witnessed racism (no matter how overt or subtle) and not called it out? When? Why?”
“Have I spoken out against racism this week publicly, to make my stance known, aside from post a black square in solidarity? If I haven’t, why not?”
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I’ve gotten a ton of messages from women who have decided they want to stand up and be allies. I’m hoping this video brings some clarity on how to do that. 🙏🏾 This was hard to film. As passionate as I am about sharing to create change and connecting, I had very little bandwidth today. But I know that these conversations are urgent. Send it to your friends if you are having trouble articulating. As black women, it is not our job to educate and carry the weight of anyone else’s guilt. Our load is full. It’s up to you to stand up become the go-to amongst your friends. No more fear of using your voice and truly leading!! This is where things change.✊🏾 #justiceforgeorgefloyd #ourlivesmatter #melanatedvoices #melanatedvoicesmustbeheard
It is not *bad* for white people to be talking about racism. In fact, it’s necessary!
Previously I have never felt that it was…my place to be actively engaging in conversation about race and racial inequality. Nor was I probably even capable of it, because admittedly, as I said, I had never really done any in-depth reflection of what it might truly be like to be Black growing up in America dealing with systemic racism all day every day. (Or any other white predominant country, for that matter).
And when I heard these “racist” stories––I would think (or say) things like, “Are you serious?! This is 2020! How is this still happening?!” and “NO!” Did they really say that!? Who could do such a thing!?” and I thought this was showing solidarity. I did not realize this was offensive or a MAJOR problem until I saw Rachel Cargel’s graphic circulating around. (So if you think social media is not an integral role in social change…think again!) I will include that below. And while you’re at it, PLEASE give her a follow. Her content is so incredibly valuable. (Also, considering shooting her a Venmo while you’re at it to thank her for all the work she does!!)
I realized that these things are not MY reality as a white person. These responses are luxuries. These responses in themselves SCREAM of white privilege. I realized that I can turn off the news. I can put down my phone. I don’t have to live this every day. I mean, honestly, consider how much you’ve put down your phone this week because you were *just too exhausted and it was all just too much*.
After I read this post, I sat with it for a while and considered all the ways in which I have been living in a totally different world than my Black friends, and found it very, very upsetting. As someone who values always showing up for her friends and others around her, it was a painful realization to have that I had failed to show up in this way for so long.
Reflecting on this is hard–it’s supposed to be hard.
I should be going out of my way to support Black and POC owned businesses
I’m going to be pretty blunt here. (Cringe trigger warning.)
In the past, the idea of promoting Black or POC owned businesses as such made me worried that it would come off as performative or self-serving. Like people would perceive it as me being a Karen thinking I was deserving of a cookie, or trying to be cool. (Even though I did not feel that way at all.)
That if I were to make it a point to, say, intentionally go out of my way to spend money at Black-owned businesses the same way I would with women-owned businesses, it would be taken the wrong way. Or if I got on Instagram and said, “I got these earrings from this awesome Black-owned brand!” that my Black readers would read that as offensive and be like, “Hey white girl, we don’t need your help, thanks, we’ve got this.” Or that I would inadvertently use the wrong language and upset someone. “Who am I to be the white girl promoting Black businesses?”
AGAIN. This is the PROBLEM. That as a white girl I was so afraid to be labeled as racist or racially insensitive, that I decided to skirt around entirely. By doing so, this is yet another way I am playing an active role in the larger problem. Who am I to NOT be the white girl loudly promoting Black businesses?! (While acknowledging at the same time, YES, there probably will be some people who interpret my intentions incorrectly and that’s okay.)
I share this information because they are the same sentiments I heard over and over and OVER talking to other white women over the past few days, and this was why many said they were just not comfortable speaking up about what’s going on right now. So let’s acknowledge that, course correct, and do better.
We cannot be staying silent.
Another Black person is killed by a cop, we read a report about income inequality or mass incarceration, how broken school systems are, and we think, “that’s so awful, but what difference can I make?” and we stay silent. Or perhaps worse, we don’t process this as OUR problem to solve. (TBH I think these are MAJOR privileged white woman problems no matter what topic we’re discussing but that’s another topic for another time).
Even the most outspoken white women I know, who were being loud about other injustices in this country (or even the “injustice” of their kid not getting enough playing time in the peewee league 😳) were not talking about racial injustice. I personally had not considered until this week how MUCH that silence was contributing to the problem.
Staying silent is the opposite of what white people need to be doing right now. I realize now that by not using my voice to bring light to racial inequality and openly discuss white privilege, I was unknowingly participating in oppression.
I really liked this opinion piece in Zora, How White Women Can Use Their Privilege to End Racism. While the title and topic are tongue-in-cheek, the author makes a really good point and offers an interesting perspective. (Thanks to my friend Hitha for sharing this, by the way– she is another incredible Instagram follow!)
