In June, after the deaths of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and Breonna Taylor, the Black Lives Matter movement saw an influx of support. Many people attended protests, used their platforms to amplify Black voices, and opened their pockets to support Black people and Black-owned businesses. During the month of June, I remember having this enthusiastic feeling about change to come. When the movement for social equality began to gain momentum, it seemed as though everyone wanted to be involved. We had major corporations making initiatives within their companies to enact change. Sephora created the 15% pledge that promised to have at least 15% of their products sourced from Black-owned businesses. Netflix highlighted Black films and bought the rights to many Black sitcoms that were prominent in the 90s and early 2000s. Even Reddit founder Alexis Ohanian resigned from his position within the company in order to bring on a Black person to replace him. It seemed as though people were really listening to us and pushing for change.
When the protests began in early June, I wanted to find a way to use my voice so that people could understand what Black Lives Matter is and why it is incredibly important. Writing has always been my outlet, and I feel like words have power, so I started to write essays and poetry that reflected my feelings as a Black person in this world and posted them on my Instagram. Along with those essays, I created guides to help people understand how to contribute to Black Lives Matter in a genuine fashion. My reasoning for creating the guides in the first place was because of the constant performative activism I was seeing on social media. I witnessed so many black squares with #blackouttuesday on my feed and felt a sense of emptiness. It felt like people were taking part in a trend, instead of taking the initiative to support BLM and educate themselves. But instead of bitching about it and making myself more frustrated, I created guides. I kept telling myself that some people just needed education on Black Lives Matter and that once they received the necessary knowledge, they would do better. Surprisingly, because of the power of social media, my guides have been shared by thousands of people from all walks of life. I have received messages from people in the entertainment industry, several different publications, and even people that consider themselves “reformed” racists, all thanking me for my work and telling me that they wanted to do better and educate themselves. It felt good to know that people wanted to see change, and I felt proud to be a small part of the reason why change was happening.
However, with good feedback also came criticism—or, to be honest, I don’t even know if criticism is the right word. There are times that I receive hateful messages from folks with such derogatory and passive-aggressive rhetoric that I find myself in a state of shock reading them. I’ve had people aggressively put down my work, call me racist for calling out white privilege, or continuously harass me through my direct messages on a daily or weekly basis. When I tell people about this, especially non-Black people, they seem confused. In their eyes, the “activism” that was displayed in June was enough for discrimination toward Black people to be over. That’s the problem. Racism isn’t going to magically go away because you posted a black square on your Instagram, or you wrote a long personal essay reflecting on your privilege and how you “need to do better”. Acts of racism towards Black people have been happening for hundreds of years. Racism was not going to disappear into thin air by the end of June. Racism was not going to “take a break” so that you could celebrate the Fourth of July. Racism is very much alive and seems more aggressive than ever, partly due to the impending election.
I am very aware that writing this essay and publishing it to a platform that has a majority white audience can come with backlash. I know that many of you might personally feel as though pop culture and lifestyle platforms are becoming “too political”, and that you just want to be able to “enjoy” it and not make everything about race. That right there is an issue. Human rights are not political, whatsoever. Feeling enraged because your favorite celebrities are continuously using their platforms to amplify Black Lives Matter is racist. Getting upset because your favorite Bravolebrity was fired for racist behavior? Racist. When you find yourself tweeting things like “Why does everything have to be about race?”, or “Don’t pull the Black card.”, it’s racist. To those who consider themselves allies, stop confusing ignorance with racism as a way to make excuses for those whom you admire. To be ignorant, you would have to have a lack of knowledge as it pertains to the subject at hand. The subject here is Black lives, and a majority of you reading this are educated enough to know right from wrong—so we are not talking about ignorance, but racism. Start publicly condemning your racist colleagues. I don’t care how many followers the person has, what connections they might have that might help elevate you, or whether or not you believe them to be a good person. If you genuinely give a f*ck about your Black friends and family, you will do what is right. Your voice matters now more than ever. Here are some ways that you can continue to practice allyship and contribute for equality towards Black people.
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To be quite honest with you, I know that Instagram guides on injustice are seemingly becoming repetitive. However for the past few days, I’ve noticed not only a decrease in “online support” for the #blacklivesmatter movement but also a lot of Anti-Black rhetoric. Your support for this movement shouldn’t be leverage you hold against Black people when you see an injustice committed by a Black person. This movement is also not a damn meme and isn’t something that’s gonna just go away over night. I also believe that words have power. The more we educate the more we can eradicate racist behavior/policies. However, we also need action. Corporations and people with power, hire more Black people. School Districts, hire more Black teachers. Hospitals, hire more Black health care professionals. Don’t just say something, DO SOMETHING, and don’t wait for us to be around to show support. Keep that same energy everywhere. Shoutout to @heysharonc for creating the #pulluporshutup initiative. It opened my eyes to how much companies lack diversity across the board especially as it pertains to Black people. Now I need a mental health break after all of this 😭, thanks for the support everyone and please continue to show solidarity to the #blacklivesmatter movement 💛✨💪🏾
Open Your Purse
Besides supporting your local Black businesses, there are also other ways to open your purse and support Black people. With the results of the election coming out soon, there are sure to be protests coming from all sides. Usually, at these protests, Black people are more likely to be arrested and charged. If you can, try to donate to bail funds in your local area that could help bail out Black protesters in your area.
Vote in every election that you have. I don’t care if it’s for the HOA board in your building, your student council if you attend college or your local election in your town. Every election matters, not just the presidential election. If you have the privilege to vote, utilize it.
Read The Room
Performative activism is not cute and actually does more harm than good. If you show up to a protest just to contribute to looting or to show up to take selfies, you are taking part in performative activism, which is activism for the sole purpose of personal gain. Don’t show up if you are going to do this. Also, do not take part in protesting for BLM just so that you can excuse or justify your own racist/ignorant behavior down the line. Allyship does not exempt you from being called out as well.
Lastly, please have the necessary conversations with those around you. Call out discriminatory behavior when you see it. If you see something, say something in the moment. If you continuously see this behavior in individuals around you, cut them off. Some people aren’t meant to be changed and you willingly being around them says a lot about your character. One of the most consistent ways to practice allyship is to continually call out racism when you see it in your everyday life.
Images: Maverick Pictures / Shutterstock.com; jonathanchandler_ / Instagram
There can be no discussion of the year 2020 without the mention of the name George Floyd, the 46-year-old black man who was brutally murdered at the hands of Derek Chauvin and three other police officers in Minneapolis, Minnesota this past May. And while George Floyd did not ask to be martyred, his brutal and untimely death awakened the world, and was undoubtedly the inciting incident for what many are calling the civil rights movement of 2020. Although it’s tough to say definitively if the uprisings we’ve seen this year can be compared to the civil rights movement of the 1960s (as that movement tenaciously lasted for more than 10 years), it is fair to say that the Black Lives Matter movement is certainly moving in that direction. And if, in fact, we are headed down that historic route, it would absolutely be because of the bold, radical, unapologetic voices guiding us, leading us down the path to revolution.
It is no secret that black women and femmes have played a central role in the current Black Lives Matter movement—after all, it was a 17-year-old Black woman, Darnella Frazier, who bravely filmed George Floyd’s death, providing the world with the concrete video footage that made the misconduct surrounding his murder indisputable. But Black women and femmes have always had a unique perspective into structural injustice, probably because they have always been at the receiving end of most of it. Black women’s rights and interests routinely take a back seat to those of white women and cis black men. As such, you may have heard (whether directly from the source, Malcolm X, or indirectly from a pretty good source, Beyoncé) that “the most disrespected person in America is the black woman.” And perhaps it is because of this regular disrespect that Black women and femmes have sought to reclaim agency and use their voices to speak.
Over the past few months, Black women and femmes from all industries have been using their social media platforms to mobilize and educate the masses, creating a revolution for the digital age. They are leading the anti-racism conversation by saying what many people don’t have the courage to say; pushing the boundary and not accepting performative or shallow attempts at change; ensuring that the revolution will be televised (via Instagram), and that it will be inclusive and intersectional. This is by no means an exhaustive list, but here are some of the Black women and femmes that I follow who regularly challenge me to learn and do better—I highly recommend you consider following them as well.
