Our wonderful former Intern and new volunteer leader, Claire Mills, wrote the email below to share with friends and family. We were so impressed, we asked to share it on our site.
We love the URL she created (tinyurl.com/whiteallyemail), the framing, the important links... all of it.
Much needed and presented with a powerful mix of humility, a clear commitment to justice, and meeting people where they are by welcoming them into a journey of self discovery.
We hope it will get widely read by those who need it most.
By Claire Mills
As a white person who grew up mostly surrounded by other white people, and goes to college at a predominately white institution, I have been free to ignore my privilege for most of my life. Moments such as these, where an innocent black person is killed and the nation erupts in protest, are the few moments where I cannot ignore my race. Instead, I must confront my privilege and ask myself: what can I do?
Whether these protests have encouraged you to ask the same question or started other conversations about protesting, violence, or race, I hope you will take this email as a chance to consider your own privilege.
This email includes information and resources to help us all do that. Here you can find an overview of the current situation, educational resources, links to organizations to support through donations, and advice for taking action. Thank you to all who have assisted me in this project and spread this email far and wide. Please send these resources on to as many people as you can.
1: Understand the Current Protests
The most recent outbreak of protests is due to the murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin. If you have yet to see the video of his death, I urge you to watch it. As white people, we must stand witness to the atrocities our black neighbors face every day in this country. Read more about the situation here.
In response to this horrible event, protests broke out first in Minneapolis, and then across the United States. Many of these protests have been peaceful, organized by black leaders in their cities. Here are examples:
Photos of protests in Minneapolis, Washington DC, Los Angeles, and Denver.
DC Protesters yelling “Stop Killing Black People.”
Protesters in Denver laying down and chanting “I Can’t Breathe.”
Genesee County Sheriff (Flint, MI) joining the protests in solidarity.
Peaceful protests in Santa Monica, CA.
An “I Can’t Breathe” lie-in in Westmoreland County, PA.
“I Can’t Breathe” Chants in Boston.
There have also been many instances of violence. But we should all be careful when discussing “riots” or violent protest. First, destruction of property should never be placed on the same level as the destruction of human life. Buildings and windows and signs can be replaced, human life cannot be. We must always keep perspective on what is truly important. Please watch this video where a protester in Minnesota beautifully speaks about recent looting and the protesters’ mission. That said, much of the violence in these recent protests have NOT been instigated by the protesters themselves. Rather, police have escalated the situation unnecessarily. In this video you can see instances of police escalation, which has been happening all over this country since the outbreak of the protests. You can see more examples from all across the country in this thread on Twitter. Further, white individuals have often instigated violence, despite black people urging them not to. Watch this video, from US Representative Ilhan Omar on destruction and looting in Minneapolis. She says “our organizers don’t put black lives at risk. Those who are exploiting our grief do.”
2: Educate Yourself
It is not the job of black people, or any person of color, to educate white people on racism. Racism is OUR problem. We create it, maintain it, benefit from it, and must work to end it. And in order to do this, we must educate OURSELVES, not ask people of color to do so.
This is a long list of educational resources that you can use to do just that! It doesn’t nearly cover everything out there. but don’t let the plethora of resources overwhelm you; let it inspire you! Pick what suits your needs and go from there.
