The Day After Those Black Boxes

Like me

You spent days talking and thinking and reading and watching.

Maybe crying, maybe raging, maybe marching, maybe numb.

And then someone told you about #BlackoutTuesday, and you said “YES!”

This is how I show my solidarity.

This is how I crawl out of helplessness.

This is how I show I’m a white person on the right side of history.

Or maybe you did it because you didn’t want people to think otherwise.

So you uploaded the box. Typed appropriate hashtags. Posted.

You marveled. Who had the box, who didn’t. How many or how few.

You continued to talk and think and read and watch.

Maybe another cry, more rage, another march.

But then you saw black voices pushing back on these boxes

They were filling feeds and blocking the public community gathering place

That all of those boxes were supposed to benefit

Wait? Wasn’t this my action step in solidarity?

Wait? Did I do the wrong thing?

This is why I don’t

Don’t post, don’t march, don’t bring up topics, don’t open my mouth

Because I might do it wrong.

It feels gross to be well-intentioned and still. be. wrong.

I’m uncomfortable. Do I take it down? Leave it up?

What will people think? How do I show up?

Stop. Stop. Stop. Stop.

This is it. The stopping. The listening. The learning. The changing.

This is the point.

You might be new here; this fight isn’t new, they say.

You might feel enraged; we carry rage every day, they say.

You might feel uncomfortable; our discomfort is not temporary, they say.

Welcome to the reckoning. It’s not a day long or a week long or a month.

The reckoning with systemic racism and pervasive injustice

That is the work of our lifetime

If your work starts with a box, you better to use it for a better view.

If your work starts with silence, it better be in the service of listening.

If your work begins the day you saw a man murdered by the police

so be it.

But let it be work and not performance.

Let it be a willingness to sit with emotions you almost can’t stand

Like me

Yesterday you posted a black box

Yesterday you scrolled past other black boxes

Today you listen to black voices

Today you don’t walk away

Today you commit to action



Bring up the conversation with other white people

Sign petitions.

Tomorrow you don’t walk away

Tomorrow you commit to action

Following accounts of black activists, artists, CEOs, educators, authors

Buying books, attending lectures, widening your circle

Next week you don’t walk away

You vote on issues of police reform and accountability

You listen, you read, you patronize black businesses

You learn to recognize and call out racism in white spaces

You have hard conversations with your family about racism

Next year you don’t walk away

When your newly widened circles push back on your oh-so-good intentions

You don’t puff up in defensiveness, you listen to learn

When your new perspective asks you to give up money or comfort

You don’t push away; you grapple

How will you spend your money?

Where will you send your children to school?

How will you volunteer precious hours?

Who will you follow?

Yesterday you posted a black box

Today we do better together.

A start from my library of learning and action

Subscribe to podcasts that explicitly discuss race. Some I listen to or recently subscribed are below:

NPR’s Code Switch

Justice in America

The Moth

Serial–yes THE Serial (season 1 & season 3)

Read books written be BIPOC authors who weave the whole experience of race into their works. Some that I have read/listened to or have on my bookshelf are below:

(fiction) Little Fires Everywhere by Celete Ng (also Hulu miniseries)

(fiction) The Hate You Give by Angie Thomas (also a movie)

(memoir) This is Just my Face by Gabourey Sidbe

(memoir) The Last Black Unicorn by Tiffany Haddish

(memoir) Heavy by Kiese Laymon

(memoir) Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay

(memoir) Born a Crime by Trevor Noah

(memoir/poetry) Book of Delights by Ross Gay (has a Harrisburg, PA connections for my locals!)

(nonfiction) The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander

(nonfiction) How to be an AntiRacist by Ibram X Kendi

(nonfiction) Stamped by Jason Reynolds and Ibram X Kendi

(nonfiction) Me and White Supremecy by Layla F. Saad

Donate to anti-racist causes and vote for candidates that discuss race in their platform. Be sure that the office they hold can actually make a difference in the issues they claim to care about.

Donate: Campaign Zero

Donate: Local bail funds

Advocate for fair districting (not gerrymandering) and protective, expansive voting rights. You can volunteer to spread the word on ballot initiatives, to contact your elected reps, and to volunteer writing postcards, phone banking, or writing opinion pieces for local news. Pick the lane that best fits your talents, skills, time, and money.

Vote for BIPOC and other candidates calling for police reform, criminal justice reform, and policies promoting equity in healthcare, equal influence and representation in your local chamber of commerce, and equity in educational opportunity. Each of these issues is impacted differently by levels of government.

Your local school board and state house and senate representatives impact education policy, hiring of teachers, and funding.

Your mayor, governor, district attorney, and commissioners impact policing and criminal justice.

Your federal house and senate representatives impact health care reform, judicial justice, and broad federal policies which dictate many aspects of schools, workplaces, and criminal justice.

There is so much more to explore and do. Tell me which one you are committed to, which one excites you to action.

I’ll leave you with this encouragement.

Thoughts, reactions, questions? Leave them here!

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