Sonya Renee Taylor, IG (@sonyareneetaylor)
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The viral video of Haley challenging her racist parents has gone viral for Folks inspired by her desire to stand up to her parents and advocate for Black people. However, Haley missed the mark and my hunch is most white folks do. STOP arguing with your white family about Black people. START talking about the sickness that is whiteness and how you and them have ingested it. White people talk about people of color so that they don’t have to deal with themselves and the culture and systems whiteness has created inside them. White people it is time to talk about WHITENESS and not about Black folks. #indefenseofblacklives #whitesupremacymustfall #whitestalkaboutwhiteness #healyourwhiteness #blacklivesmatter
If you are like me, you first encountered Sonya Renee Taylor back in June after a video of hers went viral. The video was in response to another viral video on Tik Tok, which featured a well-intentioned yet slightly misguided teen attempting to have “the anti-racism talk” with her family. While most of the internet was applauding Haley for having any semblance of a talk with her family at all, Sonya Renee Taylor’s response video challenged us all to think more critically about what exactly it was that Haley and her family were debating: “Haley was arguing with her parents about whether or not Black people were worthy of life. The fact that that is a conversation is the problem.” Taylor was able to shift the conversation from the localized issue of Black lives simply mattering (a conversation that really shouldn’t be a conversation at all) to the more comprehensive, structural issue: “the delusions of white supremacy.” And that, in a nutshell, is Sonya Renee Taylor’s enthrall—she has the wonderfully unique ability to shed light on matters that challenge and defy the obvious perspective. In addition to her keen insights concerning racism, blackness, and white supremacy, she also commits to spreading discourse surrounding gender, fatphobia, and radical self love. So if you are looking to learn, be challenged, and pick up some lessons on how to love yourself radically and without apology, you must dive into the work of Sonya Renee Taylor and follow her on Instagram.
Noname, Twitter (@noname)
if we believe black lives matter, we must also believe capitalism needs to be destroyed. as long as that system is in place and maintained by powerful elites, black people will die forever.
— 🌱 (@noname) July 26, 2020
Admittedly, it sort of feels weird telling you to follow Noname, because her whole thing is that we should divest from structural systems, celebrity culture being one of them. With that being said… you should follow Noname. Noname has been making music and uplifting POC interests and voices for years now, but she gained mainstream traction this past year. She’s been a dominant voice in the digital Black liberation conversation, regularly challenging her audience to read, learn, and think for themselves. What’s most compelling about Noname’s Twitter presence is she uses it as a means to not only talk the talk, but also walk the walk. You can find her calling out imperialism, the industrial prison complex, and the patriarchy; but, you can also find her calling herself out, owning past mistakes and gaps of knowledge she had before she learned better. As she poignantly points out, “growth is an embarrassing yet necessary part of the process.”
Perhaps Noname’s biggest digital moment occurred this past June, when rapper J. Cole thought it would be constructive to derail from the movement and drop a tremendously odd single, accusing Noname of using a “queen tone” and thinking “ better than” him and other rappers in her efforts to speak up against structural oppression on Twitter. Noname’s eloquent retort came in the form of a 1 minute and 10 second song, the thesis essentially being: “he really ’bout to write about me when the world is in smokes?” With concision and flair, Noname defended herself while effortlessly redirecting the conversation back to the serious issues at hand. Noname uses her Twitter presence in a similar way, calling out problematic mainstream pop culture while consistently shedding light on critical societal issues. So if you want to be a part of her “new vanguard,” follow Noname on Twitter and consider joining her book club.
Ericka Hart, IG (@ihartericka)
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“In our culture privacy is often confused with secrecy. Open, honest, truth-telling individuals value privacy. We all need spaces where we can be alone with thoughts and feelings – where we can experience healthy psychological autonomy and can choose to share when we want to. Keeping secrets is usually about power, about hiding and concealing information.” -bell hooks ⠀ I have been so weary with this new wave of positing that “call outs” are harmful. In my classrooms, I have always contested with this logic – when you make a suggestion that things shouldn’t be called out- who are you protecting? I don’t know about y’all, but I come from a world that loves a secret. bell hooks in All About Love talks about our desire to keep secrets can be linked to slavery- an institution built on a lie, human traffickers lied, enslaved people had to lie to stay safe, institutions lie about what really happened, white washed history lies. ⠀ It’s revolutionary for secrets to be told. To call a thing a thing, rather than bury it in activism or Broadway. I have been apart of many organizing spaces/non profits etc that claimed radical and love, but resisted transparency. These two things can’t exist at the same time. ⠀ We don’t have a call out culture, we have an abuse protection culture. And that is the essence of white supremacy. ⠀ Thank you @jewel_thegem and @thechubbygoddess for the realest most healing IG live I’ve ever watched. Please go follow them and PAY THEM.
I wish I could say that I’ve had the pleasure of following and engaging with Ericka Hart’s content long before this year, but alas, I, too, fell victim to bandwagon culture, and only discovered this dope account this past May. A self-proclaimed “racial/social/gender justice disruptor,” “sex educator,” and “breast cancer survivor,” Ericka Hart uses their social media platform to cover tons of ground on the journey to liberation and is, by far, one of the most engaging accounts I follow. Ericka Hart’s social media presence is unique in that their dialogue concerning social justice is dynamic—not only do they foster conversations that discuss plain truths about race and Blackness, but they also add unique depth to the discussion by examining matters of colorism and ableism. However, what specifically drew me to Ericka Hart’s account was their advocacy for the protection and uplifting of Black lives that exist beyond the scope of cis Black men. They were a dominant voice in May insisting that we not only demand justice for George Floyd and Ahmaud Arbery, but for Breonna Taylor, a Black woman, Tony McDade, a Black trans man, and countless other Black women and trans folks that have been murdered at the hands of injustice. I, myself, am constantly challenged by Ericka Hart, as they constantly provide the reminder that the revolution cannot be complete or effective if it does not seek to liberate all Black lives. Ericka Hart’s Instagram presence is also a healthy one to follow because they also use it as a platform to celebrate Black joy and Black love—regularly posting content with their partner, Ebony. It’s a radical reminder that the Black story is not one of plight but one of joy and abundance. So do yourself a favor and follow Ericka Hart.
Ziwe, IG (@ziwef)
One of the most powerful adages that has come out of the last couple of months is “the revolution has many lanes.” And I think it’s safe to say that the lane of the revolution that’s “activism through humor” has been monopolized by writer and comedian, Ziwe Fumudoh. Hosting a weekly show on Instagram Live, Ziwe attracts crowds in the thousands as they eagerly watch as she talks with notable people—predominantly white people—about race in America and skillfully baits them into an incorrect, often cringeworthy answer. What’s most fascinating about Ziwe’s show is that her practice of “baiting” really isn’t baiting at all—she just asks questions and simply waits for answers. Without fail, and despite days of preparation and sometimes even tangible notecards, guests will always say the wrong thing—revealing that even the most well-prepared, well-intentioned white people have some kind of implicit bias that they need to reckon with. Previous guests have included infamous white women like Caroline Calloway, Alison Roman, and Alyssa Milano, but Ziwe has also interviewed people of other races, like Jeremy O. Harris, forcing him to discuss his use of Black women’s bodies on stage in his seminal work, Slave Play. At the end of every interview, Ziwe asks her guest what the audience has been wondering the whole time: why the hell did you agree to come on this show? And the guest’s answer is almost always the same: part of doing the work is being made to feel uncomfortable and humbling yourself in order to learn. And that’s the Ziwe influence—she’s created a public platform for those willing to be challenged and learn, while allowing her audience to heal through community and catharsis as they watch the process take place. If you’re not familiar with Ziwe, please join us in the year 2020 and give her a follow!
Rachel Cargle, IG (@rachel.cargle)
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A quick mid week sermon. • If your only goal is to “break the glass ceiling” consider who all those shards of glass will be falling on if you’re not bringing the most marginalized women with you. • Listen to me closely: if your feminism simply means “getting even” with white men it’s not ever going to be an intersectional, inclusive and justice based movement. • Drop a comment or emoji below and let me know you HEAR me. I need you to hear me. • #feminism #womanism #glassceiling #womensrights #womanhistory #womenshistorymonth #quarantine #dogsofinstagram #catsofinstagram #pnwonderland #howdarling #teachersofinstagram #boymom #taylorswift
If there is any account that I am 90% certain you’ve encountered over the past few months, it’s Rachel Cargle’s—and it should be Rachel Cargle’s, as she uses her platform predominantly as a means for education and activism. Upon scrolling through her IG feed, one of the first things of note is that her academic and mobilization efforts far precede this year’s events. Cargle has been guiding the conversation on race and womanhood in support of the revolution for years, even though many of us have only come around recently to receive her words. She regularly promotes the work of “unlearning” through learning, and curates monthly reading lists and lectures via her online platform The Great Unlearn (a patreon you should subscribe to!).
