How to Engage in Action and Solidarity

Hi Friends,
There are so many things happening right now, but I wanted to call attention to the NAACP’s call for a moment of silence today at 3:45 pm during Mr. George Floyd’s funeral. There’s also a local live chat with ACPD Chief Jay Farr today at 2:30 pm hosted by a friend of mine. You can post questions ahead of time.
I have really appreciated all of the discussion in the group lately. Thank you all for engaging respectfully with each other. I think the most important observation I have so far is to acknowledge that people of color have a very different lived experience than white people, even here in Arlington. Please believe them when they share their stories, when they share their fear of the police, when they express something that sounds strange or impossible to you. Sit with the fact that the system is structured in a way to make white people blind to the suffering and oppression of people of color. It is designed to prevent us from seeing the truth so that the system can continue to function.
As we become more aware of the systems of oppression around us, it is normal to feel bewildered, confused, distrustful, and defensive. Sit with your discomfort. Your discomfort is part of the system, encouraging you to go back into your imagined safe, white, privileged bubble instead of emerging into the complex, vibrant, real world that actually exists. Resolve to never return to your bubble and work to bring others out of theirs as well.
A few quick things that have come up since my last post.
- I have created a new page on the blog, called “Start Here” to serve as a landing point for people new or re-engaging with the work. I’m trying not to make it too overwhelming with resources, but if you see something that would be really helpful there, please let me know.
- If you’re looking for resources about how to talk to kids about racism, you can start with the relevant section of my Resource List. There are so many more, so I’ll try to keep up and add to the list.
- There are so many ways we can address systemic racism that it feels overwhelming sometimes. You don’t have to do it all. Just pick something you know you can do, and do it. Rachel Cargle has a great program that breaks it down into small, achievable pieces.
If you are new to attending protests or otherwise taking physical action, especially POC-led actions, please remember “Listen. Amplify. Follow.”
Listen — whoever has organized the action is in charge, not you. You might have lots of ideas — keep them to yourself. Listen with the goal to understand a different perspective, a different way of being in this world.
Amplify — share the words of people of color with your communities, spread calls for action, ensure that voices of color are heard and validated.
Follow — learn to follow the leadership of activists who have been in this space for longer than you have and/or who have the lived experience and deserve to lead. White people (often especially white women) are socialized to lead in social justice work. Unless you are asked, do not center yourself, but instead follow the leadership that already exists. People of color have been resisting racism and working to dismantle the system for generations.
Please also stay safe during any actions you take. Besides the coronavirus (which is shockingly easy to forget about right now), you need to be prepared and informed about how to participate safely. Some references:
Tia Ghose in LiveScience (6/3/20)
- Amnesty International’s “Safety During Protest” (PDF)
Louryn Strampe and Lauren Goode at Wired (6/2/20)
- Right To Protest’s “Protect your protest” guidance
Please remember that this work is for the long-haul. People of color are used to the pattern of outrage, followed by protests and strong words and promises of change, followed by very little change if any. I remember learning in an Allyship Training that people of color have learned to expect white people to eventually hit a wall and stop doing the work. They have been abandoned over and over and over by “allies” who give up. Some references:
Erika D. Smith in The Los Angeles Times (6/3/20)
Emily Stewart at Vox (6/2/20)
Stacey Patton in The Washington Post (6/2/20)
The only way to prove your solidarity with people of color is to stay with it and to never stop doing the work. Welcome to the rest of your life! Make sure to bring your friends along.
- Hannah Natanson writes about how “Schools are some families’ best hope for Internet access, but Virginia laws are getting in the way” (Washington Post, 5/26/20)
- Sally Jenkins writes “This is why Colin Kaepernick took a knee” (Washington Post, 5/30/20)
- Tabitha St. Bernard-Jacobs writes “From Christian Cooper to George Floyd: A Letter to White Parents” (Romper, 5/28/20)
- Embrace Race has an action guide called “10 tips for teaching and talking to kids about race
- Michele L. Norris writes “The ‘us and them’ pandemic shows America is still impervious to black pain” (Washington Post, 5/21/20)
- Tom Dempsey interviewed local families about “‘The talk’: Killing of George Floyd leads to difficult family talks about racism” and includes several families from Black Parents of Arlington (WUSA9 video, 5/29/20)
- The National Museum of African American History & Culture is hosting a “Talking About Race” program on its website to facilitate conversations around these topics.
- If you missed it or just want to watch it again, the conversation between President Obama and My Brother’s Keeper on June 3, 2020 is available online along with many resources.
- Here’s a Smith College syllabus for a course entitled “White Supremacy in the Age of Trump” from spring 2020 with lots of resources.
I’m still thinking about how to facilitate some discussions via video chat, so please let me know if you’re interested.
Listen. Amplify. Follow.

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