Books to Read
- Freedom is a Constant Struggle: Ferguson, Palestine, and the Foundations of a Movement by Angela Davis (2016)
- How to Be Anti-Racist by Ibram X. Kendi (2019)
- White Rage: The Unspoken Truth of Our Racial Divide by Carol Anderson (2016)
- Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race by Reni Eddo-Lodge (2017)
- So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo (2018)
- White Fragility: Why It's So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism by Robin DiAngelo (2018)
- Waking Up White, and Finding Myself in the Story of Race by Debby Irving (2014)
- Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America by Ibram X. Kendi (2016)
- Towards the Other America: Anti-Racist Resources for White People Taking Action for Black Lives Matter by Chris Crass (2015)
- The Possessive Investment in Whiteness: How White People Profit from Identity Politics by George Lipsitz (1998; updated 2006)
- When Affirmative Action Was White: An Untold History of Racial Inequality in Twentieth-Century America by Ira Katznelson (2005)
- Women, Race, and Class by Angela Davis (1981; updated 2011)
Documentaries to Watch
- 13th (Netflix)
- Slavery By Another Name, PBS Documentary
- Stay Woke: The Black Lives Matter Movement (Youtube)
- Ferguson: A Report from Occupied Territory (Youtube)
- I Am Not Your Negro, PBS Documentary (Youtube and Rent)
Movies and Shows Based on Real Events to Watch
- Just Mercy (YouTube, Amazon)
- When They See Us (Netflix)
- Dear White People (Netflix)
- The Hate U Give (Hulu)
Podcasts to Listen To
- 1619 (New York Times)
- About Race
- Code Switch (NPR)
- Intersectionality Matters! hosted by Kimberlé Crenshaw
- Momentum: A Race Forward Podcast
- Pod For The Cause (from The Leadership Conference on Civil & Human Rights)
- Pod Save the People (Crooked Media)
- Seeing White
Articles and Other Resources to Explore
- “America’s Racial Contract Is Killing Us” by Adam Serwer | Atlantic (May 8, 2020)
- “The Intersectionality Wars” by Jane Coaston | Vox (May 28, 2019)
- “Who Gets to Be Afraid in America?” by Dr. Ibram X. Kendi | Atlantic (May 12, 2020)
- ”White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack” by Knapsack Peggy McIntosh
- 75 Things White People Can Do for Racial Justice
- A Guide to Allyship
- Anti-Racism Project
- Jenna Arnold’s resources (books and people to follow)
- Rachel Ricketts’ anti-racism resources
- Resources for White People to Learn and Talk About Race and Racism
- “Why is this happening?” — an introduction to police brutality from 100 Year Hoodie
- Zinn Education Project’s teaching materials
- Malcolm X - The Ballot or the Bullet (1964)
- America Wasn’t a Democracy Until Black Americans Made it One - Nikole Hannah-Jones
- Don’t Criticize Black Lives Matter for Provoking Violence. The Civil Rights Movement Did Too
- The 1619 Project - Full Version (NY Times)
We’ve all heard the phrase: put your money where your mouth is! There are so many organizations fighting for racial justice and your donations help increase their impact tremendously.
The Official George Floyd Memorial Fund was started to aid the family of George in paying funeral and burial expenses. It has since raised large amounts of money they plan to put to good use in honoring his memory.
The Bail Project, The NAACP Legal Defense Fund and your local bail/bond fund assist protesters by paying bail, helping them gain legal representation, and otherwise supporting activists in the legal system.
Finally, there are many organizations who work to support and empower activists across the country to organize their community to reform the systems which perpetuate inequality. Donate to places such as Black Lives Matter, the Dream Defenders, Dignity and Power Now, Common Justice, the Equal Justice Initiative, and the Know Your Rights Camp to support this broader mission.
4: Take Direct Action
- Critically Self-Reflect
Consider how you have contributed to the system of racism in America, even unintentionally. Reflect on how you engage with people of color and discussions of race or racism. Also, think about how you have benefited from racism, simply by being a white person.
As an example of how to begin this self analysis: Black Americans have been killed while going for a run (Ahmaud Arbery), playing with a toy gun (Tamir Rice), receiving a routine traffic ticket (Sandra Bland), and walking home with a hoodie on (Trayvon Martin). Black parents have to warn their children of how to avoid such situations from a very young age.
White privilege is being able to engage in these everyday behaviors without ever worrying about being shot. White privilege is being pulled over by police and not thinking it may lead to your death. White privilege is never having to have these difficult conversations with your children for their protection. Critical self-reflection comes with acknowledging the privilege of every situation you have been in and are in where your race does not put you in harm’s way, and what causes those situations to be so dangerous for those without such privilege.
- Engage in Hard Conversations
As white people, we have a responsibility to confront our own role in upholding racism in America, and ask other white people to do the same. Please begin these conversations with other white people in your life, particularly those who you think may disagree with you. Especially once you have educated yourself with some of the above resources, you will be well equipped to have these conversations, even if they aren’t easy. And they may not be successful. It is difficult for some white people to address their role in the system. But that is not an excuse to ignore racism from your friends and family. Start non-confrontational, open ended discussions where you seek to understand others perspectives in order to educate and expand their world view. And remember, none of us are perfect. Recognize how you have also contributed to the things you now speak against, and retain humility during these discussions.
