Some Steps to Help Us Get Started on our Anti-Racism Learning

Hey fellow white people. Like me, if you were born in America and grew up in America, you were raised to be racist. Even if we like to think we “don’t see color”. Even if we can’t identify anything racist we’ve ever said or done or thought. Even if our parents are “woke” liberals, or we grew up in a big diverse city.

No one is saying you chose to be born into country that was built on systemic racism. No one is saying you chose to be raised with racism deeply pervading every aspect of the culture. Yet, even if you didn’t choose it, you were raised in a racist country with racist views. Please don’t waste your time arguing with it. Just accept it. Then help make a plan about how we’re going to become anti-racist.

7 steps we can take (of an endless list): 

1) Diversify our feeds. We can do this on any or all of our social media apps. It’s super easy: just follow a whole bunch of different people who are Black. (While you’re at it, you can also follow people of color (POC) who are not Black. But right now, combatting anti-blackness is the priority.) You can follow Black people who are old, young, and in between. You can follow Black people who are disabled and abled. You can follow Black people who are queer and straight. You can follow Black people who live across the country and across the world. 

Not sure how to start? Try Google. Search: “Who are the best #BlackLivesMatter voices to follow on Twitter” or search for “lists of Black people who are journalists” or for something like “best Black-owned art galleries” or “top Black interior designers”.

To be clear, you don’t need to follow activists if that’s not your thing. You can continue to follow whatever interests and groups you already follow, just add in some Black people that also represent those same interests and groups. So if you’re a foodie, and you mainly follow food-related accounts on Instagram, do a search for something like: “most popular Black Instagram foodies” and then follow the people who look like they match up with your interests.

Please remember: the Black people you follow are not responsible for teaching you about racism. If you want to learn about racism, that’s great — there are books and classes you should pay for. We diversify our feeds to make sure we’re seeing a wide variety of points of view and a wide variety of life experiences.

2) Do the reading. There are many excellent lists of reading material and media that can help us become antiracist. Karen of Chookoonloonks published a list on her blog. Brene Brown recommended this book: How To Be An Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi. Choose an antiracist book for the next book club. Discuss it. Read an antiracist book aloud as a family. Discuss it with your children.

3) Put money on the line. Buy books about anti-racism written by Black authors. Support bail efforts for protestors. Register for an anti-racism class. Shop at Black-owned businesses. Add your own suggestions in the comments.

4) Watch the Amy Cooper video. Study how intentional she is with her threats; study how she changes her voice to sound panic-y even while she’s perfectly safe. Consider how manipulative and harmful her actions are. Watch it with your kids and discuss how it’s wrong and awful to weaponize our white tears.

5) Please listen to the voices of protestors-who-are-Black as you form your opinions about the rebellion that’s happening. Recognize that the reasons for protesting are far bigger and more important than possible property damage.

6) This is important: Get ready to mess up. We will say the wrong thing sometimes. People will call us racist and they will be right. It will hurt our feelings. So what. We will get over it.

There’s very likely something racist I’m writing in this post and I don’t recognize it. But someone will point it out, and then I will learn, and I will do better next time. Don’t ever make this about our hurt feelings. 

7) Follow Taylor Swift’s lead and take a public stand. She will lose fans over it. We may lose friends or followers over it. That’s okay. 

Remember, this has to be an ongoing effort; it’s not something we just mark off our list and tada! we’re antiracist. We have to keep working at it. This is incredibly important work. We must make it a priority.

Your turn. Anything you would add to this list to help people get started on the road to anti-racism? Any books or media you’ve found particularly helpful and want to recommend?

P.S. — I shared a shorter version of this message on Instagram and there are a lot of discussions in the comments if you’d like to read.

19 thoughts on “Some Steps to Help Us Get Started on our Anti-Racism Learning”

  1. Thanks for posting these ideas. I’m feeling so helpless and discouraged over here in the U.S. I find myself scrolling Twitter non-stop. It’s been helpful for seeing more of what it is going on and for listening to Black voices.

    1. Oh, and I forgot to say I really appreciate #6 “get ready to mess up.” I’m really trying to watch how to handle criticism better and to learn from people who do it with grace.

      I found this article “5 Racist Anti-Racist Responses ‘Good’ White Women Give” helpful:

      especially the reminder to ask again and again “why am I ________?” Too often it’s to make myself feel better, I’m sorry to say.

  2. I’ve been waiting for you to weigh in on this. What a fraught time we are in. I feel like all of this hangs in the air unspoken as I talk to my black co-workers about work stuff. My Facebook feed is full of posts that say “hey other white people, I’m totally not racist! I think all of this racist stuff happening is really bad!” It all feels so grossly inadequate. And now with the protests day after day, and Trump fanning the flames, America feels like a tinderbox.

    1. Gabrielle,
      I share so many of your perspectives and am a proud reader. My thoughts are going to jump around in my comments but I have so much to express. My thoughts are purely from my experience as a first generation Hong Kong Chinese Canadian.

      The first step is acknowledging the grave injustices towards the black community. People will falter if they are willing to do the work to enrich their knowledge, that’s okay! No one is perfect. It’s where we go from there as a society. Does society learn and progress or fall into the same habits of vicious thoughts, words, actions and even more damaging, inactions?

      Support and raise black voices – CHILDREN, designers, artists, writers, scientists, teachers, actors, every person, and all front line workers whether they be grocery workers or nurses, and care home staff.

