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Not Just a Moment: Centering Voices of Color

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In the wake of the killing of George Floyd by police officers last week, many people are starting to truly reckon with the effects of America’s racist history on our society and culture today. 

There is frustration, anger, and sadness being felt in every corner of our nation as we grapple with the injustices and violence that BIPOC face and the impacts of that pain on our communities.

Of course, much of this pain has been compacted by the struggles of the COVID-19 pandemic, which exacerbated income and racial disparities that existed long before this year. 

As a white American, it can be difficult to know where to start when it comes to understanding our role in structural racism. Taking some time to center and sit with the voices and experiences of BIPOC, while having an open mind and accepting some discomfort, are great ways to start moving forward.

For those looking for a place to begin, here are some resources suggested by black community leaders:  

Here’s a comprehensive list of petitions gathered by Black Lives Matter, many of which have a donation component. If you can’t donate your dollars, you can still lend your voice to the cause.

Consider donating to the George Floyd Memorial Fund and the David McAtee Memorial Fund to help support the communities most touched by the unrest in the past week.

Donate to Reclaim the Block to “to make sure that our communities have the resources they need to thrive…The crises facing our city, like housing shortages, addiction, and violence in our communities, need real investment. Reclaim the Block is calling on our city to invest in violence prevention, housing, resources for youth, emergency mental health response teams, and solutions to the opioid crisis – not more police.” 

Or check out Black Visions Collective, which is an “organization dedicated to Black liberation and to collective liberation, we need a radical and ongoing investment in our own healing. By claiming love for our own bodies, our own psyches, our own experiences, and by building the resources we need to integrate healing justice into all that we do, we are insisting on conditions that can carry us towards the next generation of work, and towards a deeper place of freedom for all of us.”

A final excellent organization to check out is Campaign Zero,  whose mission statement declares that “We can live in a world where the police don’t kill people by limiting police interventions, improving community interactions, and ensuring accountability.” They emphasize urging “deliberate action by policymakers at every level of government to end police violence.”

Engage with Actively Anti-Racist Texts

Ibram X Kendi describes himself as “one of America’s foremost historians and leading anti-racist voices.” This best-selling author and Founding Director of The Antiracist Research & Policy Center at American University in Washington, DC is also a professor and frequent media contributor. 

His book Stamped from the Beginning is a “National Book Award winning history of how racist ideas were created, spread, and deeply rooted in American society.” By understanding the role that racism has played in American history, Kendi gives us ways to move things forward and “reason to hope” that things can change.

For further reading, Kendi recommends White Fragility by Robin Diangelo, another best-selling book that explores the “counterproductive reactions white people have when their assumptions about race are challenged and how these reactions maintain racial inequality.”

And, memoirs like I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou and Eloquent Rage by Brittney Cooper shed some light on what it’s like to be a woman of color in America, capturing the experience with nuance, honesty, and, at times, even humor.

The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander and Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson both highlight the racial injustices that are at the heart of our current criminal justice system. 

For shorter explorations of race in America, check out this list from Black Lives Matter. Ranging from Twitter threads to Google docs packed with action items, these resources help readers make sense of the complexities of race relations in the US today. 

Acknowledging how racism in the US perpetuates pain, suffering, and injustice is difficult, but important work to do. And our communities are counting on us.

Marian Anderson, one of many resilient, passionate voices that others sought to quiet because of the color of her skin, said, “No matter how big a nation is, it is no stronger than its weakest people, and as long as you keep a person down, some part of you has to be down there to hold him down, so it means you cannot soar as you might otherwise.”

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