By Anna Themanson, LCPC, CADC
Black Lives Matter
The tragic losses of Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery and so many others this year have led people to take a critical look at their own beliefs and biases. Many were left feeling deeply devastated, not knowing what steps to take to fight against police brutality and systemic racism. The Black Lives Matter movement has helped produce countless resources to examine how we can better support the Black community and how we may have helped perpetuate racist systems.
In the Marie Claire article, “On Making Black Lives Matter” Roxane Gay states, “Black people do not need allies. We need people to stand up and take on the problems borne of oppression as their own, without remove or distance. We need people to do this even if they cannot fully understand what it’s like to be oppressed for their race or ethnicity, gender, sexuality, ability, class, religion, or other marker of identity.” White people specifically need to actively work towards dismantling racist systems that sustain discriminatory practices.
How do we do that?
First, we need to acknowledge our white privilege. I, as a white woman, will never understand what it feels like to be discriminated against because of the color of my skin. However, I do recognize that I have benefitted from the color of my skin in many ways over the course of my life. This does not mean that white people do not face adversity, but it does acknowledge that being white is not what has made their lives difficult. It is important to acknowledge white privilege in order to begin taking steps to lift up Black voices, de-center yourself in conversations around racism so as to avoid becoming a white savior, and use your privilege to advocate for change in spaces where Black and other marginalized voices are not represented.
Second, educate and humble yourself. The most important part of this step is the willingness to listen and be corrected without getting defensive. It may be uncomfortable realizing how you may have engaged in racist attitudes or behaviors, and it is essential in understanding how to change those behaviors. Listen to podcasts, watch documentaries, and read books by Black hosts, filmmakers, and authors about the history and current state of racism to better understand why it is so important and necessary that white people address racism head on. It is also imperative to educate yourself on how racism is perpetuated so that you’re better equipped to know how to create change within those oppressive systems.
Third, you must act. To create positive change, you must take action. This step can take many forms; you can support Black-owned stores and restaurants by buying goods from them. Donate to organizations and charities that support the Black community. Step down in certain positions you may hold to center Black voices and ideas. Have conversations with family and friends on how to challenge racism in their daily lives. Also, sign petitions, contact your representatives to advocate, and register to vote and vote for people who are fighting for racial equality.
Do What You Can
I write this understanding that I, too, need to engage in the three steps listed above on an ongoing basis. No one is immune to implicit bias and we need to constantly check-in that we are not perpetuating systemic racism. Do what you are able to do to fight for racial equality; stand up for what is right, and above all else, lead with empathy.
If you or a loved one would benefit from processing racial trauma, or are interested in gaining insight to become a better ally to minority groups, therapy can help! Call us today to schedule your first appointment. (630) 733-9108
SURJ – Showing up for Racial Justice https://www.showingupforracialjustice.org/
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