An acquaintance confessed this week to feeling overwhelmed by the enormity of the racism problem in the US, and the issues we face here in Canada. He felt paralyzed with rage and powerlessness.
I confessed that I have those moments of paralysis too.
We decided that taking specific actions is one way to break the paralysis.
I’ve also been taking inspiration from your own replies here, from the articles I’m reading, and from my two daughters.
With the above in mind, I compiled a list of actions, most of which cost nothing:
1. Reach out.
Start with friends and neighbours. Share. Listen. Learn. Let the other person know you’re concerned.
I cannot count the number of times I stereotyped certain White neighbours and acquaintances, thinking they would find the topic of racism too difficult to discuss. But by asking the first question and listening to them, I was reminded every time that I don’t have a monopoly on caring about these issues.
And yes, I even shared my Mother’s Day post with some trepidation, and was relieved at the support from my blogging community. Thank you.
So talk to people, especially Black people, if you’re not Black. You might even ask: “How do you think I can help? I want to do something to make a difference.”
2. While you’re at it, don’t assume that liberals and socialists are the only ones furious at the murders of Black individuals.
Human beings are complex. One of my friends is White, conservative, evangelical and pro-life. She points out that “you can’t be pro-life yet support the wanton killing of Black citizens”.
3. Speak up when you see a wrong.
Silence is not an option, says Allen at New Hampshire Garden Solutions. And small, everyday actions matter. “We don’t stand at a microphone on television. We speak across the lunch table at work, or in whatever other social situations we find ourselves in, but we do speak. Staying silent is simply not an option.”
Jane Fritz, in her very insightful blog post, says the things we don’t do can be unintentionally damaging: “The bottom line is that one person’s ‘harmless fun’ is someone else’s lifetime of hurt, exclusion, fear, and self-loathing.”
4. Write something.
Several bloggers decided in recent days to directly address the issue of the murders of Black citizens. Jane Fritz, Lisa at arlingwords and CandidKay are just three. What would happen if more bloggers decided to do the same?
Blogger Chris wanted to do something but hardly knew where to start. His wife kept saying “You could write something”, until he heard her and did this blog post.
5. Share articles with useful ideas and practical suggestions.
Another friend sent me a link to this very clear and powerful video by Emmanuel Acho on Twitter:
6. Support already-established groups working to reduce barriers for Black people.
We don’t have to recreate the wheel. Laurie Graves did two things: she wrote a post, then she acted to support The Poor People’s Campaign (https://www.poorpeoplescampaign.org/) founded by Reverend William Barber.
My younger daughter immediately donated to Black Lives Matter, my older daughter to an organization providing bail money and legal defense to those arrested. This is important. Years ago, I learned that young Black men here in Canada are more likely to plead guilty to a crime even if innocent because they know their families can’t afford bail or legal defense. It may be the same in the US and the UK, for example.
7. Support Black businesses in your area or online.
My younger daughter shops online for baby clothes and other items during the pandemic. On learning that Black communities and businesses are disproportionately affected by COVID, she started making a deliberate effort to find and shop at Black-owned businesses or brands in Canada and the US.
8. Vote your beliefs.
If equal rights are one of the things you truly want to see, look for the candidates who include it in their platforms and who are prepared to fight for it.
Cynthia Reyes is the author of Myrtle the Purple Turtle, the children’s illustrated book that teaches inclusion, friendship and kindness.