But what sets Rachel Cargle apart from other activists is that a central part of her work is providing tools and resources for her audience to ensure that learning doesn’t stop at required reading, but is further translated into action. For example, when much of the world was posting open letters to their schools, universities, and workplaces to expose them for unjust practices and racist ideals, Rachel Cargle took to her Instagram account to take it one step further: providing her audience with a template for how they, too, can hold the institutions in their lives accountable for structural injustice. In addition to these accountability templates, she also curated a 30-day Do the Work challenge and posted tangible ways to decolonize your bookshelf, continuing the idea that activism must be combined with action in order to really effect change and mobilize a revolution. So if you’re looking to become a student in the masterclass on effective activism, follow Rachel Cargle on Instagram.
A prevailing question on the minds and lips of many this past year has been: “How long will this movement last?” “Is this movement just a moment?” But it’s been three months since the murder of George Floyd, and the movement is still prospering. While the momentum has, naturally, oscillated, its heartbeat is still strong. Why? Because we have leaders: Black women and femmes, the new generation of activists—our new vanguard—who have committed themselves to the endurance of this movement. While it may be easy at times to be defeatist and feel overcome and overwhelmed by how far we have to go, optimism lies in the comfort that we are being led in this revolution by some of the brightest, most talented minds out there. And we can access all of them through the proximity of our smartphones. We simply have no choice but to stan these women and femmes (and send them some coin to pay them for their labor).
Images: Angelo Moleele / Unsplash; sonyareneetaylor, ihartericka, ziwef, Rachel.cargle / Instagram; Noname / Twitter
There are many ways to continue to support anti-racist work, one suggestion being to sign petitions. These petitions have a variety of functions: some aim to raise awareness of and bring justice for victims of police brutality, such as demanding that all of Breonna Taylor’s killers get fired and charged; some urge city leaders to remove Christopher Columbus statues. But if you’re finding these petitions via social media, then they all probably have something in common: they are hosted on Change.Org.
With Change.Org petitions demanding justice for George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Oluwatoyin “Toyin” Salau, Rashard Brooks, and the countless other lives lost to police violence flooding everyone’s social media feeds, it’s easy to assume that Change.Org is one of the companies supporting BLM. But it isn’t as clear cut as it seems, and as the recent confusion between the Black Lives Matter Foundation and Black Lives Matter Global Network proved, before you give your time or money to an organization, it’s necessary to do a little digging to ensure it really backs the causes you intend to support.
Here’s some background: Change was founded in 2007 to connect individuals to causes and advocacy actions that they care about. In the early operating stages, Change promoted mostly progressive causes but didn’t have any petitions. It wasn’t until 2010 that the company started to host petitions and became a for-profit organization.
Ok, sit tight because here is where this gets really technical. Change.Org is a certified B corporation, which means that they are responsible for both making a profit and for their social and political impact. Everyone’s favorite ice cream company, Ben and Jerry’s, is another B Corporation. Ben and Jerry’s has a long history of making their political and social commitments public and participating in advocacy, such as with their now-famous Black Lives Matter statement.
That said, the assumption that Change.Org is a nonprofit organization makes a lot of sense. The website hosts petitions, many of which call for positive change, which gives it the appearance of an advocacy group. They also use a “.org” web address, which can lead visitors to infer that they are a nonprofit organization. In reality, as a for-profit organization, “.com” would be more honest to their users.
Change reported that the petition titled “Justice for George Floyd” is the most signed petition on the platform, with over 18 million signatures to date. Like with any petition on the platform, when you clicked the link, you were taken through a series of steps. First, you signed it, which is the obvious step. After that, you were prompted to donate to further the cause and “get the petition on the agenda” with a pop up message asking: “Can you chip in $3 to help get the petition further?” As of June 24, this message no longer appeared.
While the prompt never directly stated that the collected funds would go to grassroots organizers or the subject of the petitions, the message that giving money will put the petition “on the agenda” gave the impression that giving $3 would help the petition go somewhere that would inspire direct action. I, personally, have made the mistake of donating to Change petitions after signing them under the assumption that my donation would go to the cause I support.
In reality, donations made on Change.Org’s petitions are used to pay operation costs and cover marketing campaigns that promote petitions internally and promote the platform as a whole. Over the years, articles and Twitter threads have raised concerns about Change.Org’s unclear donation prompts. However, with petitions calling for justice for the victims of police brutality, criminal justice reforms, and demanding change in race relations going viral, past and present employees are now taking Change.org to task.
An open letter signed by 130 current and former employees on Medium is calling attention to the way that Change.Org handles donations, specifically citing donations made through the Justice for George Floyd petition. The letter states:
The petition calls for signers to “become a hero” by “chipping in,” but these donations do not go to George Floyd’s family, or to organizations fighting for Black lives. Rather, these contributions serve to market the petition and Change.org itself via billboards and digital ads. Change.org is siphoning resources away from organizations that are accountable to Black people and equipped to do deeper, long-term, community-based organizing for Black lives and liberation. At the same time, Change.org continues to host numerous petitions advocating against racial justice, and leaders of color — including multiple petitions calling for Black Lives Matter to be labeled a terrorist group — and generates revenue from those as well.
We verified such petitions exist but decline to link them for you here.
The letter also explains that part of Change.Org’s business model involves the company making money by collecting more emails. With petitions involving racial justice hitting record levels of engagement, those who signed the letter have expressed their frustration and anger with the company in no uncertain terms, “these actions constitute Change.org profiting from the death of Black people.”
Betches asked Change.Org to address concerns about how donations through their website are solicited and distributed. When asked how the company uses donations made to specific petitions, a Change.Org spokesperson said via email: “People who sign petitions on Change.org are offered the opportunity to pay for Change.org to promote the specific petition they care about to the 100 million people who visit Change.org every month,” adding that contributions are “invested into tools and support” they offer petition starters.
Even though the Justice for George Floyd petition does not redirect users to an invitation to chip in after signing anymore, that prompt does still appear when you sign other petitions—for example, this one calling for Juneteenth to become a national holiday. Now, at least, it clarifies what the money will be used for.
It remains unclear why Change.Org has to pay itself to promote its own petitions on its own website. Asked what efforts Change.Org has made to ensure transparency when it prompts signers to make a donation, a spokesperson told Betches:
On the payment form, we explicitly state that by promoting a petition, users are advertising the petition to other users on Change.org, and we’re proud to show promoters the number of people who will see the petition because of their promotion. The more promotions that a petition receives, the more people are exposed to that petition, and the more signatures it is likely to receive. And the more signatures a petition receives, the more likely it is to have impact in the world because of that support.
If Change.Org uses donations to fund promotion of its petitions for racial justice, rather than racial justice itself, it’s worth considering how successful petitions can be. While they are certainly helpful in increasing public pressure and raising awareness—when millions of people signal support for a cause, it’s a pretty good hint to politicians they will lose their jobs if they don’t accommodate demands—most petitions are not binding. Yet many suggest that hitting a certain goal will automatically result in the requested action.
The “goals” that go with each Change.Org petition are actually fairly arbitrarily. According to Change’s website, “Change.org supplies a default petition goal when you start your petition, and once you near the signature goal, it will increase automatically… Once you have achieved the goal behind your petition, you can declare Victory regardless of what the signature count is or how far you may be from the goal listed on the petition page.”
This basically means that with increasing popularity and engagement, the site’s algorithm automatically pushes back the petition’s goal. That means the petition continues to stick around to generate more signatures (and more money for Change.Org) after the initial goal is reached, and it’s up to the individual who started the petition to cap or change it.
None of this is to discount the importance of petitions or the tech infrastructure often required to manage tens of millions of users who want to sign them. Still, it is crucial to consider where petitions come from and who they go to. At the bare minimum, they can raise awareness for different causes. When they are most successful, they provide the necessary amount of public pressure needed to push officials to make a change.
A Change.Org spokesperson said the company is honoring requested refunds as quickly as possible and added that they have solicited feedback from users about their understanding of, and satisfaction with, how their donations are used. When asked how much money the “Justice for George Floyd” petition has earned the company, the spokesperson said Change.Org planned to announce how those contributions “will be used to drive impact on this petition and support issues of racial justice, very soon.” We will look forward to that.
