We are standing at a pivotal moment in history. We each have a choice to make – do we watch on the sidelines, or do we stand up, speak out, march, protest, examine our own beliefs and behaviors, educate ourselves, build bridges across differences, and work for long-term systemic change?
As people of faith, we are called to make the latter choice, not to stand idly by while our neighbor bleeds, but to love our neighbor as ourselves. Many of us, particularly white allies, want to take action, but are not always sure what action to take. We can easily be overwhelmed by the enormity of the task ahead. We have to remember, this is a marathon, not a sprint. As Rev. William Barber likes to remind us, we are building a Movement, not a moment.
With humility, I would like to offer some thoughts and share from what I have learned from African American leaders.
- Show up! Never underestimate the power of simply showing up. Even during the pandemic, there are ways to show up safely. Keep in mind, this current health crisis is just a part of the larger, 400-year long health crisis of racism.
- If you are able, join a march, rally, or protest. Some tips on how to do so safely can be found here.
- If you cannot be present in person, write a letter to the editor, share posts from African American writers on social media, speak about racism to your family, friends, congregations, and communities.
- General interest: There are many books, films, articles, and other resources readily available. A short list is below. For a deeper dive, Wisconsin Voices has put together an extensive list of resources.
- Denomination Specific:
- The Union for Reform Judaism has also put together a list. Some items are specific to the Jewish community but much is of relevance to the general public
- Unitarian Universalist Association Racial Justice
- United Methodists Stand Against Racism
- Presbyterian Church (USA) Facing Racism
- Episcopal Church Racial Reconciliation
- United Church of Christ Racial Justice
- United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism
- Muslim Anti-Racism Collaborative
- Buddhist Peace Fellowship
- Baha’i Race Amity
- Interfaith Coalition of Hindus, Jains, and Sikhs sign statement vowing to fight for racial justice
- American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) - Ending Racism
- Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) Northern Yearly Meeting Anti-racism working group
- Friends General Conference (Quaker)
- Donate - Support African American and other minority-led organizations. Some suggestions:Wisconsin-based organizations:
- Black Enterprise Fund = benefits these black-led organizations - Madison365; Boys and Girls Club; Maydm (introduces girls and youth of color to opportunities in the technology field through interacting with code. We want to support underrepresented youth to recognizing their potential in the STEM field); Madison Black Chamber of Commerce; Urban League
- Freedom Inc. – organizes in communities of color in Madison - sign up to volunteer
- Psalm 46 Fund – co-sponsored by the African American Council of Churches and The Lighthouse – provides COVID-19 Relief funds for African American and Latinx communities
- Black Leaders Organizing Communities (BLOC)
- Milwaukee Inner City Congregations Allied for Hope (MICAH)
- Souls to the Polls – voter registration in African American communities in Milwaukee -
- Voces de la Frontera Direct Relief Fund: COVID-19 Relief for Undocumented Workers
- Voces de la Frontera
- Latinx Consortium for Action COVID-19 Relief Fund
- Centro Hispano of Madison
- Wisconsin Poor People’s Campaign
- 100 Black Men
- Urban League of Greater Madison
- Wisconsin NAACP - find your local branch
- Support minority-owned businesses. Contact your local Chamber of Commerce to get a list. Find out if your local community has a Black Chamber of Commerce and a Latinx Chamber of Commerce. The Wisconsin Black Chamber of Commerce; The Latino Chamber of Commerce – Dane County
- NAACP Legal Defense Fund (a separate organization from the NAACP)
- The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights
- Color of Change
- Equal Justice Initiative
- The Innocence Project
- America’s Black Holocaust Museum
- National Underground Railroad Freedom Center
- National Museum of African American History and Culture
- National Museum of American Indian
- Native American Rights Fund
- United Negro College Fund
- National Domestic Workers Alliance
- RAICES - The Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services
- United We Dream - Youth-Led Immigrant Rights Organization
- Anti-Defamation League
- Southern Poverty Law Center
- Read the Dane County NAACP Statement on the death of George Floyd and support the demands for change and accountability in our police forces.
- As a congregation, leaders, or members – reach out to your local police department, mayors, sheriffs and find out what their policies are:
- Are they banning chokeholds, strangleholds?
- Do they require de-escalation training and implementation?
- Do they require a warning before firing shots?
- Are they required to exhaust all alternatives to shooting?
- Is there a duty to intervene?
