Protests around the country in support of the Black Lives Matter movement truly began in earnest about a week ago, and it's heartening to see how much has been accomplished in that week alone.
I remember just last Saturday, sitting in disbelief at the scenes playing out on the news in front of me. I thought I knew what to expect: I was active in a few groups on my college campus, and had seen protests before, with many of those same college friends still up in Seattle still going to these kinds of protests. I believed ours was a progressive city; I had heard so many colleagues and leadership in college cite the specific phrase, that Black Lives Matter, so it wasn't even presented as a controversial statement, but an obvious truth. Our mayor is a progressive Democrat and a member of the LGBT community, for goodness' sake.
And yet, there were the protesters, taking a stand. There were the Seattle PD, responding with violence.
The ideas that a city I had called home for four years - and been a frequent visitor to my whole life - could do such a complete about-face on what I had previously thought were intrinsically tied values, was mind-boggling. There was a shot on the TV, of a news reporter dodging flash bombs while directing the camera down the street, towards Pike Place, where the iconic Market sign shone eerily through a muggy haze of tear gas. Nearby, multiple police vehicles burned unrestrained, as the fire department couldn't navigate the crush to put them out.
I felt, honestly, naive. I knew that Seattle - and most of Washington State - was built unfeelingly on the backs of Native American tribal members and Chinese railroad workers. I knew about the atrocities committed against Japanese immigrants and Japanese-American peoples during WWII on our own shores. I knew about the founding of nearby Oregon as a White-Only state, and I knew that parts of our state still carry the same kind of beliefs that routinely put people in danger. But seeing this struggle - for just the recognition that Black Lives Matter, for the acknowledged rejection of overwhelming police brutality - play out directly on the news felt completely different than just knowing about it.
As I scrolled past video after video of our country burning with grief and frustration, I couldn't help but feel like the world was on fire. I was scared for my friends, and our city. And I was scared for our country.
But this week has been an exercise in persistence and perseverance. There's a lot more burning now than just cop cars, and the flames are climbing higher across the entire country.
Thousands of protesters move through downtown Seattle chanting “I can’t breathe” during the ‘March For Justice #GeorgeFloyd’ demonstration pic.twitter.com/S2fH0Ev7w8— amandamsnyder (@amandamsnyder) May 30, 2020
LISTENING VERSUS TALKING
From a personal standpoint, I have been largely abstaining from posting on social media. I understand this is a fairly unpopular stance, but I need to explain my rationale for doing so: this week was not a time for talking, but for listening.
Honestly, this belief is also shaped by the same kinds of topics Katie Anthony detailed in her blogpost, "5 Racist Anti-Racism Responses 'Good' White Women Give to Viral Posts." From self-identifying "I'm so ashamed," to the hypothetical "If I'd have been there...," there's a preponderance of seriously unhelpful information or dialogue being offered right now, when that same energy could be directed in more beneficial ways, like signing petitions, donating to various causes online, or giving a greater voice to activists already at work in the field. And at a time where social media sharing involves widely circulated photos and quotes, it's important to pay attention to "Non-Performative Allyship," as Mirielle Cassandra Harper shared in a viral series of tweets earlier this week.
And honestly, I think that if the disparity in the numbers between how many people posted a black square on Instagram, and how many people had signed the George Floyd petition proved anything, there's a lot of nonessential "virtue-signalling" happening on Instagram right now, which I had no interest in being apart of.
However, I also recognize that having the ability to step back and say nothing, demonstrates a profound kind of privilege, too. I live in a diverse, socially aware, and active enough social circle, that my timeline - on multiple media platforms - had been flooded already, with both the good and the bad. There were lists of resources made available, and directions to local protests, and instructions on how to address local government officials into making change happen. It was all very inspiring, but it was also a constant deluge of sometimes non-essential information and artsy poetry. I didn't want to add to that mix, but in staying "silent," in listening mode, it also restricts my ability to amplify voices I think warrant hearing.
So, I wanted to share some resources, news articles, and perspectives with this post, instead. I'm sure Instagram doesn't miss me.
JUST IN THE PAST WEEK...
Looting continues to be condemned by the media and government officials, but this amplification partially serves as a distraction from the point of protests.
Seattle PD celebrated the first day of Pride by tear-gassing protestors in Seattle's historically LGBT neighborhood, Capital Hill. (Have you seen the pink umbrella video? What about Jo Ling Kent's broadcast for MSNBC? They've both been compiled by The Stranger here.) Even local news spoofer The Needling couldn't resist pointing out the hypocrisy.
Ferguson, Missouri, elected their first Black mayor, six years after eighteen-year-old Michael Brown, Jr. was shot by a police officer.
"8 Can't Wait" gains traction... but is it really enough to effect change?
My youngest sister is a big fan of the slang phrase "showing your whole a$$." Example, used in the form of a sentence: Buffalo PD showed the whole world its a$$ this week.
***update: Seattle PD has replaced their daily diet of tear gas, with smoke bombs and canned pepper spray. So, less of progress than a convenient loophole.***
Kanye West shocks the world by donating over $2 million to Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and George Floyd's families, as well as setting up a college fund for Floyd’s daughter, Gianna. He also joined the protests in Chicago.
