In what seem like helpless, hopeless times, a question I see frequently on social media is: “How can I help?”
The question usually comes from a non-Black person who is trying to figure out the etiquette of participating as a non-Black person.
This week, a lot of well-meaning people caused more harm than good on social media by incorrectly using the #blacklivesmatter hashtag on “Black Out Tuesday” posts, causing the hashtag, which is used by activists to communicate, to come up nearly all black, thus making it harder to find actual resources.
Often the answer to people asking how they can help is to give money to an organization like a bail fund. That’s not the only answer, but it’s never the wrong answer. In Delaware, I would recommend contacting One Village Alliance, a Wilmington-based community organization with a mission to “uplift children and their families on a holistic journey toward economic development through education, entrepreneurship and the arts,” as they put it. Its founder, Chandra Pitts, has said publicly that the organization is setting up a local bail fund. So far there have been few arrests in connection to the unrest in Wilmington; regardless, you’d be supporting an organization that works to lift up the city’s Black community.
But money isn’t the biggest thing you can do to help. Lots of people are donating money to various organizations right now out of very justified outrage over the murder of George Floyd. Eventually, that’s going to stop. The hashtags are going to stop. That’s the point when you can truly help.
When monstrous things are done to Black people on video, they fall under the socially acceptable label of racism. For Black people, these events are especially traumatizing, but not because they are unexpected. Racism is not individual events for us, it’s an everyday facet of existence. It’s institutionalized inequity. It’s the empathy gap, where white people are sympathized with more than Black people. It’s those little microaggressions like someone assuming you’re an employee, not a founder. It’s downplaying all of those things because it’s uncomfortable to think of smaller things as real racism.
How can you help? Don’t reserve your outrage for the big stuff only. When you clock out after the news cycle moves on to something else, it signals to that you only consider the most heinous things done by the most heinous people actual racism. When that’s the full definition of racism, it means introspection isn’t necessary. It implies that if those “bad apples” are punished, things will be good again.
Only it never is, and systemic racism is not about bad apples.
Antiracism is an everyday thing. Very often it means calling out things that don’t kill people, but are harmful all the same. Those “little” things make the big things possible. They’re connected.
If everyone was conscious of everyday individual and systemic racism and worked against it even when racism isn’t a trending topic, that would help.