“What might happen if the Beckys, Karens, and Amys of this world actually used their racial privilege in the interests of social justice?” it asks. Think about it!! Think of how much hell could be raised!
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I received an email this week from a white woman who wants to know how she can support racial justice but without risk. And I’m sorry to share, it’s not possible. To be antiracist is to be active. It’s to resist the status quo. It’s raising your voice and making noise. It’s protesting and declaring things must change. It’s challenging supervisors and boards and executive teams and donors. Choosing antiracism is often choosing to be a nuisance. ** Please note: I do not share this to judge her. I’m sharing because there are a lot of people who want to “do the right thing”, but. But not risk your job or your fellowship or your funding or your friends but this work is inherently risky. You must accept that or else acknowledge you are not yet antiracist.
“But can I show my support in a less public way?”
I know this idea might make you uncomfortable, and using your voice is hard. It’s so hard. But it’s necessary.
Everyone is of course entitled to their own opinion on this, but something to consider:
Do you think this “white person awakening” would’ve happened this past week if not for social media? If not for the MASSIVE influx of educational anti-racist resources FLOODING your Instagram stories, all over the internet, everywhere you look? If not for the thousands of stories Black people have been vulnerably sharing in attempts to get white masses to listen and understand? And those white masses SHARING all of them?
If not for this–would you REALLY have paid attention? (It’s okay to say no! Because it’s the very thing that got MY attention!)
I know you’ve read things that say, “you can do the work internally and not have to speak up externally” but there is no replacement for speaking out. You have to use your voice AND do the work offline. For ANYTHING you care about, but especially this.
Change first starts with bringing awareness to a problem, and that awareness leads to social change, and then that leads to action. We cannot collectively take action if we are not aware.
What is most influential to privileged white people? OTHER privileged white people.
Ask yourself, why do you follow me? How many Black lifestyle bloggers do you follow? What do your friends look like? Who do you go to when you want to talk through something? Would you have started paying attention if the white people you follow had just gone about their normal lives and not started protesting offline and online?
So many people say, “but I have 500 followers on Instagram! That won’t help!” It absolutely will!
Think of your Instagram followers in a room. How big would that room have to be to hold them all? Have you ever given a speech at a wedding? That’s 5x as many people listening to you online than if you were giving the MOH speech at a 100 person wedding. It. Matters. Even talking to 5 of your friends over dinner will. Talking to your aunt, mom, sister, dad, will.
Your voice is important. It is needed. Please don’t be scared to speak up online AND offline, and just as importantly, make sure you’re taking action to back it up. (We’ll talk more about that below).
Writer Austin Channing posted a great quote on her Instagram feed that said, “You can’t choose justice and the status quo.”
In her caption, she wrote that she had received a question from a white woman on how she could support racial justice but do so without risk. “I’m sorry to share, it’s not possible,” she answered.
“To be anti-racist is to be active. It’s to resist the status quo. It’s raising your voice and making noise. It’s protesting and declaring things must change. It’s challenging supervisors and boards and executive teams and donors. Choosing antiracism is often choosing to be a nuisance. ** Please note: I do not share this to judge her. I’m sharing because there are a lot of people who want to “do the right thing”, but. But not risk your job or your fellowship or your funding or your friends but this work is inherently risky. You must accept that or else acknowledge you are not yet antiracist.”
Of course, I am not saying that by being vocal you won’t get called out for saying the wrong thing. You will. Coming from someone who gets called out every day in some form or another–it’s okay. Accept that now. But also understand that every correction is an opportunity to learn.
Do not get defensive. Do not make excuses and say “but I had good intentions.” Admit that you were wrong and you will correct it and do better.
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This video is a resource for anyone is on the fence about posting/wants to find more ways to be involved with #justiceforgeorgefloyd. i talk about the importance of using privilege, especially if you’re white or white passing thank you guys for sharing and leaning in, you guys are incredible!
Other sentiments I’ve heard in recent discussions with my white followers and friends
that might be helpful to talk about!
“I’m too scared of saying/doing the wrong thing so therefore I have kept to myself.”
I get it. But by saying that, you’re making it about you. 😬If you skipped over everything I just said above about how important it is to speak up, go back and read it! 😉 If you share and speak up, and get called out, that’s okay. Use it as a learning experience and an opportunity to engage in a constructive conversation and then google more about it.
“I am feeling an overwhelming sense of guilt and it’s causing me to feel paralyzed as to how to best move forward.”
That’s understandable! I feel the same way. That’s why I wrote this post! I don’t think there’s a right or wrong place to begin. I think the most important part is starting, and continuing to do something every day to move forward.
“Of COURSE I am antiracist but I cannot condone riots. It’s hurting so much more than its helping! They shouldn’t be fighting violence with violence. Don’t they see?”
