Recently, the whole country has been focused on protests regarding the death of George Floyd, a black man who died of asphyxiation after being pinned underneath the knee of a white police officer. He repeatedly told him he couldn’t breathe, yet the officer, Derek Chauvin didn’t react. This incident has forced us to take a deeper look at the systems that enable institutional racism. In order to ensure police accountability in cases of killings of unarmed black people, the Black Lives Matter movement was brought back to the forefront.
Created in response to George Zimmerman’s acquittal in the killing of Trayvon Martin, the Black Lives Matter movement has always been more than a hashtag. It’s a human rights movement that focuses on racial justice and ensuring the safety of all black people everywhere. With social media being a tool of social organization and a method of spreading awareness, seemingly everyone is sharing a variety of resources that can help educate people on the origins and direction of the movement. It also allows us to mobilize people who want to take action. Sharing information with your social media circles is an online-based, singular way to take action is essential.
Here are the steps you can take offline to ensure that you truly support the Black Lives Matter movement:
1. Talk about race with your friends, colleagues, and family members.
Discuss how race manifests itself in the workplace and how it can negatively impact black colleagues. Go beyond diversity boards. Discuss the option of having monthly inclusion events, such as panel discussions in which the subject of race is of great importance and black workers feel seen and heard. Have difficult conversations with friends in which they’re able to acknowledge past or current problematic behavior. What’s more, disentangle the racist tropes that sparked that behavior through education.
Hold family members accountable for how they discuss black people at the Thanksgiving table, Memorial Day barbecues, and in their daily life. Use the resources that social media provides you with to educate them. Then, have conversations about how it can be changed. It’s imperative to address these things within your close circles if the mindset that leads to racism is ever going to change.
2. Go beyond social media to educate yourself.
Outside of your Twitter feed, there are plenty of television shows, movies, books, and other kinds of art that are educational tools. Movies such as Fruitvale Station, When They See Us, and If Beale Street Could Talk give viewers a candid, honest look into the effects of systemic racism and police brutality Books on white privilege, institutional racism, such as “The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration In The Age Of Color Blindness” by Michelle Alexander, “White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard For White People To Talk About Race” by Robin DiAngelo, and “Why Are All The Black Kids Sitting Together In The Cafeteria? And Other Conversations About Race” by Beverley Daniel Tatum are all available to read.
There are plenty of podcasts, articles, and essays on the subjects of racism and the effects of police brutality at your fingertips. The anti-racist media mentioned here is a start, not a panacea. Don’t forget to be critical of mass media and research the sourcing of the information you’re taking in and learning from.
3. Acknowledge your privilege.
If you are a non-black POC or white, you will never be able to fully understand the personal impact of racism on black people. Acknowledge that there is a privilege in living without having to face that daily struggle. Use it to fight racial injustice against the black community. Speak up when black people are underrepresented in professional settings and say something when a black individual is viewed with suspicion while shopping at a store. It is on those with a privilege to converse with others and mitigate these issues, not black people.
4. Confirm the existence of anti-blackness in all forms
Uphold that all black lives are important and address anti-blackness within your community as well as those outside of it. Provide resources to immigrant families that may not fully understand the existence and ramifications of anti-blackness. One of the best ones is community-sourced “Google Document Resources for Non-Black Asians on Anti Blackness.” Provide white families with anti-racist resources such as “75 Things White People Can Do For Racial Justice.” Acknowledge the issues that can be swept under the rug such as high murder rates for black trans women. Confirm and combat anti-blackness in daily life, professional settings, and educational settings. Vocalizing your support by saying his/her/their name and being sensitive to sharing videos of black death can go a long way.
5. Celebrate the lives of black people and black excellence
Black life should not only matter when it is lost but all the time. Amplify black voices and feature black athletes, artists, speakers, and authors that you admire on your social media. Celebrate the accomplishments of your black colleagues and friends. Share articles that show black people thriving and living their lives in all of its glory. Elevate black joy.
6. Participate in the movement offline
Make recurring donations to bail funds such as the “Bail Project” and the “Action Bail Fund NYC” as well as to organizations that help black LGBTQ+ people such as the “Black Visions Collective.” Support black businesses and purchase cosmetics, books, clothing, and food from them. Join protests, demonstrations, and marches and make your voice heard on this subject beyond your Facebook timeline. A large number of people engaging in these things propagates a real change.
7. Be an ally in true solidarity with the movement.
Make sure you make your use of the BLM hashtag count with your time, wallet, and vote. Vote for those who vow to put out racist ideology. Advocate for legislation that works to equalize the justice system and ensures police accountability. Do not engage in performative allyship and be consistent in your fight against racism. Furthermore, do that by confirming anti-blackness is real, combatting it with a lack of tolerance for the speech that perpetuates it, and elevating black voices in the conversation instead of speaking for them. All of this adds up to real progress.
Fighting racism is not a week-long effort – it’s long term work. Stay connected to the movement on the web. Don’t take your foot off the gas and lose momentum when combatting this offline. Commit to the goal of ending systemic anti-black racism. After all, progress will happen if we keep moving forward.