In the meantime, if you’re looking for alternatives to Change.Org, ColorofChange.Org is a Black-owned and -run nonprofit that fights for racial justice. They host petitions and amplify the voices that matter the most in these conversations. If you do sign a Change.Org petition and would like to donate money specifically address racial justice, check out some of the groups in our Good Influence Fund.
Additional reporting by Amanda Duberman
Images: Change.org (2); Postmodern Studio / Shutterstock.com
Protestors across the country have taken to the streets over the past two weeks to demand an end to police brutality. But exactly how do we do that? In an ideal world, police would simply stop brutalizing people, but as you may have seen from the countless videos of cops beating on citizens protesting that exact brutality, we are for sure not living in a world anywhere close to Utopia.
One proposed resolution that has entered the mainstream conversation is defunding the police. For many (read: white people) this is a new, and even confusing concept. You might be asking yourself what defunding the police would entail, and how it could work in a society that has yet to eradicate violence and crime. The idea of taking resources from the people whose job is supposed to be “to protect and serve” might make you question who would be there for you when you needed those services. These are valid questions and concerns, and they have answers.
Hi. When republicans want to defund things like food stamps they just call it tax cuts.
Happy to help.
— Zerlina Maxwell (@ZerlinaMaxwell) June 9, 2020
Why Should America Spend Less On Policing?
In America, the government collectively spends about $100 billion on policing. On top of that, the United States spends about $80 billion on incarceration. That’s a *shit ton* of money being funneled into criminalizing and locking up our citizens. And there is a major racial disparity at play here. Black men make up about 13 percent of the male population, but about 35 percent of those incarcerated. Similarly, while Black women make up about 13 percent of the female population, 44 percent of incarcerated women are Black.
All of this is no coincidence. The entire concept of incarceration and policing was born out of racism and slavery in America. The 13th Amendment abolished slavery, unless convicted of a crime. This made it so white slaveowners who were pissed they were losing slaves could still get that free labor by arresting and incarcerating Black people. Black people were targeted for petty crimes like“walking without a purpose” or “walking at night,” or homelessness.
Police have not just disproportionately targeted, arrested, and incarcerated Black people. They also murder them at considerably higher rates than white people. A Black person in America is 2.5 times more likely to be murdered than a white person. The demonstrations across the nation and world have brought necessary attention to the unjust murders of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor by the police. But these two horrific killings were not isolated. The list of Black people in America that have died at the hands of police brutality is disturbingly long. Trayvon Martin, Tamir Rice, Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Philando Castile, Tony McDade, and many others make up a list that continues to grow without police accountability.
Given ample evidence that Black people’s encounters with police could be more likely to harm than protect them, an entire, marginalized group of our society left feeling unable to contact the police for their safety. That a collective $100 billion spent to “keep Americans safe” that excludes a huge portion of America. How is that fair and just? Spoiler alert, it’s not.
If we want to practice what we preach when we say that Black Lives Matter, then we have to fight for a society that spends its resources on protecting Black lives, and stands up when Black lives are being taken. Continuing to fund the police and giving them the means to take Black lives away from themselves and their families — whether it be by incarcerating them or killing them — then we are, with our action and our inaction, saying that Black lives don’t matter.
So, if we want to protect Black lives, we must, say it with me now: defund the police.
Defund Planned Parenthood: "We can't let the government subsidize murder!"
Defund police: Well hey now…
— The Betches Sup (@Betches_Sup) June 8, 2020
What Does “Defunding” Mean In Practice?
Defunding the police means diverting funds meant for police departments and reallocating them to social services that invest in communities subject to over-policing. What if 9-1-1 wasn’t the only number you could call when you needed help? What if professionals who were better trained to deal with moments of crisis and could help with de-escalation through nonviolent methods? What if asking for help didn’t have to mean dealing with the possibility of legal penalty? Sounds nice, imo.
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#linkinbio to the #googledoc featured here. The author’s intro is the very last slide. The author says not to worry about credit of the images, instead for us to focus on imagining living in this world together. I want to live in that world with y’all! Let’s prioritize reparations & black futures. Let’s embrace decolonizing so-called law enforcement and dismantling not only police, but also the prison-industrial complex that has wreaked havoc for far too long. #nooneisdisposable #buildbelovedcommunity #reparationsnow #allseedsusedtobefree this shit has gone too far.
For example, what if when someone needed to report an overdose, they were able to contact healthcare professionals who are trained to deal with substance use and overdoses could come to the scene and assist them without getting the law involved? Then, this person could get the care they need without the fear of being criminalized or even brutalized by police who see them as lawbreakers who deserve punishment. The failed war on drugs has shown us that criminalizing drug use has only exacerbated the problem, so really, leaving the police out of these types of situations would be beneficial.
This applies to various situations in which the police are called in to “help.” Traffic stops, people experiencing homelessness in need of assistance and/or housing, mental health crisis, and domestic issues to name a few.
Instead of giving so much money to police departments and entrusting them to better our communities with it, we could distribute funds to service workers who specialize in the different areas of social and safety services that could make more informed, less combative and violent decisions when working to de-escalate and resolves issues.
Cutting the budgets of police departments wouldn’t just mean being able to fund social and safety services. It would also mean being able to funnel more money into education, healthcare, and public programs at large.
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How do you want *your* money to be spent? a) spend it on police officers that continually abuse their positions and threaten public safety or b) spend it on welfare programs that have been systematically reduced I chose buses here because the amounts were so close but, you know, pick your thing! Want free school meals for every elementary school kid in New York? Cool, that only costs $39 million so you’ve got lots left over. Care about homelessness? Great, you could house 3,281 people for an entire year for this amount. You get the idea. As for the second image, at the protest last night, we chanted 𝘞𝘩𝘺 𝘢𝘳𝘦 𝘺𝘰𝘶 𝘪𝘯 𝘳𝘪𝘰𝘵 𝘨𝘦𝘢𝘳? 𝘐 𝘥𝘰𝘯’𝘵 𝘴𝘦𝘦 𝘯𝘰 𝘳𝘪𝘰𝘵 𝘩𝘦𝘳𝘦. The UK sells riot guns, teargas and riot shields to the US so we’re also deeply complicit in the violence that these officers inflict. Image 1 sources: New York City Comptroller, Annual Claims Report Fiscal Year 2018 + New York City Comptroller, Financial Outlook for the MTA, 2018 Image 2 sources: The Society for Healthcare Organization Procurement Professionals, April 2020 (this was a report about how prices have risen exponentially due to COVID-19 – these are the prices *after* those rises). Police equipment prices were hard to find. I found a public document where companies bid to provide riot gear for Columbus, Georgia police force in 2017 and used the averages of those bids except for the gloves where I averaged 3 online product listings. Will provide links in stories to all of this. I don't normally use hashtags but I want these images to end up in front of some police officers themselves so excuse me while I fuck with the algorithm a bit. #backtheblue #policelife #kag #kag2020 #lawenforcementfamily #policedepartment #blacklivesmatter #defundthepolice
“Police Reform” vs “Defunding the Police”
Police reform is a term that is thrown around when talking about how to address police brutality, and to be clear, that is different than defunding the police. This usually refers to the idea that we need to create more training programs that teach police how to de-escalate situations, provide them sensitivity and diversity workshops, and the like. This basically means giving police departments more money to teach them how to not be *checks notes* so violently racist that it results in the death of Black people? Honey, if they need extra training for that, I’m afraid it’s a bit of a lost cause at that point.
Reform also means creating more laws that would hypothetically stop cops from abusing their power, like banning the chokehold or making it illegal to shoot at a moving car. Sure, these things should be banned, but should we really be putting on energy into this kind of resolution when a huge part of this conversation is about how police aren’t held accountable? Last I checked, murder was banned too, but that hasn’t stopped them.
“iF we aBoLiSh thE poLiCe how wiLl wE sOlvE mUrDers?” White women with podcasts, Steven.
— Camilla Blackett (@camillard) June 8, 2020
Critics of police reform also point out that the Minneapolis Police Department — which the city has deemed so broken it cannot be fixed — had actually implemented numerous reforms meant to keep community members safe. George Floyd still died.
Now, maybe you or someone you know is upset by the idea of defunding the police because you/they think it’s disrespectful and wrong to take away the money they use to keep their department operating. (And because, yes, the end goal is to abolish the police.) Maybe you know a cop who you feel is a good person. You might have had good experience with cops and/or witnessed one/some do their jobs well. You might even be a cop and consider yourself to be a good one.