- Color of Change to charge officers involved in the murder of George Floyd
- Justice for Big Floyd to charge officers involved
- Change.org to raise the degree of murder charged against Derek Chauvin
- NAACP’s “We Are Done Dying” petition for justice for George Floyd
- Protect and Serve Petition proposing a bill requiring a minimum 3 year sentence for officers who kill an unarmed person of color, as well as additional charges for police killing POC on their own property, due to mistaken identity, while POC are restrained or handcuffed, or due to officer breach of training protocol.
- Justice for Breona Taylor to call for action to be taken in another recent instance of police violence
- Color of Change to make systemic changes to policing in order to hold officers accountable and invest in tools which actually make communities of color safer, such as mental health services, education, and housing
- Hands Up Act to create a 15-year minimum sentence requirement for officers convicted of killing an unarmed individual
- Attend Protests
Of course, there are many protests happening right now. But even if you don’t join these, there will be more in the future. Take the time out of your normal life to show up in solidarity. Be aware that you are a white person entering a protest likely organized by black people, so understand your place. Follow others' lead. Do NOT engage in violence or agitate law enforcement. Often what can be most useful to protests is for allies to provide resources such as food, medical supplies, and physical support. White people are often used as a barrier between black citizens and the police, as the police are far less likely to engage in physical violence with white people.
- Speak to Your Elected Officials
Call your elected officials. Whether national, state, or local, they are paid to represent you. Engage them on these issues and demand they make progress. Often you can have the most impact on a local level. Find out your local community’s practices for racial bias and de-escalation trainings for police officers and demand progress be made if necessary. Take the time to talk to your town’s mayor, a county official, or even a police chief.
- Step in When Racism Happens
When your family member or friend makes an offhand racist comment/joke, don’t just let it slide. Speak up and stand up for what you know to be right. This also goes for bosses, coworkers, professors, instructors, ministers, and anyone in an authority position. They should not use their power to perpetuate racism, and you have the right to step in.
If you do see an incident happening between a police officer and a black person, be a witness. Whether through recording the instance from a distance or making your presence known to the officer you have the opportunity to increase accountability. If done correctly, this can de-escalate situations and quite literally save lives.
- Spread the Word
If you use social media, be vocal about your support for this movement. People are most likely to be influenced to change their perspective by those that they know and love. Your post can have a big impact. A few things to remember when you post:
- Monitor your post for comments. Try to engage with others, even if they disagree with you, but feel free to remove hate speech.
- Do not post pictures of protesters where their face is visible. This puts them at risk by making it easy for them to be targeted.
- Do not spread videos of black people being killed on social media without warnings. Place other photos to cover them in your Facebook posts, for example, so people have to intentionally click to view the video. Watching this type of content over and over again can be traumatic for black individuals.
- Instead of only posting your own thoughts/opinions, uplift black voices in your posts. Center their words and experiences when possible.
- Ask yourself: Who is this helping? Am I only posting to feel less guilt? Am I only doing this to appear as though I am not racist?
I hope this email has helped you to find concrete steps you can take right now. Please make one of those steps passing along this email to others, even if you think they might not agree with its contents immediately. If you do so, consider adding your own personal note to encourage others to follow your lead. This is about far more than an email chain: this is about white people taking ownership of our role in the systems that uphold racism, educating ourselves on how to move forward, and then taking those steps.
Personally, in addition to a renewed commitment to live anti racist practices every day, I am committing to a monthly schedule of donations to organizations listed in this email. I will also be spending my summer working through the educational resources provided here. Please join me!
Thanks to bit.ly/ANTIRACISMRESOURCES, https://www.charisbooksandmore.com/understanding-and-dismantling-racism-booklist-white-readers, and tinyurl.com/blmforever for some of the resources in this document. If you want to find more resources, check them out, as well as these resource pages: