The videoed death of George Floyd, trapped by the neck under the knee of a police officer, has shocked millions.
It is hard to watch. It is confronting. It has galvanised many, but it has also, in tandem, increased the pressure on those campaigners, writers, educators and influencers who have made stemming the still-flowing tide of racism their life’s work.
As protests continued to surge across the USA in recent days, many anti-racism professionals stepped back from social media, exhausted, as white liberals, seeking to do good, flooded their inboxes.
The quest for guidance, the will to do something, anything, to help, may be admirable. But it is our own work to do. And while there are many who graft tirelessly to help us do it, in a time of shock and despair, the avalanche of requests has done little to aid them in their own processing of the latest in a far too populated line of needless black deaths.
For those of us who are white, it can be easy to step back and leave the mic clear for others who we believe to have more authority. But the time for inaction has passed and we must be willing to speak up on these issues ourselves. It is not for our black and brown sisters to do this work for us. Now, more than ever, they need to have peace, and we need to work independently to be better allies when they return to the public sphere.
As such, here is a far-from-exhaustive list of the people, publications and resources available and the steps we each can take immediately to become true allies in this time of crisis and, crucially, from here on in. Let’s go to work.
Examine your privilege
A natural response to incidents such as the death of George Floyd is to express shock. But for many black and brown campaigners, hearing white people talk about how they “had no idea” is a further insult. To live without the fear of racism is a privilege in itself, and to express disbelief in the wake of so many tragedies is to admit to a lack of engagement.
“One of the functions and privileges of racism is that white people don’t, as a whole, carry race as an identity,” Diane Flinn, a white woman and managing partner of Diversity Matters, says. “You get to be individual, you get to be ‘yourself’, you get to be the norm, you get to be whole and not partial or hyphenated. You do not have to make ‘adjustments’ or ‘modifications’ to know or name yourself.”
This is the privilege that so many of the campaigners and authors listed below need us all to recognise. Teaching Tolerance has a free-to-access panel-sourced resource on this exact subject, which makes a great starting point for understanding more about white privilege and what white anti-racism should look like.
Grasping this is the key to being an effective ally. It is often painful to examine one’s own inherent racism. You may not even think you have any. But it is a crucial first step.
Follow and learn
There is a veritable wealth of information out there, far more than we could list here. This is a tiny selection of the people that have helped us.
Nova is a truly extraordinary campaigner and educator. Direct, confronting and mischievous, you’d be hard pushed to come out of a session with Nova without an overwhelming desire to re-examine your own behaviours and biases.
Writing this weekend before taking a hiatus from social media, Reid acknowledged her influx of new followers thus: “It’s great to see you here. Equally, it feels like a beautiful disaster, I wish it didn’t take several more global racist atrocities and murders to motivate you into action. But here we are. These are the kind of truth bombs you can expect from me. If you’re ready to do this work, welcome, the work is urgent.”
Founder of The Loveland Foundation, campaigner and educator Rachel Cargle’s immediate response to the George Floyd killing was to post a wide-ranging list of anti-racism resources on her Instagram feed. It is a crucial read.
“Move past ‘I’m so sorry this is happening to you’,” Cargle says, “and ask yourself ‘how do I play into the pain the black community is [feeling] and how do I hold myself and my community accountable for enacting justice?’”
Her Linktree will also direct you to her free, 30-day #DoTheWork course – something that has never seemed like a more important sign-up. We all have time right now. There are few better ways to spend it.
Layla F. Saad
A no-nonsense voice who works to raise awareness of inherent racism and to educate others about routes to better allyship, her Instagram feed is as confronting as it is crucial.
“I have zero bandwidth for white noise,” she says, “and that noise is really loud right now. For those seeking to do the work, the information is already out there. Get to work.”
Journalist and award-winning author of Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race, Reni Eddo-Lodge, uses her Instagram feed to advocate for intersectionality, while also writing about the experience of being a black woman in Britain today for a wide range of publications.
The host of the About Race podcast also took to the internet over the past weekend to address the surge of recommendations for her book, asking that those who choose to buy it as a result of recent events also donate to the MN Freedom Fund, which is providing legal assistance to those arrested during demonstrations in Minnesota.
“Better yet,” she wrote, “borrow a copy from a friend/your local library and donate what you would have spent to MN Freedom Fund. This book financially transformed my life and I really don’t like the idea of personally profiting every time a video of a black person’s death goes viral.”
She also revealed that she had not only donated herself but would be allocating her royalty cheque for this quarter to the cause too.
The Seattle-based author of So You Want To Talk About Race is also a journalist and campaigner. Throughout lockdown, she has been working to support and promote black artists and creatives as well as to raise awareness around race issues and the invisibility of black women’s voices.
Writing on her Instagram feed this weekend, Oluo addressed the role of white women to help or hinder the black community at this time. “White people: whatever outrage and sadness you are feeling – pouring it all out on social to your Black friends won’t make them feel connected to you, it just places the burden of your feelings on top of their own.
“Send money, send a meal, buy from Black businesses. BE USEFUL.”
Which takes us to…
Offer tangible help
While the books we mention have cover prices (on which note, buy from your independent book shops please), many of the other courses, videos, podcasts and articles which you will find through the links here are free. That doesn’t mean they are free to produce – the women responsible for these online spaces are offering their time, energy and voices in order to help us, and we must be willing to pay them for that work. Seek out their Patreon, KoFi and PayPal accounts, donate to their causes and show up financially as well as in mind. This is not the time or space in which to exacerbate the pay gap.
Offer your time too. Find the organisations local to you which are doing good work in this space and get involved. Attend protests and demonstrations, whatever colour your skin is. Got a skill that could be helpful? Volunteer it. Work in a field that is racially imbalanced? Offer to mentor a black woman, do what you can to push those doors open for her and keep your foot jammed in them. Ensure your feminism is intersectional.
Be willing to learn
Finding the balance between lending your voice to the cause and claiming it as your own can be tricky, and while we all need to speak up, we also need to acknowledge that we may sometimes get it wrong – use the wrong terminology, speak insensitively or misconstrue experiences that are alien to our own races and backgrounds.
If someone calls you on a misstep, acknowledge it, apologise, correct it and learn. There is no shame in learning through mistakes, but blocking, deleting and being defensive is counter to the cause.
Read and watch
Add these to your bookshelf
The New Jim Crow, Michelle Alexander
Why I’m No Longer Talking To White People About Race, Reni Eddo-Lodge
Blindspot, Mahzarin R. Banjali & Anthony G. Greenwald
Me & White Supremacy, Layla F. Saad
So You Want To Talk About Race, Ileoma Oluo
How To Be An Anti-Racist, Ibram X Kendi
How Does It Feel To Be A Problem?, Moustafa Bayoumi
White Fragility, Robin DiAngelo
Watch these documentaries
13th, Ava DuVernay, Netflix
If Beale Street Could Talk, Barry Jenkins, Hulu
Selma, Ava DuVernay, to rent on Amazon Prime or Google Play
The Hate You Give, George Tillman Jr., Hulu
Dear White People, Justin Simien, Netflix