In which I prepare a launch pad
The wave of protests across the United States and beyond in pursuit of just responses to the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and a whole horrible timeline of others—protests which, in their own right, have been mostly peaceful and entirely necessary—is different from previous expressions of outrage. Different for all the right reasons, as hitherto-quiet intersections of people voice (and back up, physically or financially) their intolerance of the violence perpetrated and perpetuated by the state.
Accompanying the movement is a heartening push toward encouraging and enabling self-education, particularly the self-education of white America. Social media channels overflow with threads of Black-owned businesses in need of support, Black creators in need of patronage, and Black perspectives in need of amplification. Not to mention long reading lists in which political theory meets Black history—Black history being essential to, and synonymous with, American history.
It remains only for us to genuinely work our way through those lists, as we prepared to do more, so that we might be able to do more.
I’ll be the first to admit that I have not, up to now, done The Most Work to consistently further the cause of true equity and justice despite my love and respect for my Black friends and colleagues. Love and respect don’t hold much weight without Work. But the ideas were heavy. The reading was difficult. News flash: that’s the point. Heavy and difficult don’t begin to describe the lives fraught with exploitation, abuse, and immanent fear of institutions designed more for their persecution than for their protection.
In the present moment, as the potential for real change looms large, as I search for ways to contribute meaningfully from a great geographical distance, I am trying to do The Most Work. Commit to being vocal for the long haul. Make up for lost time, for the lenient attitude I once intuited—and from whom?—that I could afford to adopt. Leniency was never an option.
During this quest to fill the holes in my own education (left by the public school system, might I add), I owe what little platform I have to providing resources for the education of privileged individuals, and to spotlighting the thoughts of a community still resisting the extermination they have resisted for four centuries and counting.
To say there’s a wealth of material out there—on intersectionality, civil rights history, abolition of prisons and police, etc.—would be a gross understatement. It can be hard to know where to begin. So here is a (hopefully) non-overwhelming selection of media which have informed me and inspired continued learning. I hope they can do the same for you.
Dan Berger, Mariame Kaba, and David Stein, “What Abolitionists Do” (2017)
Kimberle Crenshaw, “Demarginalizing the Intersection of Race and Sex: A Black Feminist Critique of Antidiscrimination Doctrine, Feminist Theory, and Antiracist Politics” (1989)
Angela Davis, Women, Race, & Class (1981)
Angela Davis, Are Prisons Obsolete? (2003)
bell hooks, Ain’t I a Woman?: Black Women and Feminism (1982)
Lewis Nkosi, “An UnAmerican in New York” (2000)
NPR’s Code Switch, hosted (primarily) by Shereen Marisol Meraji and Gene Demby
Call Your Girlfriend, hosted by Ann Friedman and Aminatou Sow
Waiting on Reparations (brand-new—only one full episode—a great way to get in on the ground floor), hosted by Dope Knife and Linqua Franqa
And, as a starting point for access to petitions, funds, and other avenues of action: Black Lives Matter.
Change begins with understanding, and understanding begins with us.
Abolish corrupt systems. Fight fascism. Uplift underrepresented and undervalued groups.
And do your part. It’s a bigger part than you realize.
P.S. As it’s Pride Month as well, we would do well to strive to specifically illuminate and validate the Black and Brown LGBTQ+ community.
Image: the Black Power salute, officially dating back to 1966