The crowd in Philly is...unfathomable? I can’t even guess. Unbelievable. pic.twitter.com/02ZIcyTXW5— Bradford Pearson (@BradfordPearson) June 6, 2020
WHAT TO DO NEXT WEEK
If we've gotten this much change accomplished in one week, imagine how much further we can go! Justice still has not been actualized. Keep pushing. There are still so many.
REOPEN TAMIR RICE’S CASE— luna-fuck the police-monay (@Lunathesnob) June 5, 2020
REOPEN KENNETH JOHNSON’S CASE
REOPEN PHILANDO CASTILE’S CASE
REOPEN ATATIANA JEFFERSON’S CASE
REOPEN KENNEKA JENKINS’S CASE
REOPEN LAVENA JOHNSON’S CASE
REOPEN ERIC GARNER’S CASE
REOPEN TRAYVON MARTIN’S CASE
Please continue to sign petitions, address your local government, and if you are able to do so safely, go to protests.
Please continue to acknowledge that we are in the middle of a pandemic, and we need you to be safe as well as powerful. Don't just wear a mask, but bring more, so that you can not only distribute as needed, but also, so that you can swap out if it gets too sweaty / inundated with police dispersant. Bring water and snacks as necessary, and hand sanitizer, as well. Try to keep from touching your face or others as best you can, and make sure to wash your hands as soon as you get home.
Please familiarize yourself with local regulations involving your right to protest, as well as procedures for arrest and imprisonment in your area. Know your rights as a citizen, and feel confident in your ability to keep those boundaries in the face of governmental authority.
Please continue to educate yourself on the history of racial injustice in our country, focusing on issues of systemic racism, especially those occurring in your own state or region. Buy from Black-owned businesses and bookstores for these materials when you can, and try to avoid Amazon.
Please take breaks when you need them, and take care of yourself in a time of great social and medical upheaval. Do what you need to do to keep yourself focused and calm. To be honest, right now would probably be a great time to start keeping a journal.
Please recognize that social media is a fractional medium: there's very little way to get the full story from a tweet, an Instagram post, or a Facebook link. Do your own research.
Please look to those who are leading. Amplify activist voices, and keep your own input enthusiastic, but at a relative minimum. Lift up others, especially those in the Black community, and follow the example of those who have been fighting for much longer than you have.
Please remember that America's history was defined by the difficult and the rebellious. From the wrongful imprisonment and police torture of protesters within the Suffragette movement, to the abusive harassment and federal terrorizing of activist leaders of the Civil Rights movement, America's foundation finds its greatness in those who progressed in spite of violence done against them. And as early as the looting at the Boston Tea Party, to the fires and broken glass that helped bring the Stonewall Riots to national attention, to say activist violence has no place in revolution is to discredit the validity of the concerns that caused it. To pretend that the only way forward is through peace, is to reject and dismiss the pain of those who came before us, and those who feel it now.
RESOURCES YOU MAY HAVE MISSED
There have been a couple vital books circulating the web this week, on "Anti-Racist Reading Lists" that are integral for understanding the social, historical, and cultural contexts of what Black Lives Matter really means. Here's one from the New York Times. Here's one from BookPeople. Here's one from BookShop.Org.
(But please remember: as Lauren Michele Jackson pointed on Vulture earlier this week, it's not enough to just buy the book, and think of it as your good turn for the day, especially as these kinds of lists have been around for a while. As she said, "that's the thing about the reading. It has to be done."
Need help finding a Black-owned bookstore to purchase your copy from? Libro.FM assembled a list of bookstores to support, who I'm sure would be happy to send a new title your way.
JSTOR Daily also collected a series of articles you can read instead, in case you were looking for something a little more short form. They are divided by sub-categories, like "Video Documentation and Police Brutality: Ethical Considerations," and "Racial (In)Justice: Putting Protest into Perspective."
Beyond the Bookshelves compiled a really comprehensive list of not only books to read, but also places to donate, including a section on how to discuss racism with small children.
Not sure how to address these difficult issues with your children? That doesn't mean those tough conversations shouldn't be happening. Sesame Street recently hosted a town hall with CNN talking about what racism means in a way that kids might be more receptive to. Act.TV released this short video that explains Systemic Racism in a general way that older kids might better be able to understand.
The Financial Diet brought together a lengthy and in-depth collection of advice on how to support your Black coworkers and employees during this critical time, as well as do better in workplaces in the future.
Bon Appetit collected lists from around the web of Black-owned restaurants in major cities that could use some love in the midst of Covid-19 concerns.
Half-baked Harvest also compiled a list of Black-owned Businesses and Bloggers in the Food industry. Go find some new favorites!
For more culinary inspiration, Food52 collected a list of 21 Black-authored cookbooks to add to your kitchen collection. (I've been looking forward to Toni Tipton-Martin's Jubilee: Recipes from Two Centuries of African-American Cooking since earlier this year, and that excitement has only grown since it was bestowed a James Beard Media award.)
Not an entirely necessary addition, but have you seen the giant 7ft protester making everyone swoon? He's even got fan-fiction now.
Please stay strong out there, continue taking care of yourself and your people, and keep working hard at fighting against injustice. I hope you have a productive and purposeful weekend.