For me, one of the biggest lessons of the past few years is that values kept locked inside aren’t really values. Speaking up, facing discomfort and an openness to learn are the vital ingredients of living a value-driven life.
As we all process and respond to the murders of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and George Floyd among so many others, for a lot of white people now is a time where we’re thinking seriously about our anti-racist learning (something we should have been doing all along, FYI). This can have some complicated side effects for the black community, who are already dealing with a sort of trauma that we’ll never truly be able to understand. Now is a time where many well-intentioned but, to be clear, wrong, white people will ask their black and brown friends, and black and brown public figures to expend additional emotional labour teaching us how to be better people.
To be clear, that is not okay. Black and brown people don’t owe you emotional labour.
And there are already a ton of resources online so you don’t need to be sliding into anyone’s DMS demanding they educate you. The work exists, you just have to be active in seeking it out.
Today I wanted to highlight a few of the voices I turn to in my own anti-racism work. I want to caveat this post first with the probably obvious but I am just going to mention it anyway note to respect these spaces and, if you’re white, listen more than you talk.
Nova is an inspirational speaker, writer, diversity and anti-racism campaigner. I came to her work through her new podcast, Conversations With Nova Reid where she and a range of guests talk about racism, allyship and what it looks like to really interrogate internalised biases. There are only 12 episodes at the time of writing, so it’s easy to catch up.
Nova’s background is in counselling and wellbeing, something that really shines through in her work, where she asks her audience to step into discomfort and be willing to be vulnerable in our examination of our internalised racism – something we all have, if we’re completely honest with ourselves. Something she has spoken of often that really stuck with me is how our fear of perceiving ourselves as “bad” holds us back from making meaningful progress in anti-racism work. For so many people that hold white privilege, the thought of being called racist is like our worst nightmare. It’s an understandable fear – I totally have it too – but rather than pushing us to be better, that fear really only manifests itself in fragility and an unwillingness to deeply look at the ways that actually we might be kind of racist. Nova’s message – if you’re willing to engage with it and really do the work (100% on you, btw) – is that rather than realising that your worst fears are true, you are in fact, “bad”, by facing your internalised racism you are actually uncovering all of the ways in which you might be better.
Feeling guilty about internalised racism pales in comparison to what it feels like for the people of colour who actually experience it.
Links to Nova’s work
Podcast: Conversations with Nova Reid
Nova’s Tedx talk: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G8iNGeVyvUs
Ways to pay for Nova’s work: [a lot of labour goes into creating resources like this, so it’s important to pay in any way you can. For some of us that means financially supporting, or, if that’s not possible for you right now, it’s spreading the word about their work] There are a couple! Nova has a paid for anti-racism course, which you can read more about at her website. If you aren’t able to afford that right now you can also send her some money via Pay Pal, paypal.me/NovaReid
Layla F Saad
I found Layla’s work recently when Aja Barber (who I’ll get to in a minute) was a guest on her podcast. Layla is most well known for her Instagram challenge and now book Me and White Supremacy, a work that challenges readers to dig deep into their own internalised racism and confront white fragility. I haven’t read her book yet, but I am absolutely loving her podcast, The Good Ancestor Podcast. Layla talks at length about what it means to be a good ancestor, which according to her means working to create a world that is better for future generations. It is a vital idea, and the podcast features conversations with a wide range of anti-racism campaigners, activists, change makers and writers having challenging and revealing conversations about what it means to live in a white supremacy as a person of colour.
Links to Layla’s work
Podcast: The Good Ancestor Podcast
@laylafsaad on Instagram
Book: Me and White Supremacy
Ways to pay for Layla’s work: Aside from the obvious (her book!), Layla also as a Paypal account, paypal.me/LaylaSaad
I came to Aja originally through her work in the realm of ethical fashion. I quickly learned, however, that it’s impossible to talk about ethical fashion without also talking about race. Aja talks more about this on her episode of Layla Saad’s podcast that I’ve already mentioned so do head there to get this in more detail, but the fashion industry is completely bound up in colonialism. From shipping our waste clothes to African countries where they either undercut and damage the local garment industry or wind up filling up landfills, to the underpaid, unsafe, slavery-rife garment sector where the majority of big brands make their products, the industry is largely build at the expense of black and brown bodies – with the many of us turning a blind eye because we just love Zara so much.
Links to Aja’s work:
@ajabarber on Instagram
Read some of Aja’s writing on Eco Age: https://eco-age.com/aja-barber
Ways to pay for Aja’s work: Aja has a Patreon where she regularly posts about ethical brands as well as hosting discussions about news in the world of sustainability at www.patreon.com/AjaBarber
Munroe was actually one of the first anti-racist activists I encountered when a few years ago she was fired as a spokesperson by L’Oreal after speaking out about white supremacy on TV (something that has been in the news a lot in the last couple days as L’Oreal have started using #blacklivesmatter to boost their own profile now it suits them). Munroe Bergdorf is a black trans activist, model and UN Changemaker having challenging discussions about racism and white supremacy and how both those things intersect with LGBTQIA+ issues. As we head into pride month, make sure you follow Munroe.
Links to Munroe’s work:
@munroebergdorf and @goddessplatform on Instagram
Documentary: What Makes A Woman? (this is probably UK-only, sorry)
Ways to pay for Munroe’s work: She is pretty famous so she doesn’t have a Paypal or a Patreon where you can directly pay for her work, but Munroe is a patron of Mermaid, a charity here in the UK that supports trans and gender-diverse children, young people and their families. You can donate to them at mermaids.org.uk/donate
Remember that learning is a life-long thing. Allyship isn’t only engaging with anti-racism work when it’s in the media like it is right now, it’s following activists like these women and regularly engaging with their work. Respectfully. And staying out of their DMs.
Others actions you can take:
There is a live list of updated organisations in Minneapolis in need of financial support, which you can find here: https://bit.ly/fundthecommunity
If you live in the UK, like me, Zing Tsjeng, Vice UK’s executive editor has suggested the following to take action:
Since she tweeted this the report has been released but without any investigation into why this disparity exists or concrete actions that are going to be taken to address it, so the pressure to do more is still very much needed. Writing to your MP can be difficult if you’ve never done it before. If you’d like help or to use the email I wrote as a template then please let me know – my email address is firstname.lastname@example.org
Commit to learning, listening and remembering that anti-racist work starts with the work you do on yourself.