It isn’t an easy time to be an American, but together we can build a stronger more equal America.
I have been using my Instagram account to speak out and share resources in real time, but I wanted to say something here too. Instagram Stories are temporary, while this is more permanent. I am writing this from my point of view as someone living in Chicago. As someone who firmly believes in kindness and equality, but not as a journalist or subject matter expert. What I say might not be perfect, but we shouldn’t let our fear of not being perfect or our fear of criticism hold us back from speaking out.
In the past week Chicago has seen a series of peaceful protests to speak out against racial injustice, police brutality, and the murders George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and the far too many Black Americans.
Since I am 9 months pregnant, having trouble walking more than half a mile, and living in a Covid-19 hotspot, I am unable to join the protesters, but I have been able to lend my voice. I have been proud to see so many of my friends speaking out and joining peaceful protests. In these moments I find hope.
There have also been scary moments as people who are not part of the Black Lives Matter movement turned protests into violent riots. Hundreds of stores, ranging from big box retailers like Best Buy and Target to small family owned businesses, were looted. (At one point someone on Instagram accused me of not caring about the looting and destruction taking place in other cities. I am upset that this is happening anywhere but I do get especially worried for store and restaurant owners that I know personally).
I stand by the protesters; they are doing important work. I am upset that fringe groups are taking advantage of the protests and trying to undermine the Black Lives Matter movement by looting, setting fire to police cars, and causing destruction.
Yesterday I left my neighborhood for the first time in two weeks in order to go to the doctor. I saw businesses boarded up. Roads were closed down and were being guarded by the National Guard in giant Hummers. It’s unlike anything I had seen before.
This isn’t the world that I thought I would be bringing a baby into. While there are times when everything going on can be unnerving, this work is essential. I hope that the action we take today will build a better America for the next generation.
So what do we do?
First, we acknowledge that there is a problem: too many Black people are being murdered by the police (about 3 times more Black people than White people) and Black people face racial inequality in America.
Next, we educate ourselves and work together to make things better.
I’ve been reading. This is a time to educate yourself. Learn about systemic inequality. Read President Obama’s Advocacy Toolkit and Resource List. Check out this list of 75 Things You Can Do For Racial Justice. Share these resources with friends.
Watch films like Just Mercy, 13th, When They See Us, and Selma to learn more about the history of racism and inequality in the United States.
Diversify your children’s bookshelf. Here is a list of books to help you get going. Check with your child’s school to make sure that they are including books with Black historical figures and characters on their bookshelves. As someone who grew up in Maine and who had only white teachers, my schools didn’t teach us enough about Black history.
Support Black owned businesses. Here is a list of Black owned restaurants that is organized by location. And here is a directory of Black owned businesses – there are also city specific websites – you might want to Google to find them for your location.
Shop at brands that are inclusive. Are brands using models from different ethnic backgrounds? Are you buying makeup from a brand that makes products for a full range of skin tones? You might be surprised to learn that many brands don’t produce darker shades.
Sign petitions and put pressure on leaders to charge people like Breonna Taylor’s killers, Sgt. Jonathan Mattingly, Brett Hankison, and Myles Cosgrove, with murder.
Learn more about Campaign Zero’s 8 Can’t Wait initiative and demand action from your state’s representatives. Data shows that changes in eight key policies can reduce police violence by 72%. Getting involved and emailing your local representative is very easy thanks to their automated form – it takes just a minute!
And VOTE. In his statement about the protests in response to the killing of George Floyd, President Obama explained the importance of voting in local elections. Don’t just vote for President. Research who will be on your ballot in November because voting for your mayor, county representatives, judges, and other local government positions has a huge impact on your community. Ballot Ready is an informative resource that breaks down exactly who will be on your ballot.
If you have any additional ways to help increase racial equality in America, I would love to hear about them in the comments. Comments bashing the Black Lives Matter movement will not be appreciated. This isn’t a political movement – it’s a human rights movement. When someone says “Black lives matter” they mean that they also matter. They aren’t saying that only Black lives matter. When someone says “Save the Rainforest!” you don’t counter by saying “Save All Forests”.