On not being not-racist

I’ve always considered myself to be pretty good at being “not racist” – but watching #georgefloyd die in the brutal and blase way he did was a profound and, unfortunately, necessary shock to my understanding of how deeply “not racism” is woven in to the enablement of systemic and acute (i.e. active) racism. An active problem needs an active opposing response, a passive response will always allow the aggressor to succeed in the end.

I’m fortunate to have peers who’ve been jump-started into the same sort of reflection, and this post is a baseline model for myself and for others who have decided or been freshly reminded that addressing this gap, both internally and externally, is important:

  1. Shuttup, and listen to understand. Your opinions and rationalizations (and, tbh, even offers of help in posts like this) aren’t the most important thing. Developing the empathy in #2, refining the actions and resource in #3, and allowing the oppressed to BE HEARD is.

  2. Show solidarity with the afflicted. For some, empathy will be easy and for others it’ll seem almost impossible – but that’s not the point. Your brothers and sisters are hurting. It’s never awkward to acknowledge that. Understand how this works. Understand why this matters to the individual, and to the race itself. Find out what helps, and what doesn’t. There are a myriad of things that can trigger the deep and old wounds of racial prejudice against Black people – Search for and understand the triggers so that you can avoid them.

  3. Support with resource and action. Words without action are empty, and it’s hard to defend the value of something that costs you nothing. I’ve been donating to the ACLU, citizen journalism in support of the facts and stories of those on the ground in Minnesota, and working on ways to improve organization-level anti-racism at Bugcrowd as I work on it on a personal level.

  4. Lather, rinse, repeat. This doesn’t end. If this is a moment that passes with the next news cycle, it’ll have missed the point.

As I said, I see that as a bare minimum way to convert horror and shock into lasting change that, hopefully, begins to make an impact on the fundamental problem. It’s by no means complete, and I encourage feedback especially from people of color and those who are actively working to improve their effectiveness as an ally.