A lot of people are now sharing memes, videos, and posts about how appalled they are. They are expressing sadness and outrage at the horrendous murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis police. I see a lot of fingers being pointed. Pointed at the police and the officer himself calling them racist. And to be completely honest, that is counter-productive. In fact, that actually helps perpetuate the myth that racism is something that “bad people” do. The reality is that racism is in all of us. Racism is a system. The good intent these people have when sharing these posts is far outweighed by the impact made by perpetuating the myth that continues to plague the world.
A lot of people are wondering what they can do, they feel helpless, and it’s understandable. So I have made a short list of things that do and don’t work.
What doesn’t help:
1) It’s fairly safe to say that posting a message saying “do something” is about as helpful as a used diaper. But beyond being not helpful, the message also does harm. It perpetuates the myth that racism is something that only “bad” people do. It alleviates responsibility and places blame.
2) Don’t click “share” without actually reading it. I see a lot of lists of anti-racism resources going around. Most of them are less than helpful. One list, created by the site Medium, is so bad that I am actually willing to call it garbage. It does nothing more than lay out ways to point fingers at others and place the responsibility on everyone else. I’m not mad at people for creating lists to try and help, what’s wrong with it, is that most people (and feel free to call me a cynic here) will feel good about themselves for re-posting, and then do nothing else. Not once have I seen someone say, “Hey, I found this amazing list of articles and podcasts, these reads are really deep and have changed my perspective and understanding!” (Since the initial draft of this post, ONE person has said something similar; still not statistically significant)
What does help:
1) First and foremost, focus on yourself. Pointing fingers at others and calling them racist does nothing to change the system of racism. As pointed out earlier, it does far more harm. By focusing on your own biases and treating racism as the system it is instead of a group of individual choices, you start to actually change things.
2) Join an equity / anti-racist group. No one can get far without mentors or other people holding each other accountable.
3) Read books and articles to learn about your own implicit biases and how they impact your day to day interactions with those around you. Take a deep dive into prolific writers such as Robin DiAngelo, Resmaa Menakem, Renee Wells, Zaretta Hammond, Joe Feagin, Lisa Delpit, etc.
The reality is, anti-racism doesn’t come from pointing fingers and sharing memes. It comes from the work we do to recognize the actions, behaviors, and thoughts that are racist and where those thoughts come from within ourselves. Anti-racism starts with all of us and the work we do within.