It's been a heavy year. Police killed 1,147 people in 2017. 25% of those people were Black despite only being 13% of the population. Our president has a created a national standard of disrespect with his rhetoric and tweets. This type of speech in turn, validates hatred and violence that follows us in public spaces, our neighborhoods and our places of work. Women in hijabs are afraid to catch the New York Subway in fear of being harassed. One Muslim girl was murdered on her way home from the mosque. Mass deportation has begun and Dreamers have to live every day in limbo while the country decides exactly what their near future will look like. With all the stress that people of color are feeling, how can you show up for them?
Check Your Privilege
Take a moment to understand that some people are born into hate, poverty, discrimination and a life that is very different from yours -- simply because of their race. Do you knowingly or unknowingly play into any hurtful behavior towards people of color? Do you understand and respect their culture? Do you have compassion for people who don't share your same background or experiences?
Do you know what the Prison Industrial Complex is (if not please watch the documentary '13th' on Netflix!)? What about Black Lives Matter, Palestinian conflict, South African apartheid, Native American, Vietnamese and Armenian genocides, the Holocaust or Aboriginal massacres? Take time to research oppressive historic events. In order to fight oppression you have to first understand it.
Don't Call Us "Well Spoken"
My daughter, husband and I were leaving Back to School night last year when a White teacher stopped us and said, "Your daughter is so well spoken". My response was, "Why wouldn't she be?'. I know that the teacher's intention was to compliment my daughter, but statements like these send a message that people of color are not intellectual and we are surprised that they beat the odds.
After Trayvon Martin was murdered in 2012 by George Zimmerman, a coworker came to my desk to tell me that although she was sad for Trayvon, but felt the most sorry for the Zimmerman family who would have to endure so much hatred for the rest of their lives. Wait what? An unarmed 17-year-old teen was harassed, pursued and killed for no reason. His killer was acquitted because of the "Stand Your Ground" law and you feel sorry for him? Wow.
Although I did not know Trayvon personally, he was someone's son, brother, cousin and neighbor. His death showed how much Black lives are undervalued in this country. Many felt that his death was validated because Black men are viewed as scary and are perceived to be threats to society simply by existing. We look at boys walking home from school or men in our family and know that they could have a fate very similar to Trayvon's. Take time to understand the fear and frustration. If you don't have the words to say, simply listen. If you think a comment sounds insensitive it probably is -- just don't go there.
Be there for your friends, neighbors and co-workers. Ask them how they're doing. Understand the power of oppression in our society and combat it as best you can't. Don't be all talk, put your thoughts into formation and help! The world needs more support from you!