Hello All. I want to begin this newsletter with an acknowledgment that we face multiple crises simultaneously. People are hurting, hearts are breaking, anger is boiling over, and fear is rampant. The naked terror faced by Black people in the United States, the pandemic, the unmitigated use of widespread disinformation campaigns, and the undermining of our democratic institutions are each horrifying. Each of us must ask ourselves how we can do better and do more. I offer two considerations as we reflect on how we respond (along with A LOT of resources, so please scroll through this entire newsletter).
First, let us support one another so that we avoid allowing the overwhelming nature of it all to lead to paralysis. We each have one or more roles to play. Let us commit to action instead of hand wringing.
Second, we may find ourselves dedicated to different efforts. That is both necessary and okay. Each of the crises we face is a threat to racial justice. If you have not yet read my articulation of how and why it is essential that we remain supportive of one another, even while we focus differently, please read and share this article, On-ramps and Lanes on the Racial Justice Freeway. White people must commit to this work, and it is up to those of us who are white to expand the number of additional white people who join us.
And if you're searching for a way to understand and hold the complexity of what we're seeing on the streets of our cities across the nation, these two local news segments from Los Angeles helped me:
Share widely. Trusted friends will be co-facilitating a 10-week dialogue series based on the reading of Witnessing Whiteness. A “train-the-trainers” component will also be available for those who wish to experience the series and then implement it in your home community. Dates: Sundays, June 14th – August 16th Times: 10-Noon PST --- Noon-2 CST --- 1-3PM EST Cost: $150 (full rate) with sliding scale available based on need Interested? Fill out this survey (to ask questions and/or receive registration link)
CCEJ’s Conscious Classrooms Series – Quarantining the “Other” – June 4th - How do ISMs show up in times of panic? How do mainstream narratives harm our communities? How have stereotypes and racist, sexist and homophobic tropes been used historically to continue to subjugate our most marginalized communities? What can we learn from the past to ensure that we never let this happen again? This workshop will explore ways in which historical moments of panic have created narratives that further marginalize our most vulnerable communities. Students in this workshop will work to connect the past to the present moment, and identify ways that we can practice solidarity and allyship as a way of protesting these problematic narratives.
The Naked History of Terror against Black People in the U.S.
Multiple events in the last few months have drawn a straight line connecting our history of lynching, the role white women have played in racial terror, and the institutionalization of assaults on black bodies within law enforcement. These video and article resources make the relationship between them clear.
WATCH: “Pastor Moss delivers a sermon for a time such as this as he delivers a sermonic movie, preaching a requiem for Ahmaud Arbery.” Watch this 22-minute video, The Cross and the Lynching Tree: A Requiem for Ahmaud Arbery, by Rev. Dr. Otis Moss III, and let tears run down your face.
READ: “When Amy Cooper called the police on a black man who asked her to leash her dog in New York City’s Central Park over the Memorial Day holiday, the incident became the latest chapter in the fraught legacy of a gendered and racial dynamic dating back to slavery in America, one that persists in the nation’s imagination today. It is rooted in an idea, backed by generations of violence, that white womanhood is to be protected and that black men are inherently criminal.” Read this Washington Post article for a powerfully succinct analysis.
READ: “In mid-March, police officers barged into Breonna Taylor’s home in Louisville, Kentucky, in the middle of the night and discharged a spray of bullets that struck and killed the 26-year-old EMT…. Taylor, 26, and her boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, were in bed when they heard the officers enter at around 12:40 a.m…. Walker, thinking the plain-clothes officers were intruders, called 911. He then pulled out his gun and fired a shot at one officer’s leg. The officers responded with more than 20 rounds of bullets that sailed through the kitchen and living room, fatally striking Taylor eight times… They promptly charged Walker with attempted murder.”
READ: “George Floyd’s killing on Monday at the hand of a white police officer is sparking intense scrutiny of the Minneapolis Police Department—an institution long plagued by allegations of misconduct and racist abuse—and the controversial restraint tactic that led to Floyd being suffocated to death while pinned to the ground, as he repeatedly told officers he could no longer breathe. While an investigation is underway over the use of the chokehold in Floyd’s death, it’s worth taking a look at the ‘warrior-style’ police training that for years had been popular with the city’s top police union.” This is bigger than one individual police officer’s actions. We must look at the institution itself, and the culture it perpetuates.
“What the Amy Cooper situation reveals to me is what instances of racism in America always reveal: There’s a level of self-examination and self-awareness that white people are not doing that they must do. There’s something that white people, even the ones who believe that they hold no biases, that they wield no power, must admit to themselves and begin to unpack. They are complicit — and even participatory — in the system of white supremacy. Individual white people may not believe they are, but their ability to tap into that system is always within reach.”
Michele Norris on Ahmaud Arbery and his mother Wanda Cooper Jones - a perspective to help white women connect to what Black women are going through
Mikki Kendall on Hood Feminism - for understanding the ways white feminism is not solidarity to Black women
Eula Biss - “White Debt” - for understanding how to turn white feelings into action
Opportunities and Resources for Healing and Action
Breaking the Chain: Healing Racial Trauma in the Body
Ahmaud Arbery’s death reminds us that, long after the pandemic has come and gone, racial violence will remain an unhealed wound in American society, deeply entwined with our collective history, identity and culture. Resmaa Menakem’s work offers a path to healing that wound.
From the founders of Embrace Race comes COVID-19 by the numbers – “As the US closes in on 100,000 official COVID-19 deaths - the real toll is undoubtedly higher - other numbers tell the story of the pandemic's disparate impact on Black and Indigenous communities and communities of color. Please: take a moment to read through the numbers. Share them with friends, family, colleagues. Use them as starting points for discussion. And consider, as we do often these days, how we can, individually and collectively, change the way such stories unfold in the crises to come.”
Knowing our history calls us toward the action needed to stop it from re-occurring. --- “In Wilmington, North Carolina, in 1898, the victory of racial prejudice over democratic principle and the rule of law was unnervingly complete….No conspirator was ever prosecuted, and white supremacists went on to alter state law so as to disenfranchise black people for more than two generations... In 2018, North Carolina passed a constitutional amendment that limited the vote to holders of a state-issued photo identification. The measure reprises the kind of obstacle to black-voter registration cleared away by Fusionists in 1895 and restored by white-supremacist Democrats in 1899. Merely remembering the past will hardly stop those who are trying to repeat it.”
“Not My Idea…is a book about whiteness. A white child sees TV news coverage of a white police officer shooting a brown person whose hands were up. Upset, he asks his mother why; she deflects… The book’s narrator accompanies the child as he faces history and himself. The activities section urges kids to grow justice (“like a bean sprout in a milk carton”) inside of themselves, seek out and listen to the truth about racism and white supremacy, and prepare to be changed, heartbroken, and liberated by this experience. Part history lesson, part compassionate primer to assist children (and parents) past defensiveness, Not My Idea is a tangible tool for necessary conversations.”
One post per month from a different IBPOC educator. Wow! Take a look at these amazing educators! “About: As indigenous, Black, and people of color in education, we have too often found ourselves at the margins in conversations about our work as teachers in a field where white women make up 80% of the work force. By sharing our voices – one voice at a time, each day – this project centers our unique and varied experiences. After all, as IBPIC teachers, we have powerful stories to tell.”
Join a support dialogues for white anti-racists. AWARE’s monthly Sunday Dialogue (SD) occurs on the 3rd Sunday of every month, 3-5PM Pacific via the Zoom online platform. We focus on connecting, sharing, and learning from one another. If you have not signed up for the interest list (required to receive the RSVP link), please sign up here.