Every time I become aware of an incident of police violence toward a person of color, I am simultaneously not shocked and shocked to my core. Not shocked because racism is a persistent tragedy that strikes (and quietly simmers) on multiple levels and in many forms, from systemic oppression to outright violence. Shocked because I will never adjust to hate; as common as it is, it will never seem normal to me.
George Floyd is one among a staggering amount of black people who have been killed by law enforcement, illustrating that something so unfathomable as the brutal murder of an unarmed man by police is, at the same time, one more death with circumstances that are all too familiar.
Ways to Make a Difference
Ways to directly help raise awareness, further the cause of racial justice, and educate oneself and one’s family are numerous. The following are just a few avenues to explore ways of being antiracist and getting involved in the racial justice cause:
- Follow, listen to, and support accounts that are committed to education, inclusivity, and antiracism such as @colorofchange, @iweigh, @thegreatunlearn, @shaunking, and @r29unbothered. It is through accounts like these that I, a white person, have learned helpful answers to the “what can I do?” question.
- Read contemporary books exploring race issues in the United States. If you’re not a person of color, strive to be an active listener to these and other stories.
- Research and consider signing petitions and donating time and money to organizations fighting for racial justice. Here are a few possibilities.
- If you’re a white parent, include books featuring children of diverse races—like some of these. Exposing children to other races, cultures, and ethnicities in a non-appropriative way helps foster empathy and create allies. One of my parenting goals is to raise a child who is able to recognize white privilege and for whom it will never occur that non-whiteness is a deviation of whiteness or “the norm.”
- If you’re committed to multiple causes, such as environmentalism or feminism, think about the ways in which your cause is intersectional. Environmental Justice is one example. Are their ways for the initial cause to be more inclusive?
Again, this list is not even close to exhaustive, but I hope these ideas can help any person interested in more deeply committing to taking action to improve the way people of color are treated in our communities.
Because I constantly turn to creativity, I also wanted to share an additional way to respond to racism that may be helpful for any person wanting to use writing to mentally and emotionally work through current events. If it speaks to you, great! If not, that’s okay, too.
An Additional Empowering Way to Explore Your Ongoing Response to Racial Issues
Can Be Used & Adapted by Anyone
As a writer, I find often turn to journaling to organize my thoughts and clarify my own voice. This weekend, I happened to be reading the delightfully whimsical Little Weirds by Jenny Slate. While this collection of short pieces is undeniably funny, it’s also thoughtfully situated in a post-2016 election world. Slate’s piece “Creed” prompted me to think about ways I can productively shape my response to continuing police brutality, the recent deaths of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and George Floyd, and the system that allows these tragedies to continue.
While “Creed” concerns the way Slate empowers herself after traumas from personal relationships, reading “Creed” this past weekend—one marked by protests, outcry, and hard conversations about race in our country—was inspiring for other reasons. In it, Slate vows to compose her own Creed, or set of personal beliefs to direct her actions: “It occurs to me that it is never too late to write yourself a good little personal creed, and that finding a creed for yourself is about gathering a set of rules that supports your self-respect and your community.”
I believe creating one’s own personal creed can have myriad positive outcomes. By writing your self- and community-supporting personal guidelines, you can better organize your thoughts about the often unwieldy and deeply rooted problems facing us in 2020. I found that writing a creed has been a helpful way to digest what others have shared and actively think about how I can implement these values into my life on an average day.
Furthermore, writing is generative. Writing doesn’t merely capture thoughts on a page. The act of writing can aid the thinking process. When I sit down to write, I always manage to further my thoughts rather than just copy them down. Composing a creed may help you discover new ideas or unique ways of thinking about the role you can play in racial justice.
Also, let’s take a look at the word “creed.” A creed is a statement of belief(s) and comes from “credo,” from the Latin “I believe.” Now let’s consider concepts like human rights and civil rights. While these concepts have real-life implications, they’re powered by our collective belief in their value. We can’t reach out and touch them—and they won’t continue to exist for us unless we make the choice, again and again, to put our energy into them. Therefore, composing a creed concerning values of civil and human rights is one step (but not the last step) toward keeping those values alive.
Finally, this past week has seen a surge of antiracist activity, but it’s important to remember that we have a better chance of effecting progress if we commit to this fight for the long-term. “It occurs to me, even as I’m not sure what’s left of me, that I can use what is still alive to really behave in a way that I admire,” Slate writes. On days when we’re tired and struggling with the curveballs of life, our creed will be in the backs of our minds, providing a framework from a less exhausted place, pushing us forward, encouraging activity instead of passivity.
Creating your creed will be a deeply personal experience. The goal isn’t necessarily to create something to publicly publish on a social platform or elsewhere—it’s more about what will inform your daily actions (though there’s certainly a place to use social media to raise awareness). Lastly, it may be helpful to keep in mind that a creed is ultimately a means to an end. In other words, it’s a tool to be used in the ultimate goal of a more actively inclusive and loving community. Once we’ve written our creed, the work continues.
Related: Rosa Parks and Other Civil Rights Leaders You Didn’t Know Were Veg
Why We Can’t Solve Our Environmental Issues Without Intersectionality
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Photo: Florian Klauer on Unsplash