Don’t Just Sit There: Do Something

To be a Negro in this country and to be relatively conscious, is to be in a rage almost all the time. So that the first problem is how to control that rage so that it won’t destroy you. – James Baldwin

When therapists refer to “anger,” we call it a blanket emotion, meaning, if you lift up the blanket on the 400-year history of American and its racist ways, you will find feelings of frustration, betrayal, confusion, disappointment, sadness, despair, or being devalued. These feelings bring thoughts like, “Things will never change. Black bodies will always be dehumanized.”

Here’s what I know for sure: if things are ever going to be different, it will take the energy, effort, and labor of White allies to make it different. As I travel our country speaking on this topic, I am sometimes approached by white people with heartfelt sincerity saying, “Dr. Stacey, I never killed anyone, I don’t use the n-word, I don’t have a racist bone in my body. I voted for Barak Obama.” While these things are important in building a more inclusive society and are necessary, they are not sufficient.

White people, if you care, the time has come when you must, in the words of Dr. Ibram X. Kendi, be more than just “not racist,” you must be anti-racist.

  • Continue the process of educating yourself, including the history of race and racism, anti-racism, and white supremacy. There are multiple syllabi and curators listed for you to start. If you google anti-racist syllabus and you will a plethora of readings and videos to choose from.
  • Stand with people of color on the picket lines, in chapter meetings, in classroom discussion, and on social media. If you see or hear something, don’t just be a bystander, but intervene and say something or write something. Use your privilege for good works.
  • Interrupt your privilege and listen. Listen to people of colors’ stories with your whole heart, and remember, when you amplify people of colors’ voices, don’t speak for them—speak as an ally about them.
  • Be diligent and persevere. This is a long-term commitment to being part of a new social paradigm. It’s not a weekend protest.
  • Be clear on who is the victim and who are the perpetrators when black people are brutalized. Eliminate rationales like, “He shouldn’t have been wearing a hoodie” or “He shouldn’t have written a bad check.”
  • Remember racism is a system, not an event, and, you, too, can get caught in that system, perpetuate racism, and act in racist ways.

America is literally on fire, not just because of the tragic murder of George Floyd, but for the thousands upon thousands of George Floyds, all the way back to Kunte Kinte. A roll call of familiar names—Emmett Till, Rodney King, Trayvon Martin, Sandra Bland, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery—are the most infinitesimal fraction of all of the black folks brutalized and murdered that did not make national news.

Every day, I live the knowledge that the names on that list could have included my husband, sons, brother, nephews, cousins, and the other Black men in my life.

Allies, this is your moment. I implore you to please step up and help whoever you can, whenever you can. But whatever you do, don’t just sit there, DO SOMETHING! We are exhausted and need others to pass this mighty baton to in our race for justice and equality.