Features

America Has a Lot to Learn. Here are Some Places to Start

By Julissa James

In June, one of the greatest civil rights reckonings of our time was sparked after Minneapolis police officers unjustly killed an unarmed Black man named Gorge Floyd. A gruesome video of his final moments, knee to his neck, calling out for his mother, was the last of countless straws. It prompted people across the globe to wake from their pandemic slumber and take to the streets in protest. In the following weeks, industries, companies and individuals began to hold up a mirror to the ways they had participated in systemic racism, and wondered how to change. 

That’s the thing about supporting Black lives, it doesn’t end when you post an black square on your Instagram feed. (Seriously, what was that?) It’s the movies we watch, the designers we wear, the restaurants we choose and the organizations we support. It’s everything and everywhere — kind of like racism itself. Here are some suggestions to get you thinking, get you talking, get you on your way to becoming a better ally for the Black community. 

‘Still Processing,’ A New York Times podcast by culture writers Jenna Wortham and Wesley Morris, examines pop culture through the lens of race and identity.

Listen to this podcast. With their award-winning podcast, Still Processing, New York Times culture writers Jenna Wortham and Wesley Morris examine pop culture through the lens of race and identity. They do so with both authority and vulnerability as two Black, queer people living in America, while maintaining a conversational tone that’s hard not to fall in love with. (Not to mention, they both have ties to San Francisco. Morris is a Pulitzer Prize-winning movie critic who wrote reviews and essays for the Examiner and Chronicle back in the day, while Wortham got her start as an intern for San Francisco Magazine before covering tech culture at Wired Digital.)

Brother Vellies accessories are handmade by artisans in places like South Africa, Ethiopia, Kenya and Morocco, creating work for local craftspeople, and keeping traditions alive

Wear this label. Brother Vellies by Aurora James is a perpetually sold-out line of shoes, handbags and leather goods that’s become a favorite for both its sustainable practices and uniquely beautiful designs. James’ accessories are handmade by artisans in places like South Africa, Ethiopia, Kenya and Morocco, creating work for local craftspeople, and keeping traditions alive. In the wake of Floyd’s killing, James also started the 15 Percent Pledge, a campaign encouraging major retailers to carry at least 15 percent of Black-owned businesses, since Black people make up 15 percent of the population in the U.S. 

Gil Scott-Heron’s deep wisdom and penchant for mixing jazz, poetry and politics still resonates deeply today, and was never more apparent than on his 1971 album, Pieces of a Man.

Listen to this album. Soon after protests began sprouting all over the world, footage of the late, great Gil Scott-Heron began to flood social media. This was no accident. Scott-Heron’s deep wisdom and penchant for mixing jazz, poetry and politics still resonates deeply today, and was never more apparent than on his 1971 album, Pieces of a Man, which features the uprising classic, The Revolution Will Not Be Televised

Watch this documentary. If you’re going to learn about racism in America, you need to learn about mass incarceration in America. Because as 13th, the award-winning documentary by Ava DuVernay makes clear, they’re inextricably linked. It’s a dense lesson in the ways the prison system disproportionately affects Black people, including insights from activist Angela Davis, The New Jim Crow author Michelle Alexander and Bryan Stevenson, founder of the Equal Justice Initiative. 

“How to be an Antiracist,” shows how people can become antiracist through personal accounts on behalf of its author, scientific research and prescient moments in history.

Read this book. There’s a reason you’ve seen How to Be an Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi at the top of every reading list in recent weeks. The New York Times bestseller is an effective call to action, showing how people can become antiracist through personal accounts on behalf of the historian and educator, scientific research and prescient moments in history. 

Buy from these businesses. It’s impossible to choose just one of the many great Black-owned businesses to support in the Bay. Instead, get acquainted with the Bay Area Organization of Black Owned Business’ comprehensive directory, created by mother of two YaVette Holts. The organization itself is dedicated to the advancement and connection of Black business owners in the region. baobobdirectory.com

Get involved with this organization. Showing Up for Racial Justice’s Bay Area chapter is a good place to start if you’re white and looking for ways to become a stronger anti-racist ally for the Black community. Known as SURJ, the organization encourages a “multi-racial majority for justice” through education, community organizing and accountability. surjbayarea.org 

Have this conversation. Already planning your post-pandemic dinner party? What a perfect time to talk about race in America! This guide from the Kellogg Foundation makes it easy with deep questions to get your guests thinking, such as: How often do you think about your racial or ethnic identity? In what ways does your racial identity impact your personal/professional life? How often/deeply do you interact with people of a different racial/ethnic identity other than your own? Have you ever witnessed someone being treated unfairly because of their racial or ethnic identity? If so, how did you respond? 

Follow this person on Twitter. Ijeoma Oluo, the New York Times bestselling author of So You Want to Talk About Race? and self-described “Internet Yeller,” has been calling out racial injustices on social media long before the rest of the world followed suit last month. Her Tweets are as thought-provoking and no-nonsense as her book — also a must-read for anyone doing the work of self-excavation. 

Tags

Related Articles

Back to top button
Close