4. If you or a friend is an educator, buy said friend books that feature POC as protagonists and heroes, no matter the racial make-up of the class. A few good lists are here, here, here, here, here, here, and here. And/or purchase educational toys that feature POC, such as finger puppets, Black History Flashcards, etc for their classroom. Use these items year-round, not just in February. The racial make-up of students doesn’t matter — kids of every race need to know American history and be exposed to people from different races, religions, and countries. If the friend is interested, buy them for your pal’s classroom. Don’t be shy to ask Facebook friends that you haven’t actually talked to in ten years.
#4 of the 75 Things White People Can Do For Racial Justice is not as easy as you think. Inspired by my sister Joan and her wife Ama, our family committed a while ago to only reading books with two or more people of color, to only watch movies or tv shows with two or more POC, to only buy black dolls, toys that represented all kids, and so on. It was a challenge. But the key result was that we began to notice race in a different way. I began to see the absence everywhere of representation.
And then I took my mother and daughter to the ballet. It was 2017 and my daughter was six at the time. It was December and we went to see the The Nutcracker at Lincoln Center. Tickets were ridiculously expensive, but it was one of those wasp traditions in my family, and I wanted to please my mother who was in the early stages of dementia. We walked into the grand theater with red carpeting, crystal chandeliers, lots of glass and gold, and settled into our plush upholstered seats. My daughter, who is black, then turned to me and said, “Mom, why are the only black people in here walking the white people to their seats?”
I want to try as hard as I possibly can to notice the world as acutely as my daughter does, but my white privilege is often blinding.
Here’s some essential reading:
“As long as white Americans take refuge in their whiteness—for so long as they are unable to walk out of this most monstrous of traps—they will allow millions of people to be slaughtered in their name.” -James Baldwin
From Baldwin’s 1970 letter to Angela Davis in prison.
“White people in this country will have quite enough to do in learning how to accept and love themselves and each other, and when they have achieved this—which will not be tomorrow and may very well be never—the Negro problem will no longer exist, for it will no longer be needed.” -James Baldwin
From this 1962 essay, “Letter from a Region in My Mind”
And this essay by Melody Cooper:
“Lots of people keep asking me what they can do. We all have a chance to step off the sidelines, to speak up, to take action and to shine a blinding light on the racism lurking in so many corners of our society. We need to fight together wisely, boldly and unflinchingly, while staying aware that our passion and actions can and will be used against us. But we must not stop. This is the time. It will not be easy. It will often be messy, but it must be done.”