Do the Work.

So you saw the news and are still horrified.
Now you’ve tweeted the hashtag and you posted the black square.
You’ve argued with loved ones, you’ve had actual fights.

You’ve yelled at screens, down halls, past doors, into phones.
You’re not out on the streets, protesting, but that doesn’t mean your anger and horror aren’t crystal clear.

And you really, really want to do something more.

You know this momentum will dissipate at one point and you don’t want everything to just… fade. You  want to help make real change really happen.
Only how? With what?

This is where the real work begins.

 

Step One: Listen.

 

No, seriously: relieve yourself of your own ignorance. It goes far deeper and reaches much further than you think.

Be prepared for serious discomfort, deep anger, and a sense that this is all very, very unfair: that you have nothing to do with this, actually. It’s not like you started it. It’s not like it’s your fault. It’s not like you do these things. It’s not like you can help being who you are, you didn’t choose your family, your privilege, your ethnicity, your race.

Plus: You understand! You’re just as angry, you’re just as horrified!
And you’re definitely not like that, how dare you!

 

Acknowledge those feelings.
And then move on from them and Do the Work.

 


Listen to Black/Indigenous People of Color (BIPOC). 

BIPOC have been speaking out for decades, centuries, about the discrimination they face, the disenfranchisement they struggle with and the need to overhaul the cruel systems that terrorize their lives daily .

Listen to Black/Indigenous People of Color who are speaking out loud and clear about their own experiences, about what they know, what they have had to live with, what they have had to live through.

Listen to what they are saying. And refrain from these responses:

‘But…!’
‘Actually…’
‘What about…?’

Listen.
And that means not talking. It means keeping schtum.
It means reigning in whatever it is within you that wants to put it all in relation.
Do not add your objectivity. Because your objectivity is not objective.
That is a hard one, yes, but sit with it while you listen:

Do not add your objectivity. Because your objectivity is not objective.

 

“Why?” you demand, because you had to, didn’t you?

 

Because Whiteness is not just a thing.
Whiteness is THE thing.
Acknowledge that.
And then listen to what BIPOC have been saying for years and years and years.

Your objectivity is not objective.
Your definition of ‘objective’ is fused, even symbiotic with Whiteness.
And then there’s all that privilege.

 

Whiteness is probably the toughest nut you’ll have to crack.

Not just seeing it, but understanding what exactly it means.
Not to mention how Whiteness seriously warps what you know as truth, facts and objectivity.

 

“But everyone deals with gravity! That’s objectively true!”

 

You just had to, didn’t you.
That was the “But…!” mentioned above.

Refrain from it.
Sit still, keep schtum and LISTEN.

It will be very hard for you to do this. Yes, it will be very hard for you to listen.
Even so, do exactly that: Just listen. No ifs, no buts, no “Now wait a minute…!”s

So: Do the Work and Listen.

You will not like a lot of what you’ll hear.
You will WANT to object.
You will think of all the data, articles, statistics, of all the things you KNOW are true.
You will feel a physical need to say them, to object and interject, to just spell it out.

You will be outraged that you are not supposed to say what is OBJECTIVELY TRUE!

This, you will find deeply offensive and ridiculous.
The “But..!” and “Actually…!” and “What about…!” will want to jump out so, so bad, so bad, it will be genuine work – and often a genuine physical strain – to keep them in.

And that is your work: Keeping all that “But…!” and “Actually…!” and “What about…!” in.
Do the Work and Listen.

It will not be easy.
It is on you to actually do the hard work of this very simple thing.

 

 

Step Two: Read BIPOC authors regularly.

 

“Where do I start?” you ask.
“Who can show me the right way? I don’t want to make any mistakes!”

First: Mistakes will be made.
Failure will happen. You will not get around that.
You cannot factor failure out.
You can neither get around it nor somehow avoid it altogether.

Learning means mistakes will happen.
Unlearning die-hard habits means failure is a given.
Prepare yourself and Do the Work all the same.

 

“But what should I read?” you ask.

The books, the articles, the poems and papers are all already there. And since you have already come this far, here is a very short list – and it is not in the least exhaustive – of books to start with:

Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People about Race by Reni Eddo-Lodge
White Fragility by Robin DiAngelo
Blindspot by Mahzarin R. Banaji and Anthony G. Greenwald
So You Want to Talk about Race by Ijeoma Oluo
How to Be an Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi

There is lots more to read (for example, check out the books in this post’s very first image) and lots more to listen to via podcasts, of which there are quite a few. Finally, James Baldwin’s The Fire Next Time and Toni Morrison’s Playing in the Dark are also excellent places to start.

 

 

Step Three: Follow the Advice.

 

All the above-mentioned books and podcasts give great advice for daily practice. This advice cannot be boiled down to easy-to-read soundbites, since the solution is as complex as the problem. It takes time and effort to read, process, and understand.

Give yourself the time to read, process, and understand.
Put together your own goals and objectives according to your daily life and your daily circumstances. And then follow them through diligently.

It sounds simple.
It is definitely not easy.
However, that work is necessary, individual by individual, for real change to happen.
The kind of genuine structural change needed to make equity and equality a reality for everyone starts with everyone: people, individuals, all the me’s and all the you’s.

So: Do the Work.
It will not be easy.
Progress will not happen overnight. It will take time and effort on all levels.
And the pushback will be as harrowing and uncompromising as what’s been happening across the board till now.

 

The work has to be done, though.
By you, by us all, as a daily practice, so read BIPOC authors regularly and not just now during this historical moment.

Learn to listen.
And really do live the change you want to see happen.

 

Don’t give up.
And keep on writing.
~ Maya @ VR

 

 

~Featured Image: Jane Mount ~

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