We’ve had this conversation for years. If you’re not already living your life to include everyone, it’s time you start.
We’re a human collective, a global community. Americans have lost touch with our humanity. We’ve rested on our laurels for too long. Our inaction is steeped in white privilege. We can choose whether or not we act. Others aren’t so fortunate.
Police killed 1004 people in 2019. Black people were 24% of those killed despite being only 13% of the population (Source: killedbypolice.net).
When we can’t trust law enforcement to ensure the safety of every citizen, we need to defund and dismantle them. The police force is a corrupt organization, despite the few individuals dedicated to keeping the peace. We need to eliminate them altogether. With a commitment to community support, I believe it’s possible.
We have to work to restore civil rights for BIPOC (Black and Indigenous People of Color). It’s not difficult for us to live our lives in such a way that we advocate for racial equity.
Here are some actions you can take to help fight racism:
Read stories from people of color
I read Maya Angelou’s I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings for the first time at age 48. Only 27 pages in, I cried in anguish several times. Ms. Angelou told the grim truth of her childhood in the Deep South during the time of Jim Crow segregation.
Her book needs to be shared, far and wide. The fact that schools never assigned it to me as required reading is telling. Sure, I read To Kill A Mockingbird. It was a start. But nowadays, my former education feels inadequate. I went to high school in a small beach town off the central coast of California. It was the late 1980s.
Though I sat next to Mexican kids in class, I never learned Mexican history. We always learned the European version.There’s a rich cultural history in Santa Barbara, and we never heard about its ugliness.
Spaniards invaded and ravaged the Chumash people’s homes and families, then enslaved them to build our ever-popular Mission. With the Chumash reservation nearby, we kept the Warrior figurehead in a full headdress in front of our school.
What an insult to the Chumash people. Former students still shout, “Warrior pride never dies!” Yet, their team name is still The Warriors.
Despite Santa Barbara’s large Mexican population, most live in poverty amongst the mansions and BMWs, cooking the food, picking the strawberries, and maintaining the yards of wealthy residents.
I’m grateful to have had friends and family from different cultures and races since childhood. But they still weren’t represented enough in media or the city in which we lived.
I count my blessings when read Maya Angelou’s brave account of her harsh childhood. If I didn’t grow up with diverse beliefs, I might have overlooked her talent and depth of character. If I weren’t encouraged to accept and love everyone, I might not have developed compassion and empathy.
As a white person in a white-centered society, I need to consciously choose to look outside of myself in a variety of ways. Reading literature from people of color is one way this is possible.
You can read and support Black authors on this platform, like Jezebel, Marley K., Zuva, Miyah Byrd, Estacious(Charles White), and Marcus K. Dowling. These are only a few of the amazing writers to support. Feel free to find more and share their work.
Equal representation matters
I muted myself for a few days on Facebook. During that brief time, I only posted stories and videos of black and brown people.
I noticed how often my ego wanted to share things that were centered around me. I filled my page with people of color. I want my white friends to see what we aren’t typically seeing. We don’t notice anyone missing because we’re always represented.
It’s hard to find stock photos of people who look different than me. But I’m committed to the time it takes to find one. Equal Representation in media is especially important. There are plenty of white faces represented everywhere.
White people have a dominant presence in America, no matter how many Black Barbies made it to the toy store shelves this year. We have a lot of catching up to do. It’s not only about dolls or ads or jobs for people of color. Some people think it’s enough to make a few brown-skinned dolls.
As consumers, we can choose wisely what companies we support. I look for products and toys serving our whole population, not only white folks. If a movie, doll collection, or storybook consistently shows only white faces and experiences, I don’t buy it. I ought to take it one step further and write them requests for equally represented characters.
We still haven’t normalized different skin tones as a part of US culture. We still haven’t fully accepted everyone in every aspect of our culture. If we did, we wouldn’t have to discuss inclusion again. It would be automatic. I hope I see the day when that happens.
I want my kids to see equal racial and ethnic representation. My oldest mentions how many brown people are in the shows they watch or stories they read. There are usually only a few.
There are exceptions, which we’re always looking for. Elena of Avalor, Doc McStuffins, and Moana are some examples. My wish is for this to be a nonissue someday. Everyone deserves to be represented without having to search.
