I want to give major props to all the activists out there fighting the good fight. The good, hard, exhausting, frustrating, dangerous fight against racism. Personal racism. Systemic racism. Institutional racism. Jim Crow racism. The New Jim Crow racism. And every other kind of anti-Black racism in-between.
See, I’m like a baby taking its first steps when it comes to learning what it means to organize, to march, to protest, to take concrete political action to fight against racism. Before this year, the only two things I could put on my activist’s resume was marching in the 1992 women’s pro-choice march in Washington D.C. to protest the near overturning of Roe vs. Wade, and that time I was ten and me and my childhood friend Wanda Malinowski watched the 1970’s TV movie, Women In Chains, about women in prison. We switched the theme up for feminism, took our handmade posters and walked circles around the green in front of our houses, chanting: “WOMEN IN CHAINS!” “BREAK THE CHAINS!”
Now I’m just one of a bunch of white folks who have finally gotten upset enough over the more visible racism that Black people have been living, and trying to tell us about all these years. While I’ve been writing about race relations and racism for about ten years, my engagement in political action is recent. I might as well consider myself as riding the wave along with the post-Presidential election activists who are fearful of what’s to come for, not only people of color, but for the immigrant, Muslim, and LGBTQ communities, too. Oh, and let’s not forget women’s rights, and the threat of strict anti-choice measures.
So, I’m reading friends’ posts on Facebook instructing me on which political leaders I can write to fight certain upcoming legislation, and push for others. And, I’ve been going to the local Resist Hate meetings and the local White Noise Collective meetings here in Providence, Rhode Island, and learning what it means to organize and take action. It’s been four meetings so far. All of them were packed in attendance–from 100 to 500 attendees–and at times I found it hard to focus, to take in all the information, all the voices, all the categories of things to fight for and against, to figure out where I fit in, what I had to offer.
The meetings, held on the East Side of Providence where I live, had a majority of white people in attendance. White Noise Collective, after all, is an organization of white people who are standing up for racial justice, so that makes sense. At the Resist Hate meetings, there were mostly white people, but there were people of color in attendance, too. Some of them spoke about needing white people to fight for racial justice, because we are the ones who created the racist systems and structures, and are responsible for dismantling them, and for bringing attention to the cause, that as we know, so wrongly, does not get the attention it deserves when only Black people voice their concerns. I believe as Martin Luther King, Jr. said that white people’s freedom is bound with Black peoples’, and with all peoples’ freedom. If one of us isn’t free, none of us are free.
And yet, I also saw a few, slight, side-eyes, and hints of mild skepticism from some Black people at the Resist Hate meeting. I have to say I can’t blame them. The Black woman and Black man at the school cafeteria table I sat across from at that first meeting have been community activists for thirty years. I know there were white people, too, at these meetings who have a long history of activism, yet, we have to admit, that it is the election that has brought many of us out for the first time to rise up and act. If I myself wonder how many of us white people will still be coming to the meetings six months from now, I can only imagine some Black people aren’t holding their breath either to find out if we’ll keep showing up to fight the fight.
As I wondered this, I recalled being tired after finishing work at the psych hospital and running down to the second Resist Hate meeting right afterward in the freezing cold. It was not appealing, but I went. The night of the second White Noise meeting, came after a day of work, a non-profit Board meeting, and non-stop rain. Again, I was not initially feeling it, but I went. These gatherings got me excited. These gatherings also overwhelmed; left me mentally exhausted. So that’s what got me to thinking that just getting myself to a couple of meetings was an effort. That this is work. And that activism doesn’t care if you are tired, or have a job, or have kids, or are worrying about how you are going to pay next month’s rent, or that it’s cold out. And, surely, I can’t be white girl whining about just a couple of meetings. Activists committed to a cause are working tirelessly ALL THE TIME.
And so, I give a grand tip of the hat and a raised fist to all the anti-racism activists who have been working forever and a day for freedom and equality for all of us. I salute you.
To the civil rights movement activists we know:
To the civil rights movement activists we don’t know:
To the civil rights activists who didn’t get the chance:
To the women activists deemed dangerous:
To the activists who founded Black Lives Matter:
To the white civil rights activists who came when Dr. King called:
To the Waking Up White activists:
To the artist activists of yesterday:
To the celebrity activists of today:
To activists borne out of tragedy:
To the social media activists of today who you know:
To the social media and real-life activists that you may not know…yet:
To the activists who live around the corner from you (literally), who you don’t know:
To local activist organizations:
To local arts activism organizations:
To local theaters who support activism:
This is just a handful of countless thousands who have given, and continue to give their lives to fighting racism and injustice. Thank you, thank you, thank you.