- Do you ban shooting at moving vehicles?
- Use of force continuum?
- Is use of force required to be reported?
Mental Health Issues Facing the Black Community: A Resource Guide
- The 1619 Project (NYTimes)
- Code Switch – (NPR)
- Queer WOC (Apple)
- Still Processing (NYTimes)
- Momentum: A Race Forward Podcast (Apple)
Books and Articles
Alexander, Michelle, The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Color Blindness, 2010
Baldwin, James – The Fire Next Time, 1963
Brodkin, Karen, How Jews Became White Folks and What That Says About Race in America, 1998
Coates, Ta-Nehisi, Between the World and Me, 2015
Coates, Ta-Nehisi, We Were Eight Years in Power: An American Tragedy, 2017
Gad, Marra B., The Color of Love: a Story of a Mixed-Race Jewish Girl, 2019
Hooks, Bell, Ain’t I A Woman: Black Women and Feminism, 1981
Irving, Debby, Waking Up White: and Finding Myself in the Story of Race, 2014
Kendi, Ibram X, How to be an Antiracist, Random House, 2019
Oluo, Ijeoma, So You Want to Talk About Race, 2019
Roberts, Dorothy, Killing the Black Body: Race, Reproduction, and the Meaning of Liberty, 1997
Rothstein, Richard, The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America, 2018
Stevenson Bryan, Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption, 2014
Wilkerson, Isabel, The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration, 2010
Hurston, Zora Neale Hurston, Their Eyes Were Watching God, 1937
Morrison, Toni, The Bluest Eye, 1970
Whitehead, Colson, The Underground Railroad, 2018
The 1619 Project, New York Times
75 Things White People Can Do For Racial Justice
The Case for Reparations, Ta-Nehisi Coates,
Black, Jewish And Avoiding the Synagogue On Yom Kippur by Leah Donnella
"What is Owed" by Nikole Hannah Jones, NYTimes Magazine, June 30, 2020
Diversity Training Isn't Enough: Racism, Trauma and Justice - Dr. Joy A. DeGruy
Uncomfortable Conversations with a Black Man - Emanuel Acho
13th – a documentary by Ava DuVernay on how a deliberate loophole in the 13th Amendment has led to modern-day slavery in our prisons
Selma – directed by Ava DuVernay on the days leading up to the historic march across the Edmund Pettis Bridge
When They See Us - directed by Ava DuVernay
I Am Not Your Negro – a documentary about the writer and activist James Baldwin
Hidden Figures – based on the true story of African American women who worked as human ‘computers’ at NASA
If Beale Street Could Talk – directed by Barry Jenkins, based on the James Baldwin novel
Moonlight - directed by Barry Jenkins
Dear White People – directed by Justin Simien
Fruitvale Station – directed by Ryan Coogler
Many of the definitions below, unless otherwise indicated, come from Racial Equity Tools Glossary. The Glossary itself takes definitions from various sources and those sources are cited here. The definitions of many of these terms are fluid and may mean different things to different people or in different contexts.
- Ally - Someone who makes the commitment and effort to recognize their privilege (based on gender, class, race, sexual identity, etc.) and work in solidarity with oppressed groups in the struggle for justice. Allies understand that it is in their own interest to end all forms of oppression, even those from which they may benefit in concrete ways. Allies commit to reducing their own complicity or collusion in oppression of those groups and invest in strengthening their own knowledge and awareness of oppression. OpenSource Leadership Strategies, “The Dynamic System of Power, Privilege and Oppressions.” Center for Assessment and Policy Development.
- Anti-racism includes beliefs, actions, movements, and policies adopted or developed to oppose racism. Anti-Racism is defined as the work of actively opposing racism by advocating for changes in political, economic, and social life. Anti-racism tends to be an individualized approach and set up in opposition to individual racist behaviors and impacts.
- Anti-racist - An anti-racist is someone who is supporting an antiracist policy through their actions or expressing antiracist ideas. This includes the expression or ideas that racial groups are equals and do not need developing and supporting policies that reduce racial inequity. - Ibram X Kendi, How to be an Antiracist, Random House, 2019
- BIPOC = Black and Indigenous People of Color
- Black Lives Matter/The Movement for Black Lives –
- BLM - A political movement to address systemic and state violence against African Americans. Per the Black Lives Matter organizers: “In 2013, three radical Black organizers—Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors, and Opal Tometi—created a Black-centered political will and movement building project called #BlackLivesMatter. It was in response to the acquittal of Trayvon Martin’s murderer, George Zimmerman. The project is now a member-led global network of more than 40 chapters. [Black Lives Matter] members organize and build local power to intervene in violence inflicted on Black communities by the state and vigilantes. Black Lives Matter is an ideological and political intervention in a world where Black lives are systematically and intentionally targeted for demise. It is an affirmation of Black folks’ humanity, our contributions to this society, and our resilience in the face of deadly oppression.”