Teach our children to love and accept people who are different from them
When we show kids to accept all humans, they step away from their center to practice perspective-taking and empathy. They need to watch their caregivers respond with love and respect for everyone.
When we meet and appreciate people who look different than us, we won’t make unfounded judgments about their character. When parents and caregivers model acceptance of people everywhere, our children accept them, too.
When we recognize and embrace the differences in each other, we allow others to be visible. It’s ok to see skin color differences. I hope we’ve figured this out by now.
When we’re color blind, we erase a person’s identity. My youngest child is starting to notice and comment on brown-skinned people. She’s observing the differences in our skin tones. She can love people’s diversity at age four. So why can’t adults do the same?
Maybe they grew up like the kids in Stamps, Arkansas, the ones Ms. Angelou calls “powhitetrash.” Their parents passed their ignorance and racist ideology onto them. I was horrified when they “aped” her grandmother, Annie (it was hard for me to get through reading it), but sadly I’m not surprised.
I read of her grandmother singing hymns as they mocked her. She was the caged bird who sang. I’ve yet to fully comprehend her response. But I suspect she meant Annie Henderson rose above the ignorance of those children. “When they go low, we go high,” as First Lady Michelle Obama suggests. Annie showed white children a dignified Black woman who wouldn’t stoop down to their level.
Pay attention to the stories of Black and brown people
As a white person living in America, I need to hear of the ugliness toward Black and brown Americans. It’s an integral part of our racist history. We need to recognize racism before we can transcend it. We need to listen to BIPOC, holding space for their thoughts and feelings. We need to call people out for racist comments and actions.
We need to watch the family and friends of George Floyd gather, honoring and loving his memory. We need to hear Black voices sing praises to heaven, as their fallen brother was taken too soon. I watched part of his memorial while we were at the laundromat. We watched it with a Black-presenting man. We were friendly to each other, smiling while we washed our clothes.
I held back my tears and walked away to cry when I heard a woman encourage us to breathe. Let us breathe deeply, she said. My God, what have we become? A police officer lynched their loved one. They’re heartbroken, yet they rise one more time. It probably isn’t their first funeral of a slain black man.
We need to educate ourselves and our children. We need to read more literature showing the realities of racism. We need to read more literature showing stories of triumph over adversity. We need to watch people of color who are portrayed as kind, nurturing friends and parents, and generally upstanding citizens. And they need to be written by BIPOC.
Do your work
We’ve heard this before, but it bears repeating. We need to process our white guilt, internalized racism, and implicit bias. We need to recognize our privilege.
Privilege is huge. I’ll never know what it feels like for someone to deny certain things based on my race, things I consider rights. I don’t know how it feels for people to judge, ridicule, or harass me when doing everyday activities, like walking the dog in the park, driving a car, having a barbecue, or buying something at a store. I’ve rarely felt in danger of my life doing any of these things.
We don’t need to ask anything from our black and brown-skinned brothers and sisters, either. It’s not their job to assuage our guilt. It’s not their job to show you what organizations to support. Patronize BIPOC businesses. Support media with equal representation. And my God, stop talking and listen to them.
Not only does Maya Angelou grip me with her supreme talent for words, but she also illustrates an unfair world I’ve never had to live through. And she does it with grace and dignity I don’t think I could ever muster. I’m listening when I read her stories. I’m listening when I’m told what not to do. I invite feedback so I can do my best to support in a respectful manner.
We need to get humble, my friends. It’s not time to be right. If we remain teachable, we might be able to help make a difference.
It’s not complicated to include everyone in our society. We don’t need to make some grand gesture to show people of color we care about them. Remember, this isn’t about us. It’s time to give them the floor for a change. It means we stop judging their reactions to yet another murder by police. It means we educate ourselves instead of expecting our Black friends to expend their emotional labor.
We get to teach our children how to treat others who look different with respect and dignity. We get to show our kids how white people aren’t the center of the universe. We illustrate our point by patronizing BIPOC businesses and buying toys and dolls representing races and cultures different from ours. We get to read books showing varied cultures’ experiences.
It’s time to recognize the oneness of humanity. We’re a multiracial and multicultural rainbow, shining across the globe. Let’s start acting that way.