I believe that one, some, or all of these things can be true. But at the end of the day, cops have decided to be part of an oppressive system that historically and continuously targets, incarcerates, and murders Black people. People like to dismiss the idea that “cops are bad” by saying, “there are just a few bad apples.” I was reminded of the true meaning behind the “few bad apples” saying and how it actually contradicts this pro-cop line of thinking from a tweet my friend, comedian and writer Julia Claire:
Ah yes who among us could forget the famous adage "A few bad apples…" that has no additional words after it
— Julia Claire (@ohJuliatweets) June 2, 2020
The idiom tells us “a few bad apples spoils the bunch.” Claire points out that people defending “good cops” by co-opting the first half of the bad apples adage are completely ignoring the part where the barrel of apples is ruined from the rot that takes hold of the bunch.
Metaphors aren’t perfect, and man-built systems of oppression don’t operate in the same exact fashion as apples, but it’s worth noting that singular good qualities can’t save the ultimate ruin of the collective group, as the saying warns us.
The individual “good cops” you may know aren’t changing a system rooted in racism with their isolated acts of niceness. Some cops having moments of humanity doesn’t change the fact that in the grand scheme of things, police officers are killing Black people and not being held accountable for it because cops look out for their own. Don’t urge people to forgive the rot that has overtaken the barrel. It’s gross.
Being able to believe that the police will keep you safe is a white privilege. It’s time to stop basing our systems on the perspective and comfort white privilege provides. Defund the police.
If you would like to email your officials and asking them to defund the police, here is a link to help you do that.
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Images: Instagram: @Complex, Instagram: @queerappalachia, Instagram: @theunapologeticallybrownseries, Twitter: @ohJuliaTweets
Summer in America began with two consecutive weeks of protests against the police killings of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, which followed the devastating racially motivated murder of Ahmaud Arbery. Six years after the Black Lives Matter movement grew from protests against the 2014 police killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri—six years during which police continued to routinely murder Black men and women in their communities, in their homes, in their cars, and every place a human deserves to feel safe—Floyd’s death has brought tens of thousands of Americans into the streets to demand a change.
The protests against police brutality were…. rife with police brutality. Every day brought us new scenes of needless violence and provocation on behalf of law enforcement while opportunistic politicians focused only on those who compromised the movement’s message by committing looting and vandalism. For their part, the protesters were largely peaceful.
Peaceful protesting works—especially when the exact forces you are protesting against prove their inadequacy every chance they get. Cities are already moving to change the way they conceive of public safety, vowing to divert funding from law enforcement to social and youth services, ban certain police procedures that often turn deadly, and demand more accountability for officers involved in violent encounters.
We’re keeping track of the wins of the protest movement against police brutality here:
Minneapolis City Council Votes To Dismantle Police Force
On June 7, the Minneapolis City Council announced it would vote to “dismantle” the city’s police department, saying it’s too broken to be reformed as is. Following George Floyd’s murder by a Minneapolis police officer and other high profile incidents, the city will reimagine how law enforcement can promote public safety. City Council President Lisa Bender says they will dissolve and replace the police department with a “transformative new model of public safety.”
What will this look like in practice? It remains to be seen, but Bender told NPR this week that she expects a combination of budget reallocation and social programs to foster community health and safety through means other than policing, like reinvestment in social and mental health services, which account for a huge portion of the city’s 911 calls.
This came just one day after Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey was booed by protesters after saying he did not support abolishing the force. Enough City Council members have committed to the vote that the mayor cannot veto their decision. Plus, Prince is the forever mayor of Minneapolis anyway.
Louisville, Kentucky Considers Banning “No-Knock” Warrants
In March, 26-year-old Breonna Taylor was killed by police in her own home when they broke through her door with a battering ram to execute a “no-knock warrant,” the questionably legal practice that allowed officers to bang on her door without announcing themselves as law enforcement. We know now that the police had virtually no reason to be at Breonna’s home, and certainly none pursue a violent raid.
An ordinance proposed by the Louisville Metro Council would limit the “no-knock” warrants that resulted in Breonna’s death to cases involving “imminent threat of harm or death,” and limited to offenses including murder, hostage-taking, kidnapping, terrorism, human trafficking and sexual trafficking.
Police were granted a “no-knock” warrant to search Breonna’s home because the police claimed a postal inspector confirmed she received packages there (the Louisville postal inspector has since said he was never consulted, and there was nothing suspicious about the packages).
Confederate Statues Fall Across The United States
After protesters in Richmond, Virginia covered a monument to army commander Robert E. Lee in graffiti and projected a stunning image of George Floyd, Governor Ralph Northam (yes, the one who did blackface) announced plans to finally remove the monument to the confederate general that was erected 130 years ago.
🚨TODAY: Governor Northam is expected to make a HISTORIC announcement at 11am, calling for the removal of the Robert E. Lee statue on Monument Ave.
Overnight, George Floyd’s face was projected onto the base of the monument. pic.twitter.com/OWzCygeKtk
— Anthony Antoine (@AnthonyNBC12) June 4, 2020
However, a judge has temporarily blocked the removal after the Virginia descendent of a signatory to the monument’s deed claimed moving it would “cause irreparable harm” to the statue. Yeah, that’s kind of the whole point.
Confederate monuments will also be removed in Alabama, Tennessee, North Carolina, and Florida. The Black Lives Matter movement even jumped across the pond over the weekend, as protesters in Bristol, England toppled a statue of slave trader Edward Colston.
New York City Mayor Vows To Cut Police Budget
Nobody’s favorite mayor Bill De Blasio vowed to cut the NYPD’s $6 billion budget and divert funds to youth and social services. While advocates had urged De Blasio to commit to a full $1 billion reduction in funding (the city’s entire operating budget is $90 billion), De Blasio stopped short of promising a seven-figure cut.
New York State Moves To Ban Chokeholds
On June 8, six years after an officer killed Eric Garner on a Staten Island sidewalk as he plead “I can’t breathe,” New York State Assembly on Monday passed the Eric Garner Anti-Chokehold Act. The bill will criminalize chokehold that result in death or injury. According to the bill, an officer who kills or injures another person can be charged with a class C felony and serve up to 15 years in prison. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo is expected to sign the bill.
While the NYPD had already banned chokehold in 1994, state lawmakers note that was not enough to save Eric Garner. Garner’s killer, Officer Daniel Pantaleo
Los Angeles Cuts Police Budget
Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti agreed to slash up to $150 million from the Los Angeles Police Department’s $2 billion budget.
Members Of Congress Introduce The Most Sweeping Police Reform Bill In Decades
Democratic members of the House and Senate unveiled the Justice in Policing Act of 2020 this week, which would prohibit the use of choke-holds, allow for greater criminal and civil penalties for police misconduct, ban certain no-knock warrants, and create a national registry to track police misconduct. The bill also pursues an end to qualified immunity, a legal doctrine that shields police officers and other public officials from being sued in civil lawsuits over misconduct that occurred on the job.
“We cannot settle for anything less than transformative structural change,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Monday. It’s unlikely the Republican-controlled Senate will pass the bill as is.
The last few months have been riddled with the word “uncertainty”—an email was not an email if it did not address the “uncertain times” that the coronavirus pandemic spewed upon us this past winter, right before giving you 40% off All Shoes and Tops. A targeted ad on Instagram wasn’t effectively targeted if it didn’t acknowledge the unease you must be experiencing during these “uncertain times,” and how 10% off a wine subscription jussssst might quell those concerns. But alas, coronavirus is no longer the headlining act in the treacherous music festival that is 2020.
Around the same time we were basking in our uncertainty as to when we’d be able to go on Hinge dates again, Breonna Taylor, a Black woman in Louisville, was in her own home, unarmed, suffering eight bullets from the police. Less than a month before that, Ahmaud Arbery, a Black man, was jogging in his own neighborhood in Georgia and was hunted and killed by two white men who thought he “looked suspicious.” And finally, as if guided by theatrics, Act III occurred on May 25, Memorial Day. The day George Floyd, a Black man, was kneeled on and subsequently killed by the police, while Amy Cooper was a few states east calling the cops on Christian Cooper, a Black man in New York, who did absolutely nothing but ask her to follow the rules. What ensued, as I’m sure you are currently living, has been weeks of (justified) civil unrest. People are waking up. People are paying attention. People are acting. And while much of the narrative surrounding these times still remains uncertain, there is one thing of which I can be absolutely sure: your Black friends are not okay.
