Before I begin, let me preface this by saying it is not the black community's responsibility to educate anyone on how to help.
My sister took French in high school (while most took Spanish), so naturally she decided to choose
French has her language elective in college which led to her wanting to get a degree in French. Getting a degree in French meant she had to go to school in France. Sure, her French teachers knew French grammar... how to conjugate verbs, where to place nouns, etc. it was even her teacher's first language. So, why did she have to go to France? In order to be considered completely proficient in the language, she had to go to France. Learning French takes more than just learning the language. You have to learn the accents, the slang, the food, the fashion... you have to be completely submerged in the culture to get the language and understand the FULL context of how certain words are used and why.
I hope you can see where I am going with this...
I have gotten a lot of questions about what people can do to help, where to being, and how to change things. I will not pretend I have all of the answers, or that my suggestions are the best. I actually don't have much in the way of what you can do to see change today...This is what I have so far.
In order to even begin to understand the plight of black people you have to first acknowledge that racism is very real and that slavery is still having an effect on us today. After that, I would strongly suggest learning the culture which takes being submerged (not in a Rachel Dolezal way though). It's the only way to fully empathize. I feel strongly that diversity training and cultural sensitivity courses are nice, but those are the equivalent of learning french in class from a text book. If you are really serious about joining hands with black people, you have to be willing to expose yourself to being a minority. Ok, so you are wondering how to do that and where to start... once again, I don't have all the answers but these might get you started:
1. Try joining a black church. Black churches are the cornerstone of the black community and have always been. Most every denomination and non-denomination has a black church. Sure, it will feel strange, you won't know what to say, you won't be sure if people are looking at you or not, you might feel "othered". It's ok. Black people deal with those feelings all the time! Think about that one black person on your job, at your school, in your yoga class... think about how often and how well we adjust. It will take some time, some people might be rude; but if we can do it you can do it too! Don't just stop at attending, get involved, become an usher, greeter, join the choir, the children's ministry... find something to do, and don't come with the idea of "fixing" anything that appears to need fixing. Most importantly, bring a snack! You will probably be there longer that what you are used to.
2. If you want your hair cut, trimmed, or colored, do some research and start going to a black hair salon or barber shop. Black hair salons and barbershops are another cornerstone of the black community. It is where tears are shed, engagements are announced, business partners are found, friendships are made, and lots of tea is spilled (probably too much). Yes, people will be SHOCKED to see you there. But those hairstylists attended cosmetology school where they learned to do hair on mannequins with your hair texture. Cosmetologists learn on white clients. (I get my hair trimmed at Great Clips when I straighten it. It makes the stylists nervous when I come in, but they relax shortly after I let them know I'm only getting a trim). So, you will be just fine. Once again, bring a snack, you might be there a while. You will get to witness the meticulous care that is given to black hair, and you will learn the ins and outs of, raising black children, racism, husbands, girlfriends... all the things.
3. If you have a child that attends a predominately white school please allow your child to join some type of organization or extra curricular activity where they will be around children of other races or even be the minority! This is so important. It might be tough on them at first and they will probably have tons of questions every time they come home, but, it's ok to say, "I don't know but we will figure it out". This gives the child the opportunity to learn to be ok with being different, learn to communicate with people that don't look like them, and learn to TRUST people that don't look like them. All of this will happen while you get to spend time with other parents and learn the same things.
On a political level I am still trying to figure out how any of us can demand real change and what that needs to look like. However, these are a few things I think might help.
1. I think we can start by demanding that a social media screening (yep, this is 2020 where Twitter is your list of references) is added to background checks for police officers during the hiring process. A lot of these officers have been known to post racist or questionable things on social media. One of the officers who killed David McAtee posted statements mocking protesters the day before she shot him. This could start with beginning a petition.
2. Pay very close attention to who is appointed/elected as chief of police and sheriff. When election time rolls around we can work together on really vetting these chiefs before we vote on them. Perhaps petition to have them hold public town halls as a part of the campaign process so we/you can ask questions and see where there heads are... at least in states where they are elected and not appointed.
3. If you live in a district the is predominantly white, don't just pay attention to who is running for city council in your district. Do your research on who is running in the black neighborhoods. This determines how well the black communities are being served, don't just check a box when you get to those other districts. You should be in City Hall fighting the same issues black people are fighting.
4. I am really considering organizing "Racism is Deadly" run/walks around he country. This would simply look like all participants wearing a shirt that says "Racism is Deadly" and walking or running in local parks. This would not be a usual protest, but a way to send a strong message while doing things that we normally do, like walk/run in the park. If you are interested in hosting in your city please message me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
5. Donate to organizations that help the victims of families who can not afford lawyer fees.
6. SUPPORT BLACK BUSINESSES! There are so many out there, and the sad truth is that if black people don't support businesses nobody will.
7. Be ANTI-Racist. Not being racist isn't quite enough. You have to be vocal, use STRONG words to express to your friends, family, and collegues why these events are wrong.
7. Lastly, I will say join in with protesters ad don't be silent on social media. I think those are self explanatory.
I will say it one last time, I don't have all the answers, but I do know that to learn and bond with other cultures you have to submerge. Learning to live with and trust black people will create lasting effects and begin to change the next generation.
While my sister was in school in France she told me the first few months were ROUGH. She wasn't allowed to speak any English in class so she spent a lot of time just being quiet...listening... trying to take it all in. When she went out people chuckled to themselves when she spoke her broken French but she was still learning and everyday it got better. She made friends and eventually had no problem navigating the country alone. After she told me how great it was I decided to visit as well. After visiting her in France, I saw that it was not that scary to not know the language. Most times people will notice you trying to find the words to say, and they will help you out or even speak to you in your language. I was bitten by the travel bug so much so that I even worked in Europe for a few months myself. However, I probably would have never done it if she didn't take the first step to get out of her comfort zone.
I hope this encourages at least one person to "Go to France" (figuritively), you'll be ok, someone will reach out to you and others will follow your lead.
PS I am sure a lot of black people will be upset or even disagree with this post, and I invite you to use your platforms to make suggestions.