“I can’t breathe!” I hope those words chill you to the bone, that we hear the voices of George Floyd and Eric Garner gasping loudly into our collective souls for as long as we live. African-Americans can’t breathe, or jog, or birdwatch, or shop, or check into an Airbnb, or go to a swimming pool, or a barbecue …
White-skinned people have got to step up to counteract the white people who are racists; talking about it isn’t good enough anymore. As Ibram X. Kendi wrote in his excellent book, “How to Be an Anti-Racist,” being not racist doesn’t cut it. We need to be anti-racist and racism. Does this make you feel bad? Good. However, it’s not sufficient to feel bad, although that’s a tiny start. Feelings certainly can motivate action; outrage is a great tool. Mr. Kendi lays out a template for combatting sexism, homophobia, all the bigotry out there. I believe all of us need to take this on, and of course, we all need to grow — forever. Read anything by Roxanne Gay, and you’ll grow. For more growth, subscribe to Darrell Scott’s “PushBlack,” which is an excellent and inclusive chronicle of black life in the US. (pushblack.org.)
Recalling the old chestnut, “Some of my best friends are black…” I can say that’s true in my case, not as a foil. And not just friends; I have a black niece for goodness’ sakes! I owe it to my friends and family to use my privilege to support their futures and current well-being.
If you’re white and you’re reading this, imagine being scared to death every time your child or grandchild goes out into the world. Having your blood pressure skyrocket every time the phone rings until they are back home, day in and day out. Hard to imagine, isn’t it? People in war-torn countries can imagine it. And for far too many African-American people, the US is a war zone, becoming more so each day.
Back to actions, not just words. What could I do? Write a column? Check. Ask people to post it? Check. What else, what else… got it! Imitate the “Girl Scout Law and Promise” as applicable to being an Anti-Racist! Hold up three fingers and repeat after me:
The Anti-Racist Promise
On my honor, I will do my best:
To serve goodness and my country,
To help people of color at all times,
And to live by the Anti-Racist Law.
The Anti-Racist Law
I will do my best to be:
Honest and fair — never make excuses for racists;
Be friendly and helpful — pull my car over if I see harassment or violence
Considerate and caring — call authorities, or if authorities are the perpetrators, a news
organization; then stand witness and record assaults/incidents
Courageous and strong
Responsible for what I say and do, calling people out for racism
Respect myself and others — kneel or otherwise show solidarity during the national anthem
Respect authority — only when that authority is earned
Use resources wisely
Make the world a better place, and
Be a sibling to everyone and especially my siblings of color.
More ideas for anti-racism: Brainstorm with your other white anti-racist family and friends for ideas and actions. Ask your African-American, Hispanic, Pacific Islander, LGBTQ, and Native American friends and family what they would like you to do, which may include simply shutting up and listening, instead of proving how damned woke you are! Petition the Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts for anti-racist badges and challenge the Boy Scouts to come up with an anti-homophobic badge while you’re at it.
I just thought of another idea. At one time, some neighbors used to have a symbol on their doors for kids who were afraid; they knew if they saw that sign, they could get help from that household. I think I need to fly a UN flag — I just happen to have one — as a marker for “If you need help, you’re welcome here.” Oh, and the exponentially-rising anti-Semitism that is also back? Never forget that predominantly “Christian” white supremacists are haters of all people who aren’t like them.
Please email me at Ellen@beautybitesbeast.com if you have other solid, actionable ideas. I want to know what you’re going to do. Theories at this point are too late. We need your white skin in the game.
Ellen has been writing Consider This… for the Pasadena Weekly for a long, long time.