I typically steer clear of generalizations, but this one I resolutely stand by. The Black people in your life are experiencing a pain that uniquely aches. The ache emanates in the form of grief, confusion, guilt, laughter, tears, anger, pride, power, defeat. The ache is physical, emotional, cerebral. The ache is for the present, the ache is for the past. The ache is silent, the ache is deafening. The ache is personal, the ache is collective. The ache is difficult to put into words, but I can assure you, the ache is there—it always is. But this time, these last few weeks, that ache is particularly onerous.
So this is me, your Black friend—one of them, at least—taking a break from the Real Housewives of Atlanta virtual reunion (which is actually very, very good) to urge you to please stop sending weird texts ending with a Black fist emoji to the Black person you met once at a coffee shop three years ago, and start supporting the Black people in your life in ways that are constructive.
Disclaimer: Some of the things on this list may hurt your feelings—I did not write this with your feelings in mind. Apologies in advance. But I urge you to consider that if the worst hurt you experience in this dialogue is your feelings, perhaps, in the grand scheme of things, you’re ultimately doing okay.
Check In On Your Black Friends Selflessly and With Intention
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I think it’s great that you want to check in on your Black friends right now—I really do. In fact, I think it would be irresponsible and, frankly, shortsighted to not reach out to someone you call a friend who is currently living in a world where the cultural dialogue rests on the question of whether or not their existence is valid. But when you check in on them, I ask that you do so selflessly and with intention.
First, let’s talk about a selfless check-in. I once had a friend send me a hand-written birthday card that spent exactly one line wishing me a happy birthday, and then two paragraphs telling me how enlightened she now was and how much she’d grown as a person in the four months we hadn’t spoken. It became immediately clear that this “birthday card” was entirely for her, not me (and why we hadn’t spoken for four months). This is not the time to self-flagellate, and tell your Black friends that you’re a bad, bad, sick, twisted white person who is not worthy of love or happiness. I mean, I don’t know you, maybe all those things are true, but this is not the time to put that weight on your Black friend. This is not the time for your guilt. This is not the time for you to apologize for that one racist thing you laughed at six years ago in their presence. Trust me, that time will come. But right now, the birthday card is for your Black friend, not you. The check-ins I’ve received that have felt the most genuine have been the ones that are the most concise: “I love you. I am here for you. I am thinking of you. I am fighting for you. I will do better.”
Now, let’s talk checking in with intention. Three years ago, my mom died. I had tons of well meaning friends send texts asking, “How are you doing?” And if I were honest with them, I would have said: “Lol well, my mom’s still dead, so not great!” It is not particularly effective to ask your Black friend how they are doing right now. I’m giving you the answer key for this one: not great! So, with that in mind, think about a more constructive, intentional way to check in on your friend’s well-being. “Have you eaten today? I’d be happy to make/send something your way. Know that I’m here if you ever want to talk, cry, scream, take a walk, drink some wine, dance, sit silently, whatever.”
Give Them an Emotional Six Feet of Distance
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All my work. All my life. I’ve always tried to figure out how I work with what I got. How I serve the community I’m from. How I serve the future to come. It ain’t in silence. It won’t happen with silence. So everything I do is a stretch towards freedom. For my daughter. For your sons. For all of our children. #artjustice #artsctivism #mentor #protest #poeticprotest #donate #blm #bailoutnyc
Once you check in on your Black friends, please, for the love of chilled white wine, leave them alone. I’m not asking you to be silent, I’m simply asking you to be quiet. Give them a moment—many moments—to process. To breathe. To be exonerated of the burden of having to reply to a text. Further (wrap those feelings up), your Black friends don’t want to talk to YOU right now. If your Black friends want to talk, they probably want to talk to their Black friends or their other friends of color who get it. Again, this isn’t me telling you not to reach out; but once you do, expect some quiet from your Black friends. And start to get comfortable with that quiet. If you’ve checked in effectively, they know where to find you if and when they’re ready.
Do Something for Them Without Them Having to Ask
I have always hated the solicitation: “Let me know if there is anything I can do to help.” Now, that is partly because I have been gifted with the horrific disease of recoiling at the thought of asking anyone for help (my two therapists and I are working through this). But also, and perhaps more aptly, I’ve always found that in times of extreme grief and mental turmoil, it takes a lot of emotional intelligence to know exactly what kind of help you need. I’ll return to my mother’s death a few years ago. A couple of days after my mom died, I remember coming home to find that my roommate had done all of my laundry for me. This was particularly moving because if she would have asked me “hey, how can I help you right now?” I would have never said: “Um, you can do my gross laundry that’s been sitting on my floor for six weeks!” Not only would I have never said that, the thought of “needing to do laundry” would have never crossed my mind. So, instead of asking your Black friends what you can do to help them right now, which puts the onus on them to have to find the emotional intelligence to try to figure it out, anticipate their basic needs and try to cater to them. Do their laundry, order them food, make them a sandwich, bring them a glass of water. You are smart and capable! If you really want to help your Black friends right now, you can think of some things to do for them without them having to ask.
Support Their Mental Health
As I’m sure you can imagine, your Black friends’ mental health is particularly vulnerable right now. Many of your friends are experiencing situational upsets to their mental stability that may have been triggered by the events of the last few weeks; others may have been battling preexisting mental health conditions that have only been further exacerbated by the current social climate. A friend of mine reached out to me a couple of days ago and asked if he could pay the copay for one of my virtual therapy sessions. This felt particularly constructive because not only was he recognizing that my mental state was fragile, he offered to do something tangible to contribute to my mental wellness. So if you’re looking to direct your efforts towards supporting your friends’ mental health, offer to help pay for a therapy session if they’re seeing a therapist; offer to pay for a month of Liberate, a meditation app created by BIPOC for BIPOC; music is therapy for so many people in the Black community, so offer to pay for a month of their music streaming service. A great way to constructively support your Black friends is to effectively support their mental health.
Speak Up So Your Black Friends Don’t Have To
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Last week, my place of work sent a mass email to all of its employees addressing the “current events” to state that their official stance was: “racism is unacceptable.” Pause for applause. (I hope you read that last sentence with the seething sarcasm in which it was written.) Upon receiving this email, my mind went to two places: 1) there is absolutely nothing of substance here—it is 2020, I sincerely hope I work for a company that “condemns racism” and 2) Great! Now I have to respond to this incredibly vapid statement because if I don’t, no one else will. What I’m asking is that you be that “no one else” for your Black friend, in this case, your Black colleague. As my newfound guiding light, Audre Lorde, said, “ the responsibility of the oppressed to teach the oppressors their mistakes.” You have no idea how exhausting, depleting, and quite frankly, trite it is to routinely have to enlighten others on the whys. Why you can’t say the n-word, why you can’t touch my hair, why mixing me up with the only other Black girl in the room is inherently racist. At this point, you know the answers to those whys. So, if you received a bullsh*t email like I did this week, you respond so your Black colleagues don’t have to. If you see a post that says “All Lives Matter,” you engage, so your Black friends don’t have to. Give us a break—we’ve been fighting this fight for 400 years. We’re tired.
Support Black Livelihood
I want you to ask yourself a question: “How am I uplifting Black voices and Black lives in weeks when they are not violently slain in the streets?” If you can’t answer this question, or if your answer is “by listening to Kanye West,” I urge you to spend some time with this point, specifically. Supporting Black Lives Matter does not end with fighting the systemic violence against and murder of black bodies; it must also include uplifting and empowering us while we’re alive. An enormously constructive trend I’ve been seeing on social media is white professionals using their platforms and privilege to open the gates for Black creatives. Editors, writers, and casting directors are making themselves and their colleagues directly accessible to Black creatives who historically encounter enormous barriers of entry. If you hold the keys or know someone who holds the keys to the gates to your profession, share them with a Black person. Writing a screenplay? Can the main character be Black? Probably! Hiring? Can that executive be Black? YES. And to answer your grandfather’s next question: no, this is not a “handout”—this is merely leveling the playing field in a game Black people were never intended to play. Also remember that supporting Black livelihood means supporting Black businesses! Here’s a list of Black-owned companies you can support right now.
Understand That You Cannot Understand—But Like, Try!