It’s really upsetting to watch businesses you love get damaged, isn’t it? It’s devastating, especially to those neighborhoods that had limited resources to begin with. (Target will be okay. Louis Vuitton will be okay. The neighborhood that only had one grocery store and one pharmacy to begin with and is now a food desert? That is devastating.)
You can acknowledge this loss, but it’s far more important to educate yourself about the larger picture of what’s going on here. Do not be distracted by the property damage!
At the end of the day, what is more important? Smashed store windows and stolen goods, or America’s history of murdering and oppressing Black people in every aspect of our government systems, that is STILL continuing today? Those are your two choices. “I get it, but…” is not a choice.
If you claim to believe Black lives truly matter yet refuse to take the time to understand WHY Black people are so angry, then I would ask you to consider what that says about how “antiracist” you really are. (Eeeek, right?)
Overall, I have heard this sentiment from MANY people I would deem as GOOD people. GREAT people! (Not outwardly “racist” people!) But statements like this really do not reflect the values of those good people. A statement like this reflects [again] privilege, and also ignorance, apathy, and in my opinion, does not line up with the rest of your values as a good person.
I know this is a shift a lot of people are having trouble making. If that’s you, I encourage you to watch Trevor Noah’s take on it below, and also watch the documentary “13th” on Netflix. (Also linked at the end of this post).
“This isn’t something I normally talk to my friends about, and I’m not really sure how to go about having this discussion.”
You can send them this blog post and say, “what do you guys think about this?” (Maybe you thought this was a terrible post! Maybe you thought it was a helpful one! Either way, it’s a good conversation starter!) You can also send them any of the below resource links to ask their thoughts, or just say, “I thought this was really helpful and that maybe you might think so too.”
“I want to help but I don’t want to physically protest (because of COVID or another reason).”
Of COURSE that’s completely okay, and understandable! There are many ways you can help and no one person should only be helping in one way.
As we discussed above, you can use your voice to raise awareness by having conversations both online and offline, followed by other actions that you can take, such as signing petitions, contacting your congressmen and urging them for reform, donating to both national organizations and grassroots organizations on the ground, buying anti-racism books and any books by Black authors to start reading, volunteering to get supplies to both protestors and those in neighborhoods that have been damaged. A good old Google search can point you in the right direction.
“I’ve have been seeing a lot of “defund the police” but I don’t think that’s the answer! We need policing on the streets! How ridiculous!”
The term, “Defunding the police,” generally speaking, does not mean reducing the entire police force. I understand that sounds like “fire all the cops!” but that’s not what it means at all and pertains more to a budget reallocation.
This article, “A Practical Guide to Defunding the Police” is a very helpful read. Here’s an excerpt:
Defunding the police does not mean stripping a department entirely of its budget, or abolishing it altogether. It’s just about scaling police budgets back and reallocating those resources to other agencies, says Lynda Garcia, policing campaign director at the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights. “A lot of what we advocate for is investment in community services — education, medical access… You can call it ‘defunding,’ but it’s just about directing or balancing the budget in a different way.”
The concept is simple: When cities start investing in community services, they reduce the need to call police in instances when police officers’ specific skill set isn’t required. “If someone is dealing with a mental health crisis, or someone has a substance abuse disorder, we are calling other entities that are better equipped to help these folks,” Garcia says.
When people get the specific help they need earlier, they’re less likely to end up in the kind of dangerous situation police might be called to diffuse — situations that often turn deadly for those individuals.
(Also, I’ll link another podcast episode below that I would highly encourage EVERYONE to listen to.)
Other good reads: “What Would Efforts to Defund or Disband Police Departments Really Mean?“,
This article in the Times offers perspective on what society would look like with police defunding and disbandment.
This opinion piece in the Washington Post provided a good overview of what defunding/abolition is really calling for and (in my opinion) offers good perspective on how this could be approached near term vs. long term. I also was struggling with the term “Police abolition” but this definition offered a lot of clarity:
“Police Abolition” means reducing, with the vision of eventually eliminating, our reliance on policing to secure our public safety. It means recognizing that criminalizing addiction and poverty, making 10 million arrests per year and mass incarceration have not provided the public safety we want and never will. The “abolition” language is important because it reminds us that policing has been the primary vehicle for using violence to perpetuate the unjustified white control over the bodies and lives of black people that has been with us since slavery. That aspect of policing must be literally abolished
There’s Never Been a Better Time to Abolish Qualified Immunity (A Bipartisan effort)
This article in The Dispatch covers how both sides of the aisle are taking on abolishing qualified immunity, which, as the author describes, is “one of the justice system’s most pernicious legal provisions that acts as a de facto liability shield for bad cops and other reckless government officials.” (I probably never would’ve found this article had Hitha not shared it as part of her #5SmartReads–thank you, Hitha! Again, please follow her!)