- The Movement for Black Lives - The Movement for Black Lives (M4BL) formed in December of 2014, was created as a space for Black organizations across the country to debate and discuss the current political conditions, develop shared assessments of what political interventions were necessary in order to achieve key policy, cultural and political wins, convene organizational leadership in order to debate and co-create a shared movement wide strategy. Under the fundamental idea that we can achieve more together than we can separately.
- Chattel slavery - Chattel slavery is the most common form of slavery known to Americans. This system, which allowed people — considered legal property — to be bought, sold and owned forever, was supported by the US and European powers in the 16th – 18th centuries. -
- Defund the police - “Defund the police” means reallocating or redirecting funding away from the police department to other government agencies funded by the local municipality. "Defund" does not mean abolish policing. It means moving funds away from the police and toward social service agencies, community services, education, and mental health services.
- Dog whistle - Dog whistle is a type of strategy of communication that sends a message that the general population will take a certain meaning from, but a certain group that is "in the know" will take away the secret, intended message. Often involves code words.
- Equity - is just and fair inclusion into a society in which all, including all racial and ethnic groups, can participate, prosper, and reach their full potential. Equity gives all people a just and fair shot in life despite historic patterns of racial and economic exclusion.
- Implicit Bias - Also known as unconscious or hidden bias, implicit biases are negative associations that people unknowingly hold. They are expressed automatically, without conscious awareness. Many studies have indicated that implicit biases affect individuals’ attitudes and actions, thus creating real-world implications, even though individuals may not even be aware that those biases exist within themselves. Notably, implicit biases have been shown to trump individuals’ stated commitments to equality and fairness, thereby producing behavior that diverges from the explicit attitudes that many people profess. State of the Science Implicit Bias Review 2013, Cheryl Staats, Kirwan Institute, The Ohio State University.
- Jim Crow/the New Jim Crow - Jim Crow was the name of the racial caste system which operated primarily, but not exclusively in southern and border states, between 1877 and the mid-1960s. Jim Crow was more than a series of rigid anti-black laws. It was a way of life. Under Jim Crow, African Americans were relegated to the status of second-class citizens. Jim Crow represented the legitimization of anti-black racism. The New Jim Crow is a stunning account of the rebirth of a caste-like system in the United States, one that has resulted in millions of African Americans locked behind bars and then relegated to a permanent second-class status—denied the very rights supposedly won in the Civil Rights Movement
- Micro-aggressions - The everyday verbal, nonverbal, and environmental slights, snubs, or insults, whether intentional or unintentional, which communicate hostile, derogatory, or negative messages to target persons based solely upon their marginalized group membership. Derald Wing Sue, “Microaggressions: More than Just Race,” Psychology Today, November 17, 2010,
- Modern slavery – The National Underground Railway Freedom Center identifies five types of modern slavery – forced labor, child slavery, sex workers, debt labor, domestic servitude. The common thread among them is that a person is forced to work against their will, either to pay off a debt, because they have been trafficked and are held against their will and forced to work, or forced to work through intimidation, threat, fraud, or other coercion. https://freedomcenter.org/enabling-freedom/five-forms-of-slavery. Another form of modern-day slavery is prison labor. The 13th Amendment prohibits slavery except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted. Using this loophole, people in prisons are forced to work under threat of punishments including loss of family visitation, solitary confinement, loss of earned time. They are paid pennies an hour, if they are paid at all.
- Not-racist - By reflexively defining yourself as not racist, or beyond racism's firm grip, you're making it impossible to see how your own ideas, thoughts, and actions could be indeed racist. Moreover, being antiracist means moving beyond the "not racist" defense and instead embracing and articulating decidedly antiracist views and beliefs.
