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Sustaining Our Anti-Racist Practices Over Time

Written by Lydia Proulx

Unlike our previous blog posts, this one has a more specific intended audience. This post is for me and my white peers. This is our task, not that of our peers, neighbors, friends, and family of color. If this causes a defensive reaction in your gut; that’s okay. Discomfort can be a helpful cue that there is more to listen to and to learn. Let’s start there!

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We have to understand that while our own, personal commitment to Black Lives Matter and anti-racism may be at an all-time high, that support among white people for the Black Lives Matter movement as a whole is slowing down

In his article, Michael Tesler writes, “….the share of white Americans who said racism is a big problem decreased from 45 percent in June to 33 percent when the question was last asked in early August.” That’s a 12% drop in just a couple of months. How can we reach that 12% of our white peers and bring them back in? And then reach out to the remaining 55%? It will take time. A lot of time. How do we stay in it for the long haul?

White folks are responsible for bringing our white peers and loved ones into this conversation and into this work. We must be unrelenting, because racism is unrelenting. We must continue to unlearn and learn again, because our peers and neighbors and our children of color never had the luxury of not knowing that the world is run against them. We must be willing to risk connections, opportunities, comfort in our social circles, and unkindness from those we have considered friends for so long because every morning, people of color wake up and risk these things whether or not they want to. If we are going to be true allies, accomplices, neighbors, and loved ones of people of color and in this movement, we must align ourselves with their stories, struggles, and successes. We cannot continue to align ourselves with what keeps us safest (our whiteness). We must choose to stand with and alongside our Indigenous, Black, Asian, Pacific Islander, and Latino/a/x leaders and their communities. It is the only way we will ever realize a world where freedom, safety, and healing are possible. 

“Alright, Lydia,” you say,”but I am one person. And it’s a pandemic. And I’m really, really tired.” 

I hear you. I am tired, too. Changing how we live our daily lives so we are sustaining new practices is hard. It is difficult, and this is essential work if we want to change our culture, policies, and norms for the better. So let’s talk about ways we can create daily practices to sustain the multiracial movement for social justice in our country! 

Recognize burnout.

Tatiana Mac (@tatianamac on Twitter) offers six ways we may be overloading ourselves in the moment, and can spread action out over time so we are sustaining a practice instead. Use a self-assessment tool, like this one from Dean Spade, to check in on how you are feeling (and re-take it over time to see changes.) Finally, refer to our previous blog on self-care plans – these can be useful for dealing with burnout when and if it happens to you.

Prioritize our time.

Many of us have a lot going on in our day to day lives. We may be working, going to school, taking care of family, volunteering, and/or organizing. We also need to eat and rest. This may mean we have to make intentional decisions about how we prioritize our time. If you enjoy playing video games for an hour or two each day, can you choose to spend 30 minutes of that time reading a book by a Black author instead? Maybe we have to decide to join that Zoom meeting about racism and discipline in our local school system instead of going for a hike. If you’re re-watching your favorite show on Netflix, can you take some time to watch a film suggested by your local library? A tool such as the Eisenhower Matrix can be a useful organization strategy for prioritizing our time!

Money, money, money. Funding is important.

There’s no way around it. A lot of the groups and individuals leading anti-racist work in the United States right now need financial support. If you’re someone who has donated or is able to donate, consider a small reoccurring (like $5 weekly or monthly) instead of a larger, one-time donation. it may be that you can only donate $25 now, but what if you donated $5 per month – that’s $60 a year! More than double the “larger” sum. Apps like Every Dollar can help you set up a budget that includes your ongoing donation.

We’re going to make mistakes. Let’s learn how to apologize and grow.

We, humans, can learn when we make mistakes. In order to heal a hurt and then grow, we need to understand how to apologize for our errors while taking responsibility for them. This article from Leaving Evidence is a helpful place to start!

What does sustainable activism mean for you?

Consider this visual representation of sustainable activism from @britchida on Instagram. What are your streams? Where do they intersect? How does your own lived experience impact – positively or negatively – your advocacy and/or activism? 

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Talk to your friends and peers.

Is there something you can all do together? Having peers help keep us accountable to new habits or lessons learned can be really helpful, especially in a time where we are isolated from one another due to a global pandemic. In This Together Los Angeles shared these suggestions on Instagram. Can you read books together? Shop and donate to local food pantry or shelter each week? What about creating and sharing art that reinforces a message of anti-racism and love in your community? 

How are you staying dedicated to anti-racism? Let us know in the comments!

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