Anti-racism books are at the top of the best-seller lists this year. It seems we are wondering more urgently how to help in a way that is constructive and impactful. It’s a desire both to understand and to address questions about what we ought to be doing differently. This is also a conversation that has been ongoing at Unity Church, and our community is here to support one another as we decide what right action looks like.
Scholar Ibram X. Kendi describes parallel processes of introspection — critically examining our own assumptions, attitudes, and even vocabulary — and meaningful anti-racist action. He argues that the two activities could work together to move us past arguments of overtly held racist beliefs and into more effective actions against racist structures deeply embedded in our culture. So, what are some sustaining steps that we can take on these twin paths, working on ourselves (within) and in the world (beyond)?
First, the study of these issues is not in vain! Reading, watching, listening — learning — is absolutely helpful, especially as the result better informs our actions. A huge number of resources exist, and lately many folks have collected and listed and cataloged hundreds of them. Here is a sampling of the very tip of the iceberg:
- Remember, working on yourself is real. In fact, “doing our own work” is a request many people of color have made of white people about these issues — if you’re a white person reading this, that is its own call to action.
- “Begin where you are.” Perhaps do a little work to understand where that is relative to others, so you can choose a starting point that makes sense.
- Prioritize learning tools that work for you. If you love reading a thick book, do. If radio or podcasts work better, do that. Workshops and discussion? Seek them out. Unity Church is one great place to find multiple channels for learning including our library resources: www.librarycat.org/lib/UnityChurch
- Lists of more resources are deep and wide including Anti-racism Resources for White People, Sarah Sophie Flicker, Alyssa Klein May 2020: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1BRlF2_zhNe86SGgHa6-VlBO-QgirITwCTugSfKie5Fs/
If you have taken this look around, to get a handle on where you are and where others stand, you may want to consider some of these:
- The Case for Reparations (article by Ta-Nehisi Coates) https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2014/06/the-case-for-reparations/361631/
- How to be an Anti-Racist (book by Ibram X. Kendi)
- A UU study guide pointing out “socially acceptable” attitudes and behaviors that are in reality covert forms of white supremacy: https://uucsj.org/study-guide/legacies-of-systemic-injustice/white-supremacy/
- Wade into the social media platforms of Twitter and Instagram and follow Black, indigenous and people of color firsthand.
- Understand from the source what Black Lives Matter is about: https://blacklivesmatter.com/about/
Consider the question of who is writing and speaking. For white people, myself included, white people talking to other white people on these topics can be a helpful way in, due to shared experience and perspective, but should not be the end point. Black, indigenous people, and people of color, while they should not be burdened with “explaining” racism, have done a tremendous amount of work putting this information out there. Seek that out and read it.
Finally, taking carefully considered and meaningful action is vital, and can take many forms:
- Understand and act on these issues in your local community, school systems, and local government.
- Understand and act on these issues in your workplace.
- If you have money to give, do.
- Find, connect with, and support organizations that are already doing work in this area, and let them lead.