I’ve been seeing this graphic make its way around the realm that is social media: it usually consists of a Black and white hand being held (lol), with the caption “I understand that I cannot understand.” And while these words are absolutely correct—there is no way that any non-Black person could ever understand the unsurmountable weight that comes with being a Black body in America—simply saying you “can’t understand” is reductive and effectively absolves you from the task of having to learn. This ideal, while well-meaning, is passive, and gleans no commitment to action. Which leads me to my last point…
Do The Work
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Absolutely nothing else on this list is of any importance if you are not committing yourself to doing the work. Your check-in texts, your Venmo gifts, your Black Lives Matter T-shirts are just futile gestures in an empty vacuum of performative allyship if you are not holding yourself accountable and doing the work. “The work,” “the work,” what do your Black friends mean when we keep talking about “the work?” “The work” is committing yourself to learning about the structural, deliberate, and systemic nature of racism that was thrust upon your friend as soon as they entered this world as a Black body. “The work” is learning that from an early age, your friend has had to learn how to navigate as a Black body in a white world as a means of, at least, fitting in, and at most, survival. “The work” is looking within; looking at your own actions, your own belief and value systems, and recognizing that, whether consciously or not, you have not only been complicit in, but have benefitted from and contributed to, a world that was designed to suppress Black lives. Luckily for you, there are mountains upon mountains of books, documentaries, theory, podcasts, accessible to you right now that unpack the 400 years of systemic racism in America, starting at day 1. Know that the work is arduous. The work has no finish line. The work will probably hurt your feelings. But the work is what is required of you if you want to constructively support your Black friends.
Images: Maverick Pictures / Shutterstock.com; rachel.cargle, mobrowne, wastefreemarie, officialmillennialblack / Instagram
Trigger Warning: Violence, Explicit Language, Police Brutality
If you’re paying even a tiny bit of attention to the world around you, you’re probably aware of the protests spanning the nation over the past two weeks. These protests were sparked by public outrage over the graphic murder of George Floyd. However, they take place with the backdrop of a global pandemic that has disproportionately killed Black people, who are often quite literally sickened by America’s systemic racism. The protests also follow the murder of Ahmaud Arbery in Georgia and the fatal police shooting of Breonna Taylor in Kentucky. Both instances only came to national attention months after they’d taken place, with no evidence perpetrators would have faced consequences otherwise. Indeed, Breonna Taylor’s killers are still free.
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From all walks of life. From every race, gender and nationality: the people of this city are what truly makes it such a beautiful place. And in solidarity, we continue to peacefully protest in the tens of thousands in support of #blacklivesmatter. Photo by @lauraskills
A second weekend of protests remained largely peaceful with seemingly fewer violent clashes with police and incredible scenes of peace and solidarity around the country. But throughout the first week of June, militarized police forces and curfews that criminalized simply being outside resulted in thousands of arrests and countless accounts of police misconduct during what were initially peaceful demonstrations.
These scenes unequivocally show how police have continued to act violently and dangerously, even at peaceful protests… peaceful protests against police brutality and violence, no less. This is by no means a definitive list, but it should be a wake-up call that we are far from where we need to be as far as justice, progress, and equality are concerned.
A News Crew Flagged The Police To Stop Looters. They Handcuffed Black Community Members Instead.
This is one of the most absolutely insane moments I've ever seen on live television. pic.twitter.com/Uvzig8YGSa
— Timothy Burke (@bubbaprog) June 2, 2020
In this video filmed in Los Angeles, some people are attempting to loot a number of local businesses, leading to a reporter attempting to flag down law enforcement to protect the store and stop the looting. Instead of arriving calmly to the scene and taking literally 30 seconds to listen to those involved and actually, IDK, do their jobs, the police seem to go straight for the Black community members who were trying to protect their community from looting and damage. The officers largely ignore the reporter who is trying to explain that the individuals being put in handcuffs did not instigate the situation. As drivers in the area become concerned for the protesters, several exit their vehicles. They also appear to be held by police.
Law Enforcement Trap Protesters On Highway Embankment While Launching Pepper Spray
While this video looks like a scene out of a movie about the end of the world, it was actually taken in Philadelphia and couldn’t be further from fiction. After a march was broken up by police officers spraying tear gas, protestors were forced to move up towards a highway. 17 seconds in, you can hear the unmistakable phrase we have become all too familiar with: “I can’t breathe.”
Park Police Push Through Allies
BREAKING. Some protesters have jumped the gated barrier at Lafayette Park. US Park Police push them back. The White House is behind the US Park Police l & the Secret Service. @MSNBC @nbcwashington #GeorgeFloyd pic.twitter.com/RzJgnvv7Vq
— Shomari Stone (@shomaristone) May 31, 2020
Here, park police in DC rush a Black protester who is kneeling with his arms up. Another person who is clearly aware of their privilege joins him, trying to act as a barrier between him and the police. Despite his overwhelmingly non-aggressive actions, a group of officers rush them, forcibly pushing them back and forcing the protester to stand up. The young man’s name is Monte, and when questions were raised about the circumstances of the encounter, he shared additional footage showing an officer threatening to “hurt” him.
Police Push Elderly Man To The Ground Who A Bleeds From The Head As They Walk Away
In this shocking scene, an older man can be seen approaching police, but clearly poses no threat. An officer shoves him violently, causing him to lurch backwards several feet before falling to the ground with great force directly on his head. The 75-year-old man, later identified as Martin Gugino, instantly bleeds from the head. The officers ignore him as bystanders plead to get him medical attention. Gugino was hospitalized with a head injury. Both officers involved have been charged with assault. They have plead not guilty.
Man Opens Door To Protesters To Protect Them From The Police
@ABC7Kristen asked Rahul Dubey "what made you open your door and say 'get inside?'"
He describes the chaos, tear gas and pepper spray. pic.twitter.com/2t3MHaFDzu
— Adrianna Hopkins (@AdriannaHopkins) June 2, 2020
Heavy law enforcement presence throughout American cities didn’t just intimidate protesters. Residents in communities where protesters were cornered and threatened were so concerned for their safety that they sheltered them in their homes. A man in DC opened his doors to close to 100 protestors who were blocked in the area by police spraying tear gas and pepper spray. The man in the video explained that there was a “human tsunami” and recounted seeing police wands and batons out.
President Trump Forces Tensions Between Police And Protesters So He Can Walk Across The Street For A Picture
As I’m sure most of us are aware, the President of the United States will do quite literally anything for a photo op. Last week, tear gas and flash grenades were released on protestors to clear a path so that Trump could have a 17-minute photoshoot on his walk to the church. Trump has not even attempted to appear like he gives a sh*t about the Black Lives Matter movement, George Floyd, or the systemic racism in our country. The result: a picture of him holding the bible the same way someone would carry a bag of dog sh*t.
The building, the St. John’s Episcopal Church, had been damaged in unrest nights earlier. Rev. Mariann Budde, bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Washington, said she was not notified of the photo op and denounced the president for using the church as a prop.
NYPD Arrest New Yorkers Sitting On Their Stoop After Curfew
In this scene shared to Twitter by singer/songwriter Shaina Taub, she and her boyfriend are arrested while supporting peaceful protesters from their stoop. As law enforcement takes a man away, bystanders state with alarm that he lives in the building (cops have often attempted to storm city buildings where residents have sheltered protesters. see above.) Taub notes she was arrested with an essential worker grabbed from his bike and detained before he could show officers a note from his employer allowing him to earn a living this week.
last night my husband and I got arrested on the stoop of our building on the UWS just after 8 pm. we were cheering on a peaceful protest on our block. this was my small visceral window into the police brutality black folks have experienced for centuries. #DefundThePolice pic.twitter.com/SIbMxgekwi
— Shaina Taub (@shainataub) June 5, 2020
Police Trap Peaceful Protesters On Manhattan Bridge
Multiple times this week, law enforcement has implemented a “kettling” strategy, which means they literally wrangle protests like cattle into tight spaces to contain them. Not only does this force large groups into small spaces (during a pandemic, no less), but it also leaves protesters vulnerable to stampede, medical emergencies, dehydration, and more. Kettling also allows officers to make mass arrests, forcing hundreds if not thousands of peaceful protesters into an already crowded jail system during a global pandemic.