More articles, resources, accounts, and people to follow that I have found immensely helpful:
This is by NO MEANS a comprehensive list, but a few suggestions based on my own experience as well as the many conversations with friends and white readers who have just realized they’ve been living in a separate world from their black friends, and are feeling overwhelmed at where to begin.
This is an EXCELLENT episode and there were MANY ah-ha moments in it. A great primer if you haven’t yet jumped into any antiracism resources yet.
I thought this post was especially impactful. Please scroll through.
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Sharing this reminder today. What is racist bypassing? It is the act of avoiding being held accountable for the ways in which your actions, beliefs, or practices uphold or perpetuate white supremacy. Why does this happen? Well, what you all have come to brush with a broad stroke as “white fragility” is actually a pattern of developed behaviors meant to protect white privilege at all costs. Here’s how it works. There is an incident that implicates your behaviors in white supremacy. This can happen in one of three ways: 1. you’ve been called out for how your behaviors have perpetuated it; 2. someone you admire and relate to personally or professionally has been called out; and/or 3. you’ve witnessed an incident of white supremacy physically harming BIPOC bodies. This incident is called a Racial Trigger. That incident triggers an emotion in you that is either guilt, shame, fear, or anger. And because those emotions are never fun to feel, and especially excruciating when in relation to implicated racism, your natural response is to defend yourself to avoid having to grapple with the validity of the claims that caused the emotions in the first place. I call those Racist Tools of Defense. These tools allow you to bypass accountability by doing of the following: 1. centering your comfort and your perspective over the information calling you in; 2. invalidating BIPOC lived experiences; 3. elevating palatable BIPOC voices over dissenting ones; and/or 4. making yourself the victim. It doesn’t matter what you call the action. If your behavior does any of those things, you’re reacting with a racist tools of defense. And it doesn’t matter how much you once considered yourself to be an ally, doing these things in any way compounds the harm felt by BIPOC under white supremacy. Racist bypassing is predictable behavior. It follows a predictable pattern. Everyone does it. Everyone can stop doing it. But it will forever be your default unless you actively do the work to replace those racist tools of defense with antiracist tools of accountability.
(Please send to all your friends who won’t stop saying this phrase.)
This documentary by Ava DuVernay will shock you. It completely changed how I look at the American government and the very intentional role it has played in racial oppression. Vogue also did a good writeup on it.
Here is just one revelation from the film…
President Nixon advisor John Ehrlichman admits, “The Nixon campaign in 1968, and the Nixon White House after that, had two enemies: the antiwar left and black people…We knew we couldn’t make it illegal to be either against the war or black, but by getting the public to associate the hippies with marijuana and blacks with heroin, and then criminalizing both heavily, we could disrupt those communities. We could arrest their leaders, raid their homes, break up their meetings, and vilify them night after night on the evening news. Did we know we were lying about the drugs? Of course we did.”
This episode was absolutely fascinating and also very terrifying. I had zero knowledge of how policing systems were set up, but this will explain why it’s so hard to convict police officers of any crime, or create any kind of reform, even when there are leaders who are fighting for it.
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When being interviewed by people with white privilege, I’m often asked about how people can navigate the discomfort of this work. ••• Yes, anti-racism work is uncomfortable. And I’m happy to talk about how I feel people can navigate that discomfort. But in talking about how hard and uncomfortable this work is, my ask is for people with white privilege to not forget that the discomfort truly is incomparable to the discomfort of being harmed or dying due to racism. White Centering will have people with white privilege focusing on how hard this work is for them, instead of truly thinking about how hard racism is for Black, Indigenous, People of Colour (BIPOC). ••• I’m not asking people with white privilege to deny the discomfort. But I AM asking them to keep perspective. People with white privilege can choose to practice anti-racism. BIPOC cannot choose not to be impacted by racism.
I purchased the Kindle version of this book (I’m definitely wanting to support more local bookshops moving forward but I couldn’t find this in stock anywhere other than the digital version! However, if you would like it on audio, you can purchase via LibroFM and set it to support your favorite local bookstore! If you need a recco, I recommend Semicolon books in Chicago, a Black woman-owned bookstore!)
This book has been insanely eye-opening and I hope that each and every one of you can read it sometime soon. I think this should be required reading for white kids in schools.
I could go on for days, but we’ve got to wrap up somewhere. If you’ve made it to the end of this post, thank you for reading, I hope it provided some helpful perspective! I’m sorry if parts were hard to read or if something could have been worded differently. I have posted this fully knowing that I would not get it perfect. So please tell me so I can correct it and know how to do better moving forward.
Behind the scenes, I’ve been thinking a LOT on which ways I can show up moving forward for the Black community, especially Black-owned businesses, and especially for Black women. I’m crafting this plan as we speak, but if you have feedback or ideas on how you’d most like to see me do that specifically in my content, I’m all ears. Your feedback is crucial and so important!