How I Plan To Stop Being An Ignorant White Person
If you are already offended by the title of this post please don't stop reading now. Let me explain. I have attempted to write a previous article about how my family and I are navigating the most recent flare of social injustice in our nation. I sent the original post to a black friend who politely shared her thoughts. Basically, it was crap. It wasn’t motivating, helpful, or informative. The part that convicted me most was a question that she asked.
“We sat down several years ago and shared our hearts about racism in this country. What has been the overt change that has compelled you to “do” something now?”
When I considered this question, my complacency was tied to my ignorance. I don’t consider myself to be stupid but I am an ignorant white person in this context. I am only starting to understand the depth and breadth of the circumstances my black friends have faced their entire lives. When you first hear stories of racism and discrimination as a white person it can be tempting to think those are isolated events. The catalyst that George Floyd’s death set off no longer allowed me the comfort of believing these atrocities were one-off occurrences. I am sad and embarrassed I didn’t “get it and get going” before now.
So the goal of this post is to share how I plan to stop being an ignorant white person. I want to become an informed ally to my black friends. What I am sharing are things I am trying to read, watch, and listen to educate myself. Listed below are resources that have been recommended to help me become informed.
White Rage by Carol Anderson - This book presents evidence of policies and legislation that have perpetuated black enslavement and legalized incarceration throughout history. A jaw-dropping tour of black history from acclaimed historian Carol Anderson.
Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates - This is a narrative letter from the author to his son describing historically what it means to be black and carry the burden of slavery, segregation, wrongful incarceration, and murder. It is history woven through a personal narrative and it is one of the most recognized books to read on the topic of racism.
Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria by Beverly Daniel Tatum - This is a book that addresses topics we should be prepared to discuss if we are ever going to actually facilitate real change. A sensitive literary work that challenges the racial barriers threatening to continue to divide us.
The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration In the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander - I am most interested in diving into this book because it puts our judicial system on trial. It challenges what legislation has done to limit the rights and freedoms of black Americans.
How to Be an Anti Racist - This is a conversation between author, Ibram X. Kendi and Brene Brown. Professor Kendi has written several best-selling books on the topic of antiracism including; How To Be An Antiracist, Stamped, and a children’s board book called Antiracist Baby. It’s never too early to begin teaching our children about racism and how to dismantle it!
Tell Black Stories - This is an entire organization dedicated to the celebration and accurate representation of people of color in the media. It started as an extension of “Color of Change” in Hollywood but now reaches a nationwide audience. This show gives you so many reasons to celebrate the accomplishments and plight of the black creative community.
A Decade of Watching Black People Die from Codeswitch - This episode presented by NPR’s race-focused podcast, Code Switch highlights that the recent surge in racial conversations isn’t new for the black community. It is truly just a larger awakening of white people joining from the sidelines.
Things to watch:
Just Mercy - This is a book that was made into a movie about the true story of civil rights lawyer Bryan Stevenson and his work with death row inmates in Alabama.
Brian Banks - Another true story of wrongful conviction and imprisonment of a young black teen on fabricated rape charges. It highlights the brokenness of the system but more importantly that the people working within the judicial system need to make choices that uphold justice even if the methods are unorthodox.
The Central Park Five/When They See Us - The Central Park Five film is a documentary based on the famous case of five black and Hispanic teens who were wrongfully charged with the rape of a white woman in Central Park in 1989. The film When They See Us is a feature film based on the story.
13th - This is a documentary film that explores the truths that the U.S. imprisons more people than any other nation in the world and ⅓ of the inmates are black. A disproportionate incarceration statistic is only the beginning.
This is obviously not an exhaustive list it’s just where I am starting. For more great Anti-racism tools check out GoodGoodGood.co. If you are like me and want to help change our nation but are unsure where to begin this content is a good place to start. I am very interested in more resources on this topic so if you have recommendations please get in touch through the comments below.