- POC = People of Color
- Racism - Merriam-Webster defines racism as "a belief that race is the primary determinant of human traits and capacities and that racial differences produce an inherent superiority of a particular race." Few people would admit that definition reflects their views but nevertheless consciously or unwittingly believe in or endorse racist ideas. Ibram X. Kendi goes further, defining the word racist as: "One who is supporting a racist policy through their actions or inaction or expressing a racist idea." This incisive definition forces the reader to hold themselves accountable for their ideas and actions.
- Reparations - States have a legal duty to acknowledge and address widespread or systematic human rights violations, in cases where the state caused the violations or did not seriously try to prevent them. Reparations initiatives seek to address the harms caused by these violations. They can take the form of compensating for the losses suffered, which helps overcome some of the consequences of abuse. They can also be future oriented—providing rehabilitation and a better life to victims—and help to change the underlying causes of abuse. Reparations publicly affirm that victims are rights-holders entitled to redress. International Center for Transitional Justice "What is Owed" by Nikole Hannah Jones, NYTimes Magazine, June 30, 2020
- School to prison pipeline: In the United States, the school-to-prison pipeline (SPP), also known as the school-to-prison link or the schoolhouse-to-jailhouse track, is the disproportionate tendency of minors and young adults from disadvantaged backgrounds to become incarcerated, because of increasingly harsh school and municipal policies.
- Systemic Racism includes the policies and practices entrenched in established institutions, which result in the exclusion or promotion of designated groups. It differs from overt discrimination in that no individual intent is necessary. (Toronto Mayor's Committee on Community and Race Relations. Race Relations: Myths and Facts)
It manifests itself in two ways:
- institutional racism: racial discrimination that derives from individuals carrying out the dictates of others who are prejudiced or of a prejudiced society
- structural racism: inequalities rooted in the system-wide operation of a society that excludes substantial numbers of members of particular groups from significant participation in major social institutions. (Henry & Tator, 2006, p. 352)
- White fragility - Per Robin DiAngelo, white fragility is “a state in which even a minimum amount of racial stress becomes intolerable [for white people], triggering a range of defensive moves. These moves include the outward display of emotions such as anger, fear, and guilt, and behaviors such as argumentation, silence, and leaving the stress-inducing situation. These behaviors, in turn, function to reinstate white racial equilibrium.” White Fragility, Robin DiAngelo
- White Nationalism/White Supremacy - While white supremacy in the United States is a system designed to maintain control over people of color and the sexuality and reproductive rights of all women, white nationalism is a social movement advancing a mass cultural narrative that is singularly focused on the creation of a white-ethno state. White supremacy in the United States is a system of social control and disparities formed to exploit indigenous populations, Blacks, poor whites, immigrants, and women’s sexual reproduction to maintain the political, cultural, economic, and social domination of those identified as white. Some examples include chattel slavery, the Indian Removal Act of 1830, the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, Jim Crow, ‘Operation Wetback’ in 1964 and anti-miscegenation laws not struck down until 1967 (Loving v. Virginia) to name but a few. Morally and legally defeated by the civil rights movement, de jure white supremacy (legally recognized) gave way to de facto white supremacy (generally known to exist in society, economy, culture, policies, and services, even if not legally authorized) during the 1960s. If white supremacy is a system of disparities and bias used to exploit and maintain control, white nationalism seeks the complete removal of Jews and people of color from the United States altogether. White nationalists seek to dismantle the current state and replace it with a white only ethno-state. In short, ethnic cleansing. Unlike white supremacy, white nationalism is rooted in the anti-Semitic belief that Jews are responsible for the defeat of white supremacy and seek to destroy the “white race” through mass immigration, gay marriage, and a host of inclusionary policies. As White Supremacy Falls Down, White Nationalism Stands Up by Eric K. Ward, Executive Director of The Western States Center,
- White Privilege - Refers to the unquestioned and unearned set of advantages, entitlements, benefits and choices bestowed on people solely because they are white. Generally white people who experience such privilege do so without being conscious of it. Structural White Privilege: A system of white domination that creates and maintains belief systems that make current racial advantages and disadvantages seem normal. The system includes powerful incentives for maintaining white privilege and its consequences, and powerful negative consequences for trying to interrupt white privilege or reduce its consequences in meaningful ways. The system includes internal and external manifestations at the individual, interpersonal, cultural, and institutional levels. White Privilege and Male Privilege: A Personal Account of Coming to See Correspondences Through Work in Women Studies. Peggy McIntosh. 1988; Transforming White Privilege: A 21st Century Leadership Capacity, CAPD, MP Associates, World Trust Educational Services, 2012.