A lot of well-meaning white people have asked ourselves what we would have done if we were around during the civil rights movement. It’s not a hypothetical any more. We no longer have the comfortable distance of history that allows us to reassure ourselves that we would have spoken up, we would have resisted, we would have supported black people fighting for their lives. Black people are fighting for their lives now. Today. Fifty years from now, we want to look back at this time and know we were on the right side of history. This is the true test of our ideals; to stay silent at this historic moment is a betrayal.
Of course brutal violence against people of color is not new in this country. People of color have been sharing their stories. They have been telling us what it is like to live under a racist system and fear for their lives and livelihoods. But we can bear witness in a way we haven’t before, and there is an organized, vibrant movement that is pushing back against white supremacy with renewed vitality.
It’s a system that white people created and that we still benefit from. The pain and struggle of people of color should be enough to convince this country that we have a problem, but sadly we’ve seen that this isn’t the case. White people who care about racial justice need to listen to black people, believe them, amplify their voices and help them carry the burden of changing a broken and unjust system. We must hold other white people accountable and stand in solidarity, while supporting people of color as they lead this movement. It’s a long-term endeavor, and we need to commit to it every day. A lot of white people are newly thinking about racial justice as the Black Lives Matter movement grows, and this post offers some resources to help us learn and actively engage.
Education. This involves not just sitting back and expecting people of color to educate us, but actively seeking out information. There are countless resources that can deepen our understanding and analysis (feel free to add more in the comments). Read The New Jim Crow, Between the World and Me, White Like Me, watch Jesse Williams’ speech at the BET awards. Below is just a handful of links that may help you in discussing recent events.
- Curriculum for white Americans to educate themselves on race and racism–from Ferguson to Charleston
- White fragility: why it’s so hard to talk to white people about racism
- White privilege: unpacking the invisible knapsack
- The next time someone says “all lives matter,” show them these 5 paragraphs
- Why the NRA took so long to comment on the Philando Castile police shooting
- Philando Castile did what his mother told him to do around police. A cop shot him anyway.
Action. Just as education needs to be an ongoing commitment, so must action. It can be daunting to figure out what we can do when facing an onslaught of horrible news and intransigence from some of our white counterparts. It’s not always going to be easy, but we have a moral imperative to actively resist racist violence and oppression.
- Six ways white people can help end the war on black people
- Your guide on how to support black people after incidents of police violence
- How to be a white ally: fighting racism is your responsibility–start now
- Advice for white folks in the wake of the police murder of a black person
- White people, don’t tell me what Martin Luther King would think of Black Lives Matter