I have no desire to write about Ferguson. None.
As a black woman the whole situation breaks my heart and frustrates me, but it does not surprise me in the least. It does, however, make me wonder if it is worth it to bring a son into a world that will see my child as worthy canon fodder the moment he steps out of line. (After all, who cares about your humanity once you do a little pot or commit theft?) I have been Facebooking and tweeting about the shooting since it happened and incidentally ran into some very good links on the topic. Instead of adding my own disgruntlement to the din, I’m simply going to link those.
Some articles and blogs
Ferguson police chief: Officer didn’t stop Brown as robbery suspect by Greg Botelho and Don Lemon
Select quote: “Everyone has rights, or no one has rights.”
(Actually, just read everything on Pophat related to Ferguson. Seriously.)
A New Beginning (Podcast) with Jason Hines and Lily Archer Hines
Some friends of mine were discussing on Facebook…
what white people can do to help fight racism. One person, a woman of color, was asked for her input and gave a lengthy reply. I thought it was pretty good, and so am sharing it here. The following (edited to maintain the privacy of the writer) is in response to the question “What can I do that will matter in the fight against racism?” and was originally posed (and answered) by this article (read it!).
Be an advocate. You did this quite well [at our work place] by bringing up topics and concerns in staff meetings that I was reluctant to voice precisely because I am a black woman. When you saw things which appeared to have negative implications racially or with regards to sex or gender, you spoke up. And because you were a white male, it would have been extremely difficult to dismiss your words by claiming they stemmed from bitterness or anger.
Listen. This is active…I remember when we were [in college] together and I shared a song called “I am not my hair” which had a huge impact on me as a black woman with natural hair. You, among others, dismissed it as a weird, nichey song comparable to a lament about pale skin from a Scandinavian. I did not have a chance to explain the complexity and cultural impact of the hair wars both within and without the black community, and thus felt my experience was being marginalized and discounted. This was one of many instances where my experience as a black person was marginalized without being actively discriminated against. Most prejudice does not involve white hoods or mustache twirling. However, if someone in that dorm room had chosen to listen to me, they would’ve likely become a better advocate.
Remember that opportunities to be an advocate are numerous, even daily. Consider for a moment the following situations: a woman in your workplace is asked to exchange her afro/dreads/twists/bantu knots for a more “professional” hairstyle. Your office holds a date auction in which a level of participation is mandated. Your paper is covering a story which touches on drugs, poverty, or “inner-city problems.” Your church is holding a food drive/clothing drive/charity event in a neighborhood populated primarily by racial/ethnic minorities. All of these situations, when met with the awareness of a good listener, are opportunities to be an advocate.
Seek out the opinions of minorities in your workplace, church, community, etc. Let the person know that while you do not expect them to act as the spokesperson for their subgroup, you recognize they may have a different experience from yours, and thus a perspective which could be valuable to the team. Then, if you find yourself repeating their ideas, give credit where it’s due.
Pick an issue and learn about it. The prosecution of drug crimes, police brutality, gentrification, welfare, affirmative action. They all sound scary but ignorance and misinformation are scarier. Pick an issue being discussed in your community…educate yourself about it, then share your findings with your community and vote accordingly. Do not underestimate the power of your vote. (This will also make you a better advocate.)
Join a group that works to combat issues of prejudice, or that works with a community often discriminated against. Poverty and race often (somewhat unfortunately) serve as proxies for each other in community outreach, so if you’re particularly concerned with race it’s not as though you have to join your local NAACP chapter. (Although, hey, why not?) Practical contact with marginalized communities through work at the local shelter, soup kitchen, public health concern, halfway house, etc. will make you more aware, and offer the opportunity to tangibly serve. (Talking to a social worker or public school educator about local needs can help get you started.)
Join in solidarity. Tweet about Ferguson. Repost articles. Join a protest. Just show, somehow, that you give a damn. (Again, this is something you’ve already done quite well.)Anyway, this became a book somehow so I’m going to stop. I hope it was useful and came across the way it was intended: in the spirit of friendliness (and frankly, excitement that you asked for my input).
A closing meme
And that’s all she wrote, folks.