White people, step it up

Picture this.  The coronavirus is over. Scientists have given the “all clear”.  One million white people have gathered on the Mall in Washington, DC with signs  that read “Black People protestingLives Matter” “I am marching for Ahmaud Arbery”  “I march for Trayvon Martin” “I march for the thousands of black men and women imprisoned who simply can’t pay bail to get out”  “I march for clean water in Flint”  “I march for quality grocery stores in black and brown neighborhoods.” “I march for the black people who white leaders don’t listen to.”

Can you see it? Can you see one million white people marching for black lives, for black bodies?

I appreciate all my white friends who have posted their outrage on social media about armaud arbreythe killing of Ahmaud Arbery. I value your allyship and your sense of humanity. I also value your public statements. Many think the thoughts, but then don’t write the words where one of their friends, or family, or colleagues might see them. “You know,” they say, “I have to pick the right moment.”

White people, as Nikole Hannah-Jones wrote in her 1619 essay, “Our democracy’s founding ideals were false when they were written. Black Americans have fought to make them true.” I’m not saying that white people didn’t participate in the Montgomery Bus Boycott or Selma or the March on Washington or in countless other protests to make America’s promise true. You have. But, I need you to step it up.   America needs you to step it up.

Now, don’t get me wrong. Black people’s voices have been, and continue to be, powerful in enabling our own liberation, 400 years ago, 200 years ago and today. But to paraphrase racial justice advocate, Dr. Robin DiAngelo, “Could women have gotten the vote without the leadership of men?  No.” Black people can march, and will march, until the soles of our feet are raw. We will protest until our voices are strained to a whisper, but white people, we need you to step it up.

In large measure, your people run Congress … your people lead states … your people run business, the Fortune 500 companies … your people control the media. You run America.  Raise your voices. Step it up.


14 Replies to “White people, step it up”

  1. Ditto to Janet’s comment. The really sad thing is denial on the part of so many. Trying hard to encourage others.

  2. I think a lot of people care deeply, but are not organized for action. It would be helpful to involve influential people, too. I have some ideas.

  3. Focus on changing racism in this country can’t stop even in the middle of a pandemic. And this pandemic is actually showing us how many inequities still exist!
    White people have a responsibility to keep the progress going forward.

  4. WOW! Hi Tamara, How are you doing? I hope that you and your family are staying safe (and sane) during this crazy time. ❤ I really appreciate this piece. I have had a lot of conflicting feelings about white people hesitating, or not even speaking up about these injustices, and this piece answered some questions that I had. Thank you for your wisdom. Have a great weekend! Racquell Perry, Esq. Florida A&M, College of Law Juris Doctor, 2015

    “To live is to suffer, but to survive, is to find meaning in the suffering”  

    1. I remember a healing circle I attended the weekend after the grand jury decided not to indict Michael Brown’s killer. A big circle, mostly white. Around the circle people checked in: “I know I have white privilege and I feel so hopeless.” “I recognize my white skin gives me power and I feel paralyzed.” A black elder stood up and said, “You can’t have it both ways. You are white and you have power, now step into that power and get to work. Your sense of helplessness is manufactured to protect white supremacy.” Amen. White people have to get to work.

  5. I’ve been calling out racism ever since I first became aware of it, in 1963. I will continue to do so until my dying breath.

    Yes, I ‘ve been called N(word) lover more than once. I’ve been spit on, had things thrown at me, and been not taken seriously by my congresspeople (I started writing letters to them at a very young age). But I still do it. Ghandi said, ‘Be the change you wish to see in the world.’ I’ve tried to do that. And if, by a spiel I gave (I’m a Museum Educator, specialising for the past 25 years in slavery history), has ‘turned someone around’ and lead them to view things differently, then that’s a good day’s work.

  6. I have been demonstrating in one way or another for racial equality since 1968 and it’s soul-battering to see how little progress has been made. We need to step it up, actually start racing to implement change but it’s too late for so many lost to violence or to substandard environments. We’ll have to answer to God one day for what we did and I don’t know if I am doing enough.

Leave a Reply