      As mentioned earlier, I am Chinese Canadian from Vancouver where 25% of the population is Chinese. Locally, members of our Chinese community, especially women, have experienced many verbal and physical attacks due to the fear of the virus. When the virus started to spread, the Chinese community were the first ones to stay home, the elders could see it coming. Contrary to ignorant belief, many Chinese people had zero exposure to those infected therefore did not spread it. Just because I look Chinese is irrelevant. I am Canadian with Canadian values. I am living through this period in history cautious to leave my house as an Asian and female. BUT I feel this is temporary.

      To be of African descent and feeling systematic racism is not temporary. To feel the weight of stares and snide remarks are too common. To feel one could be arrested just because. That is NEVER acceptable. We all bleed the same, we all cry, experience joy, disappointment, and anxiety. My heart hurts so much for George Floyd and his family. My heart breaks for a community whose every move is scrutinized, whose education level could be raised if allowed and encouraged by society. The disrespect and distrust of the black community is horrifying.

      I wrote to HGTV Canada in April about the lack of diversity of their show hosts. Their response? NO RESPONSE! Shame on them for keeping silent.

      Everyone can do better. All ethnicities have the ability to embrace each other and celebrate our unique differences. Important issues are uncomfortable to discuss, let’s all feel uncomfortable together.

      1. My apologies to L, instead of commenting separately, I replied to your comment. It wasn’t my intention to take away from your thoughtful words.

    2. One positive step you could take is to delete your Facebook account. While I understand it is a convenient tool for staying in touch with friends and especially older relatives, Facebook leadership has continuously given a platform to harmful misinformation, racist memes, and white supremacist groups. Facebook routinely flags and deletes posts about black and minority activism while allowing outright lies from right-wing ideologues to flourish unchecked.

      1. Yes! Best thing I ever did. There are other ways to speak out and to be anti-racist than to support Facebook

  3. My kids have been with their dad for the last week, and I’ve been making a plan for how to talk to them about this tomorrow when they come back to my house. This post really solidified what I want to express to them: America was built on racism and it is still racist and white people are privileged BECAUSE of racism. There’s no denying it. White people need to come to terms with it, accept it, stop being defensive about it, learn from it, and change. The sooner we stop centering it around our pain regarding being called racist, the sooner we can change systems.

  4. Thank you for this post. I find that reading is a good start, particularly for those that are brand new to the movement. “Between the World and Me” is a very powerful read. “The New Jim Crow” is a devastating but necessary read. Also, “The Warmth of Other Suns”, “So you Want to Talk about Race”, and “White Fragility” I would also recommend following Rachel Elizabeth Cargle on Instagram.

  5. Everyday Feminism has good blog posts on anti-racism.

    Couple of anti-racism recommendations for introverts / highly sensitive souls:

    Leesa Renee Hall on Patreon and Instagram leads reflective writing prompts to help her patreons and followers unpack what’s coming up for them and deconstruct their own racism.

    Sandra Kim (founder of Everyday Feminism) hosts a weekly pay-what-you-can virtual Tea Time where she leads grounding exercises and effective visualizations that can help you show up as your best self during this time and heal your own inner wounds so you can become a more effective ally. She also has a program on healing from internalized whiteness. Sandra offers all her work on a radical sliding fee scale, which means it’s accessible to all.

  6. Gabby I’m such a big fan of this site and our online community here. It.s a safe space for me. I started following your blog because I love design and all things about being a mom. I also became intrigued with your insight on things like race, religion, and politics. As an African American woman I feel like more people are seeing with their own eyes the reality of our lives. Thank you all for being open minded. It is not easy to have hard conversations.

  7. Are there any similar issues around race in France that you can see? What do French people think about The US right now ? I wonder if Prince Harry thinks what have I got myself into by moving here.

  8. Great and inspiring post. Join your local NAACP unit and make some new friends. Donate to the Southern Poverty Law Center and visit the center in Montgomery AL! It will rock your world. Support and amplify voices of color in every setting, from your kids’ schools and sports teams to your social media channels etc. Vote in all elections for candidates committed to equality, liberty, and justice for everyone.

  9. Amazon has a number of shows to watch. I just watched Back to Natural, a documentary about identity, politics, and history of hair and hair styles in Black communities. If you are not aware of the importance and ongoing discussions about hair in Black culture, this is very enlightening.

    I also watched this on YouTube. It’s very helpful in answering specific questions you might have.

    Uncomfortable Conversations with a Black Man

  10. Thank you for your voice and for the way you use your platform. It is so necessary.

    I started intentionally diversifying my feed a few years ago, and I have noticed a palpable shift in my aesthetic consumption. I’ve become aware, in a new and intimate way, how the subtle racism of simply looking AWAY from Black faces rather than TOWARD them is so pervasive and slippery, and that it is damaging to black creators in every area of content creation. I have watched myself learn to see black faces as not only beautiful, but interesting and creative and smart and engaging, and and and. And, I mean, like, of course I have, right? Because we know black people are just as smart as anybody, but I admit that emotionally I have spent a lifetime seeing pictures of black people in any kind of content and then thinking to myself “that’s not for me,” “I’m not interested in that,” “I’d rather watch something else,” and other equally embarrassing sentiments.

    I hold personal responsibility for these thoughts, and I have lived 40 years with consuming nothing more diverse than Sesame Street and Gray’s Anatomy. Because it was easy to only watch shows with people who looked like me. So, my learning is that diversifying my instagram feed has literally trained my eyes and brain to be interested in these faces and the stories they tell, and what happens in their lives. I still have a long way to go toward equality, and I’m excited to encounter so much beauty I have missed up until now.

    I admit that I’ve maybe only watched 1 or 2 movies in my whole long life that featured an all-black cast. I still have work to do, and I’m so grateful to finally be doing it. Overdue.

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