The Westport Library partners with TEAMWestport to host a virtual book club discussion on Dr. Ibram X. Kendi's "How to be an Antiracist." The conversation will be led by members of TEAMWestport.
Black Lives Matter has always been more of a human rights movement rather than a civil rights movement. BLM's focus has been less about changing specific laws and more about fighting for a fundamental reordering of society wherein Black lives are free from systematic dehumanization. Still, the movement’s measurable impact on the political and legal landscape is undeniable.
What gets referred to as “the Black Lives Matter movement” is, in actuality, the collective labor of a wide range of Black liberation organizations, each which their own distinct histories. These organizations include groups like the Black Youth Project 100, the Dream Defenders, Assata’s Daughters, the St. Louis Action council, Millennial Activists United, and the Organization for Black Struggle, to name just a few. (Continue reading from ACLU)
TEAM Westport is the official committee of the Town of Westport established to “achieve, celebrate and extend a more welcoming, multicultural community” with a focus on race, ethnicity, sexual orientation and religion. TEAM is an acronym standing for “Together Effectively Achieving Multiculturalism.” (Continue reading from TEAM Westport)
As millions of people across the country take to the streets and raise their voices in response to the killing of George Floyd and the ongoing problem of unequal justice, many people have reached out asking how we can sustain momentum to bring about real change.
Ultimately, it’s going to be up to a new generation of activists to shape strategies that best fit the times. But I believe there are some basic lessons to draw from past efforts that are worth remembering. (Continue reading from Barack Obama via Medium)
by Tochi Onyebuchi for Tor
At some point on the night of November 24, 2015, the Foodtown grocery at 148th and St. Nicholas caught fire.
In the spring of that year, I had graduated from Columbia Law School and was, that fall, living in Harlem and working as a Volunteer Assistant Attorney General and Civil Rights Fellow with the Office of the New York State Attorney General. Twice-daily, five days a week, I would pass that Foodtown grocery store, heading to and from a job where I and fewer than a dozen others were tasked with enforcing federal and local civil rights laws for the State of New York. By the time I had passed that intersection the morning after the fire, the front window was gone and inside was nothing but bitumen.
A haze hung over much of that morning. It followed me down into the Financial District where we were headquartered at the time. Despite the luminosity outside, my office was shrouded in darkness. I’d made the mistake the night prior of watching the recently released dashcam footage of Laquan McDonald’s final moments. The incident itself takes place near the end of the nearly seven-minute clip. Much of the video’s body is taken up with reckless driving and distorted sound such that one hears, instead of a siren wailing, a dying thing, drowning. Such videos were legion back then. Social media was lousy with them. They spawn and consume Facebook newsfeeds and Twitter timelines like cancer cells. At some point, they lose their shock and induce only numbness, in part because the result is almost always the same: that cavernous yawning that faces the colored American public where justice or restitution or vengeance should be found. Sometimes, however, the horror leaps back out and becomes a visceral, churning thing. It scoops out insides and it renders nerve endings more sensitive, sets them afire, and it cripples the muscles that hold one up. The heart deflates, and one feels, instead of a deadening, a dying. (Continue reading from Tor)
Words and their multiple uses reflect the tremendous diversity that characterizes our society. Indeed, universally agreed upon language on issues relating to racism is nonexistent. We discovered that even the most frequently used words in any discussion on race can easily cause confusion, which leads to controversy and hostility. It is essential to achieve some degree of shared understanding, particularly when using the most common terms. In this way, the quality of dialogue and discourse on race can be enhanced.
Language can be used deliberately to engage and support community anti-racism coalitions and initiatives, or to inflame and divide them. Discussing definitions can engage and support coalitions. However, it is important for groups to decide the extent to which they must have consensus and where it is okay for people to disagree. It is also helpful to keep in mind that the words people use to discuss power, privilege, racism and oppression hold different meanings for different people. For instance, people at different stages of developing an analysis tend to attach different meanings to words like discrimination, privilege and institutional racism. Furthermore, when people are talking about privilege or racism, the words they use often come with emotions and assumptions that are not spoken. (Continue reading from Racial Equity Tools)
“I’m not a racist.”
