opinion

OPINION: 5 things we can do to make antiracism a more enduring part of white life



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A crowd of protesters listens as people take turns sharing the changes they would like to see in the community July 10 in Peoples Park. Sam House

In the wake of George Floyd’s death and other high-profile police killings, social media and real life were flooded with antiracist information and actions. Over a month after protests and nationwide action began, many people’s social media feeds, friend groups and routines began returning to normal until the alleged attempted lynching of Vauhxx Booker on July 4.

If things had returned to normal for you before Booker’s attack or if they have gone back to normal now, they shouldn’t have. Antiracism shouldn’t be a trend — it should become a permanent part of our lives. Here are some things you can do to make sure you don’t return to normalizing an unjust status quo

1. Make your social media feeds hold you accountable.

Social media isn’t real life, but it does influence what’s on your mind and what information you receive, which informs your real-life attitudes and actions. Keep antiracism on your mind and in your life by following Black activists, artists, authors and movements, as well as organizations such as the ACLU, which will keep you up to date on legislation and action items. 

The official Black Lives Matter Instagram and Twitter accounts, @blklivesmatter on both platforms, are a good place to start, as is the BLM B-town website.

2. Translate social media into real life.

If you see a post about racist or otherwise problematic legislation, don’t save it or ignore it — call or email your congresspeople. If you see an antiracist reading list or podcast recommendation, seek out those resources. 

Your social media feed is only useful if you take what you see on social media and do it in real life. Don’t post action items that you aren’t doing. Don’t post informative threads that you didn’t read. 

Perhaps most importantly, don’t ask for a gold star. Antiracism isn’t going above and beyond, it’s simply the right thing to do. Ask yourself: Am I posting a protest picture or donation screenshot to inform or influence others, or am I simply asking for praise or trying to fit in? Will I be taking these actions when they’re no longer trending? 

3. Read, listen and watch.

Read antiracist books, listen to antiracist podcasts and watch antiracist movies and documentaries. But also enjoy books, music, podcasts, movies and art by Black creators and experts about other topics. Supporting Black voices shouldn’t feel like homework — just seek out Black creators on the topics and in the genres you love. 

This should be a long-term process. If you blew through an antiracist reading list from social media in the week after Floyd’s death, chances are you didn’t retain a lot of it. 

We can’t learn or change effectively if we just cram for a couple of weeks. Commit to the long haul and take time to reflect on what you consume and where you spend your money so that you’re actually learning and changing rather than just skimming so you can say you finished the right books.

Resources that encourage personal reflection and pacing yourself, like the “Me and White Supremacy Workbook” by Layla F. Saad, are a good place to start if you need help slowing down and dismantling your own participation in white supremacy.

4. Don’t assume that reading, listening and watching makes you antiracist.

Reading a book about antiracism doesn’t make you an antiracist, just like reading books about mountain climbing doesn’t make you a mountain climber. To be antiracist, you have to stand up against racism in classrooms, in greek life and in all parts of your life, regardless of how much or how little you have read. Educating yourself isn’t the endgame; it’s to help you identify and address real-world racism.

It is also important to keep experience in mind. As white people, racism will always be something we witness and read about and even perpetuate, not something we experience. Don’t speak over the lived experiences of Black people to make a point you learned from a book.

5. Get comfortable with confrontation.

Confronting racism in your family and friend groups or in your elected officials can be scary, especially if you’ve never had those conversations or called those offices before. But these are necessary components of changing our communities.

The flipside is equally important: Get comfortable with the fact that you are going to mess up and that you should be corrected. Use those as opportunities to become a better person, not to get defensive or disengage.

Outside of these five recommendations, there are countless other ways to make antiracism a more permanent and enduring part of our lives. The important thing is this: Unless we as white people stop treating racism as something that we only have to think about and act against for a couple weeks after a racist action goes viral, it will persist.

Kaitlyn Radde (she/her) is a junior studying political science. She plans to pursue a career in academia.

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