For hundreds of years now, the African American population has faced brutal racism, police brutality and inequality, all simply because of the color of their skin. With the recent death of an unarmed black man by the name of George Floyd, the Black Lives Matter movement is calling for justice for African Americans who are targeted by police officers and others in their daily lives. It seems that much of society is finally waking up and beginning to confront these issues in our communities.
Admitting that you aren’t as informed as you would like to be or that you don’t have a lot of experience with social justice issues is not a bad thing. The fact that one can even recognize this probably means you care, and if you’re just getting involved, there are things you can do to make a difference in the lives of others starting now. There’s no better time than the present.
Knowledge is Power
Without knowledge, it can be difficult to speak your mind and contribute to meaningful discussion. The first step to being able to take a stand is educating yourself. There are a variety of ways to do this.
Start at the beginning. Racism has been around for a long time. If you want to understand how segregation began, Richard Rothstein’s “The Color of Law” dives deep into how racism was founded. It discusses what the author describes as “forgotten history,” including housing segregation and constitutional amendments that are supposed to protect all people—but don’t.
If you have Netflix, you may have heard of the documentary “13th.” While the 13th Amendment theoretically abolished slavery and suffering for African Americans, that isn’t true in today’s world. The film’s tagline speaks for itself: from slave to criminal with one amendment.
This documentary discusses the rising numbers of African Americans in the United States who are serving time in our prisons. In fact, according to the film, one in four male African Americans will serve time in prison before they die. In an age where police brutality continues to occur, this film is a must-see.
There is a large plethora of available films, books, podcasts and other media to learn about this movement. Many of them are free and a productive, meaningful way to stay occupied during the summer.
Talk, But Also Listen
When engaging in any subject matter that might be new to you, it’s important to listen to people who are knowledgeable in the topic in addition to doing your own research.
In this case, for white individuals it is important to engage with people of color. Follow people you don’t know on Instagram, read what they have to say and let them know you stand with them and support them. Black Student Union is one example of one of Penn State’s African American focused clubs, and many majors and colleges have multicultural groups as well.
While it is not the job of African Americans to educate the world on the movement, reaching out can show that you stand with them and provide an opportunity for an engaging conversation.
At the same time, it is important for white people to let Black people do the talking. Asking questions is great, but it’s important to let them have ample time to express their thoughts and feelings on the matter. A recent article by Forbes provides insight and knowledge as to why white people should let Black people have the center of attention on this matter and only chime in or ask questions every so often.
With #blackouttuesday and other common social media posts, it’s great that many white people want to share their thoughts and the fact that they are an ally for the Black community. However, it is key that this act of being vocal comes from a place of true integrity and not just because it’s “trending” right now.
Give Your Time and Money
In cities and towns across the U.S. and even the world, Black Lives Matter protests and rallies are occurring. While COVID-19 is still spreading, and large crowds aren’t the most ideal way to gather right now, many rallies are continuing.
In order to find out when and where these events are happening, a great way to start is by searching for events near you on Facebook. There are often smaller protests in suburban areas if the idea of going into a major metropolitan region seems intimidating during this time. Either way, you are apart of the movement.
Black Lives Matter also has chapters across the country, and consulting your local chapter can be a great way to find out about events and find more resources.
In addition to physically being present, financial donations are also needed at this time by a variety of groups supporting this cause.
At protests around the country, people are being arrested and ultimately need to be bailed out, but many cannot afford it. This list provides links to bail funds across the country, and donating to these are a great way to support your local community’s efforts in fighting racism.
The NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund is a legal organization that fights racial injustices all across the country. The organization also provides scholarships to help support young African Americans in attending college.
If you do not have the means to donate, YouTuber Zoe Amira compiled the works of dozens of Black artists from around the country into a one-hour long video. By watching, without skipping ads, all of the AdSense money made from the video will go to various organizations supporting the protests and Black Lives Matter movement.
In addition to these charities, donating to the Black Lives Matter organization itself can and will make a difference in the lives of African Americans and their fight for equality. During this time, it is also a great idea to support black-owned restaurants and businesses both locally and online. Before you decide to shop at a big-box retailer or get take-out from a chain restaurant, consider supporting a small business that has been impacted by both COVID-19 and the impacts of George Floyd’s death.
There is no time like the present to learn, listen and support!