Groups Of White Men Roam Philadelphia With Baseball Bats
There are now two all white armed vigilante groups roaming Fishtown with the blessing of the @phillypolice pic.twitter.com/csGWCDZ6Nw
— Josh Albert (@jpegjoshua) June 1, 2020
This horrific footage shows an all-white vigilante group roaming Philly’s streets with baseball bats and other weapons. They only got more aggressive when the group was met by a peaceful counter-protest of individuals, many of whom were holding signs that read, “I can’t breathe.” When the police were called to disperse the incident, they immediately moved towards the peaceful counter-protest instead of apprehending the white guys holding literal weapons. One reporter was attacked by the white group for filming the incident and posted the gruesome images on his Twitter.
Police In Kansas City Attack, Tear Gas Peaceful Protesters
This is one of the most egregious ones of these I’ve seen, and that’s saying a lot https://t.co/pQgRsc0bzF
— Danny Gold (@DGisSERIOUS) June 2, 2020
This disturbing video was taken in Kansas City when cops rushed a Black man who was literally peacefully exercising his First Amendment rights. The officers spray him and a woman standing next to him with mace before three police officers grabbed the man and tackled him. Following this, officers began spraying the entire crowd with mace.
Black Journalist Arrested For Doing His Job
Journalists nationally have been targeted by police for doing their jobs and reporting from massive protests. Many of us have seen the clip of Omar Jimenez, a Black man and a CNN reporter. Jimenez was arrested with his crew during the Minneapolis protest. In this video, cops were shooting rubber bullets at Kaitlin Rust, a reporter for NBC’s Louisville affiliate station.
Young Man Begs For Unity And Calls Police His Family. They Arrest Him.
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@pharaohalmighty This world breaks my heart everyday of how much hatred we have for one another on both sides of the field. “I Cry At Night Because I Feel Everyone’s Pain” Sometimes it feels like a movie to me and I just want people to understand each other, respect each other, and care for each other; because then and only then can we truly connect as one nation and move forward together to provide a better world for ourselves and for generations to come. We Can Do Make More Progress Together Than We Could Ever Do Alone ✊🏽💯🖤🙏🏼 #blacklivesmatter #alllivesmatter #mylifematters #peacefulprotest #martinlutherking
Protesting in Charleston this week, Givionne Jordan Jr., emotionally exercised his First Amendment rights. He literally said the words “I am not your enemy” and seems to have expressed no intention to incite any violence. Nonetheless, two minutes into the video Jordan was grabbed, arrested, and held overnight. Many on social media remarked they thought the office was approaching to grab Jordan’s hand, not detain him.
A Night Of Mourning For George Floyd In Minneapolis
There also were moving images of healing and solidarity across the country reminding us of who we could be. Minneapolis residents defied the city’s curfew this week to hold an all-night vigil for George Floyd.
The motto “to protect and serve” seems to no longer hold any weight among police forces. While there are cops who don’t actively target BIPOC and aren’t outwardly racist, as we see in this video, there are far too many who sit idly by while their coworkers continue to prove that no progress has been made in the fights against racial injustice and police brutality. From where I stand, those sitting idly by are complicit in the violence and guilty of violating their sacred oath to “protect and serve.”
As a white woman, I have an extremely limited ability to fully grasp these situations. My voice also has very little importance here. What these videos and images and situations like the ones depicted teach me is that it is not enough to post about racial injustice. It’s not enough to simply be against racism, we have to be better allies and we have to work at active, conscious anti-racism.
Donate to groups like Campaign Zero to fight to end police brutality.
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It’s been just over a week since George Floyd’s death, and millions of people across the country have used their voices to demand justice. There have been huge protests in every major city, and while some have broken out into violence, the vast majority have been peaceful demonstrations. It’s so important that we use our voices and platforms right now, and many celebrities have gone beyond just social media posts and joined the protestors in the streets.
hours and miles of peaceful protesting yesterday that got little to no coverage.
all throughout beverly hills and west hollywood we chanted, people beeped and cheered along.
we were passionate, we were loud, we were loving.
cover this too please. #BLACKLIVESMATTER https://t.co/vD90CEtF94 pic.twitter.com/GZ6uKDfPM7
— Ariana Grande (@ArianaGrande) May 31, 2020
On her social media, Ariana Grande highlighted the peaceful protest on the west side of LA over the weekend. She shared photos from Beverly Hills and West Hollywood, pointing out that, compared to more violent incidents, this peaceful demonstration got “little to no coverage.” When all you’re seeing on the news are images and videos of looting and fires, it’s easy to think that all the protests end up in violence. That’s not true, and the fact that Ariana Grande is showing a peaceful protest to her 74 million Twitter followers is huge.
Show up pic.twitter.com/jl9fkEh4eU
— TINASHE (@Tinashe) May 30, 2020
If you noticed, Ariana Grande’s tweet about the protest she attended was in response to Tinashe’s thread, where she also posted pictures of a peaceful protest in Beverly Hills. She posted inspiring pictures of huge crowds gathering and marching in solidarity. As one of many artists who’s had to cancel tour dates due to COVID-19, she’s also encouraged her fans to donate their ticket refunds to important causes like bail funds.
Madison Beer been outspoken about police brutality for years, and she’s been out protesting in LA multiple times in the last few days. While at the protest on Sunday, the group Madison was with got tear-gassed by police, despite the fact that they were being completely peaceful.
In addition to attending protests, Madison has been sharing lots of important information on her social media, including curfew information, numbers to call in case of unlawful arrests, and locations where police are using tear gas. In a post on her story, she acknowledged all the thanks she’s gotten for her work, but made it clear that “it should be expected.”
Cops didn’t like me filming the burning car so they came at me with batons. Hitting my bike.
Ahhm here’s the audio pic.twitter.com/tfaOoVCw5v”
— John Cusack (@johncusack) May 31, 2020
John Cusack, who is a huge Bernie Sanders supporter and posts constantly about his progressive politics, joined protestors in Chicago on Saturday night. Judging from his tweets, things were mostly peaceful, but at one point he came upon a car that had been set on fire. When he started filming the car, police officers came toward him with batons, hitting his bike and screaming in his face. This short video of the encounter is terrifying, so I can only imagine what it was like to actually experience it. In another tweet, Cusack added that he “would be very surprised if this is a one or two day event,” and that it feels like “many streams of outrage coming to a head, a wave peaking.”
Lana Del Rey
Lana Del Rey is no stranger to controversy lately, and despite joining protests over the weekend, she still got herself into hot water. She posted a series of images from the protests on her Instagram story, which is fine, but one of them was a video of a store being looted, in which people’s faces were clearly visible. This is the exact kind of thing you’re NOT supposed to post from a protest, and people understandably got very angry.
@LanaDelRey thank you for removing your post!!!!!!!!!!!
— TINASHE (@Tinashe) May 31, 2020
Lots of people tagged Lana on social media asking her to take the image down, which she did pretty quickly. An issue with posting pictures of videos of protests is that showing someone’s face could potentially lead to them getting arrested, deported, or otherwise targeted by law enforcement. It’s okay to make mistakes and learn right now, but everyone needs to be extremely careful about what they’re posting.
J. Cole has joined the protest in downtown Fayetteville, NC. So remember all the rappers who were out here donating and supporting when its time to buy albums. pic.twitter.com/OjJWRLFtJy
— OBJ said ask about him (@evelynvwoodsen) May 30, 2020
J. Cole has been out protesting in his hometown of Fayetteville, North Carolina, along with NBA player Dennis Smith. According to reports from those at the protest, they declined to do any interviews or take photos with fans, not wanting to pull any focus from the cause at hand. It seems like most celebs at that protests have done the same, and it’s great to see them just doing something because it’s the right thing to do. Also?? If you’re at a protest, it is NOT the time or place to try to take a selfie with a celeb for clout. Read the room.
Halsey has done so much that she’s getting her own article, but we’d be remiss not to mention her here as well. She was at a peaceful protest over the weekend, when police fired teargas and rubber bullets at the crowd. She warned her followers about the danger of rubber bullets (which are way more intense than they sound), saying that she “had to bandage a man who looked like his entire face had exploded today.”
fired rubber bullets at us. we did not breach the line. hands were up. unmoving. and they gassed and fired. pic.twitter.com/K8YauF0APn
— h (@halsey) May 31, 2020
These are just some of the celebrities who have gotten out to join the protests recently, and surely this list will continue to grow this week. We’re at a major moment in this movement, and it’s more important than ever that we all show our support in whatever way we can. Whether this means attending a protest, making a donation, or working to educate yourself and become a better ally, we all have to do something.
Images: DFree / Shutterstock.com; arianagrande, tinashe, johncusack, evelynvwoodsen / Twitter; madisonbeer, halsey / Instagram