How You Can ACT to End Racism
Written by Kathryn Allen, CFYJ Communications Fellow
Racism is not a new phenomenon. The very founding of the United States happened on the backs of enslaved Africans, brought to this stolen-land to build the wealth of white land-owners. From slavery to the Jim Crow Era, to Mass Incarceration and police brutality, Black people in the United States have always been treated as less-than. Latinx folks, Native Americans, and other People of Color have their own traumatic histories of being othered, killed, and robbed of their identities. This oppression stretches into the present in new and troubling ways, with Black folks facing disproportionate boundaries to career advancement and wealth-building tools, and disproportionate negative health outcomes. In the Juvenile Justice world, we see Black and Brown children more often sentenced to time in detention, and transferred to adult courts than any other racial group.
Despite all of this oppression, all of this history, and all of the quantitative and qualitative data that proves the existence of White Privilege, some people are learning about a lot of it for the first time. Our education system privileges the stories of White people and is quick to gloss over the oppression of People of Color prevalent in U.S. History. If you’re white, you likely have to go out of your way to understand racism. If you’re Black or another Person of Color, you’ve never had a choice in the matter.
With the current nationwide outcry against Police Brutality sparked by the murders of countless Black folks including George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, many feel called to act. Saying that Black Lives Matter is important, but showing support through action is essential. So what can you do? How can you be anti-racist, fight against centuries-old systems of oppression, and still show up to your day job? We at the Campaign for Youth Justice encourage you to ACT(Awaken, Confront, and Transform) to End Racism.
A.C.T to End Racism
Awaken- A vital step in being anti-racist is the process of unlearning or relearning. White folks, in particular, have to do the work to understand their privilege and the systems that oppress Black communities. The best way to do this is to listen. Listen to those who have studied racism, specifically the Black academics, authors, speakers, and organizers. Here is our 2020 Summer Reading list to get you started. There are endless resources that can help you relearn U.S. history, and better understand racism on both an individual and a systemic level. Do your research! Follow Black activists on social media and listen to what they have to say. Most of all, don’t turn away from what’s happening in the world. Part of White Privilege is the ability to look away because something doesn’t affect you.
Confront- Confronting racism means calling it out when you see it in yourself and in the people around you. On the individual level, you can confront your own racism by acknowledging your prejudice and digging deeper. Why do I think that way? Why do I feel uncomfortable? How can I be better? You can prioritize Black voices in your workplace by making sure that your company’s policies are diverse, equitable, and inclusive. You can hold the people around you accountable for their words and actions - make any form of racism absolutely unacceptable in your presence. Attend the protests, call your representatives, and get involved in the Black Lives Matter movement in any way you can. Research how political candidates have supported communities of color in their past and how they will do so in the future - and then go out and vote whenever possible for officials that are anti-racist and dedicated to an equitable society.
Transform- When we awaken to racism and confront it, we forge a path towards transformation. We CAN transform our society into a place of equal opportunity where anyone can live their life without the threat of discrimination. But that is not yet our reality and we have a lot of work to do before it is. To do this, every person of every race has to awaken and confront racism. We all have to work through our internal prejudices and vow to raise the next generation differently.