That’s what Amy Cooper, a white woman, said when she publicly apologized for calling the police on a black man bird-watching in Central Park.
The words rang especially hollow coming from Cooper. After all, the previous day she had used her position as a white woman to summon police — and the potential for police violence — against editor and birder Christian Cooper after he asked her to put her dog on a leash. “I’m going to tell them there’s an African American man threatening my life,” she says in a video that quickly went viral.
Not everyone acquires the overnight infamy of Amy Cooper. But her claim of non-racism was a familiar one. If asked, most people would probably say they are not racist. And they’re especially likely to say it after they’ve already done something racist. As Ibram X. Kendi, director of the Antiracist Research and Policy Center at American University, notes in his book How to Be an Antiracist, “When racist ideas resound, denials that those ideas are racist typically follow.”
But as Kendi also notes, it’s not enough to simply be “not racist.” “The opposite of ‘racist’ isn’t ‘not racist,’” he writes. “It is ‘antiracist.’” (Continue reading from Vox)
Allyship is a process, and everyone has more to learn. Allyship involves a lot of listening. Sometimes, people say “doing ally work” or “acting in solidarity with” to reference the fact that “ally” is not an identity, it is an ongoing and lifelong process that involves a lot of work.
A white ally acknowledges the limits of her/his/their knowledge about other people’s experiences but doesn’t use that as a reason not to think and/or act. A white ally does not remain silent but confronts racism as it comes up daily, but also seeks to deconstruct it institutionally and live in a way that challenges systemic oppression, at the risk of experiencing some of that oppression. Being a white ally entails building relationships with both people of color, and also with white people in order to challenge them in their thinking about race. White allies don’t have it all figured out, but are deeply committed to non-complacency. (Continue reading from Dismantle Collective)
West Hartford police chief Vernon Riddick Jr. takes a knee for eight minutes, as long as police officer knelt on the neck of George Floyd, killing him, in solidarity with peaceful protesters. (CT Mirror)
Travis Jones: How Can White People Be Better Allies To People Of Color? (NPR TED Radio Hour)
by Melanie S. Morrison for Yale Reflections
Twenty years ago, an African-American friend and colleague, Lynnette Stallworth, challenged me to critically examine why I, as a white woman, so often looked to her as the expert on racism, depending on her to call me out or advise me when racist words, behaviors, or policies were at play.
“What happens when I am not here, Melanie?” Lynnette asked. “How are you, as a white person, holding other white people accountable? How are other white people doing that for you? Racism is a white problem and it is long past time for you all to do your own work!”
I was stunned and convicted by her challenge. I had to acknowledge that I and many of my well intentioned white friends did not have vocabulary to talk about racism in an everyday kind of way. We were frequently mired in feelings of guilt. When we encountered racism, we could not be counted on to speak up and confront it. Too often, we fell mute, became confused, reacted with defensiveness, or simply wanted to disappear. I could see that I was not trustworthy, especially when things got hot.
To understand what it means to be white in America and break the silences that surround it requires arduous, persistent, and soul-stretching work. Sadly, too many of us stop short of that deep work. We assume that our good intentions and eagerness to help are enough. We come into multiracial gatherings or organizations expecting to be liked and trusted. But trust isn’t something we are granted simply because we finally showed up. Trust has to be earned, again and again. Or better said, we need to become trustworthy white allies, people passionately committed to eliminating systems of oppression that unjustly benefit us.
Lynnette’s challenge inspired me to launch Doing Our Own Work, an anti-racism program for white people who seek to deepen their commitment to confronting racism and white privilege where they live, work, study, and worship. Doing Our Own Work is designed as a supplement to, not a substitute for, contexts where people of different races discuss and strategize together how racism can be confronted and dismantled. (Continue reading from Yale University)