I, along with so many people around the world, am outraged by the recent murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and so many other innocent Black victims of police brutality. Unfortunately, these are not isolated incidents; every day Black people are victims of violence, hatred, policy brutality, and institutional and systemic racism. In this moment in history, it’s critical that all people, regardless of race, work collaboratively to combat racism.
Self-Awareness and Education is Key
First, assessing our own biases and educating ourselves is a must. Those who are white (myself included), must confront our role in contributing to systemic racism. After listening to Robin DiAngelo speak at MIT about her book, White Fragility, I have been asking myself some hard questions. As a privileged white liberal woman, how do I contribute to systemic racism? How can I use my privilege to combat racism? What does it mean to be an ally of the Black Lives Matter Movement? And, how can I take action in the movement for racial equality?
Speak Up for Racial Equality
We cannot stay silent in the fight for racial justice. My voice, along with millions of others who challenge racial discrimination is critical more than ever. As Elie Wiesel, a Holocaust survivor, writer, and activist, so eloquently writes, “We must take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented. Sometimes we must interfere. When human lives are endangered, when human dignity is in jeopardy, national borders and sensitivities become irrelevant. Wherever men and women are persecuted because of their race, religion, or political views, that place must – at the moment – become the center of the universe.”
Although it may feel uncomfortable to step outside of our comfort zone and privileged bubble, it is necessary. One way to do this is to speak up when a friend, colleague, or family member makes a racist remark and let them know that you won’t tolerate discrimination and racism of any kind. Many times people remain silent because no one else is speaking up in the room, they don’t want to be the one to disturb the peace, or they worry about what people will think of them if they speak up. I don’t doubt that we have all been there in one form or another. But we must remember that silence equals violence.
Examples of Injustice: Reasons to Challenge the System
As a therapist, I bear witness to many tragic stories from my non-white clients, many of whom suffer from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Here are some of their stories:
- One of my Black clients who has a high-level position at a university was stopped by the police 27 times for no reason, other than his color.
- One of my bi-racial clients was thrown down, handcuffed and put in a holding cell overnight by a police officer because he raised his hand to stop and protect a Black friend from being harassed by the cop during a protest.
- Many of my Black clients have been stopped, for no reason, when driving in a predominantly white neighborhood.
- Most of my Black clients prefer not to drive luxury cars for fear of being stopped by the police.
- One Black client was mistaken for being the server at a party because she was the only Black person there.
These are just a few of their stories. The list goes on and on.
As I confront my privilege, and channel my anger and outrage, I am seeking ways to become an ally and activist for the Black Lives Matter Movement. I am educating myself about racism, donating to causes to combat racism, and attending protests. The protest I recently attended was inspiring and energizing as I marched aside people of all races, ethnicities, religions and ages. If attending a protest is not an option for you, there are so many other ways to take action. Below are suggestions on how to confront individual and systemic racism.
8 Ways to Take Action to Dismantle Racism
- Educate yourself on racial inequalities, racism, and white privilege; the following are a few excellent resources:
- White Fragility by Robin DiAngelo
- How to be an Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi
- So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo
- The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander
- Watch documentaries about race issues, such as:
- I Am Not Your Negro
- Crime + Punishment
- Whose Streets?
- The Kalief Browder Story
- Attend peaceful protests that are happening daily in many cities across the country
- Volunteer for a local organization that fights against racism and discrimination
- Donate money to an organization that supports racial, religious, and ethnic equality
- Listen to and follow Black leaders and activists
- Raise your children in an environment that promotes equality, peace, and tolerance
- Engage in respectful, yet tough conversations about race with friends and family
I challenge you to take action in this important fight for racial equality. Since the topic is “hot,” so many of us are fully immersed into the cause, which is great! But, it’s important that we not burn out and think that our work is done after this week or next week. Pacing ourselves is key – it’s a marathon, not a sprint. If we all do our part, I am confident that our positive actions will contribute to a more equal, tolerant and peaceful society.
As always, please feel free to email me with questions, concerns or comments. Contact me here.
Karen Chinca is a Licensed Independent Clinical Social Worker with over fifteen years of experience working with adults and families. Karen’s specialties include treating anxiety and panic disorders, eating disorders, OCD, and trauma. Karen incorporates cognitive behavioral therapy, dialectical behavioral therapy, internal family systems and mindfulness into her practice.