In the wake of George Floyd’s murder by Minneapolis police, protests erupted in cities throughout the United States as our collective consciousness turned again to shine a light on the brutal, visible impacts of racism in America.
This past week, I discussed with my white friends and colleagues systemic racism, our embedded relationships with whiteness, our performative displays of white fragility, how best to hold ourselves accountable, and have committed to the work of developing antiracist action steps moving forward in our own contexts and communities. Exploring possibilities for change, growth, and social advancement can unveil unpleasant truths about ourselves and our society. It is not easy work, but forward momentum also is invigorating.
Yet, there remain many ways in which we, as white people, still need to grow to reach any goals toward racial justice. #BlackoutTuesday, originally an activism campaign initiated by two women in the music industry, Jamila Thomas and Brianna Agyemang, meant to hold the music industry accountable for its exploitation of Black music artists came at the same time as #amplifymelanatedvoices, an initiative from Alishia McCullough and Jessica Wilson, called for social media influencers to decenter white voices and instead cite black and brown people, particularly on matters of social justice. Subsequently, a number of white people posted black squares on their social media accounts with a sentence about how they will be silent and listen.
White friends, we’ve got to unpack this one. If the goal was to raise awareness that Black lives do, indeed, matter and white people need to listen more to people of color, why did we take up space with our black squares and then not direct those scrolling by our feeds to the voice of any person of color? Rather than listen to black and brown voices, did we instead amplify our own existences? Hasn’t our silence been the problem? Did we post to direct attention toward Black voices or did we post to absolve ourselves of our white guilt from our participation in racists systems? Perhaps we didn’t fully think this through and this was not our intent, but the impact matters.
We can do better than posting black squares on Instagram.
We can do better than performative allyship.
In upcoming blog posts, I’m going to explore issues of race, education, and music education. Then, I am going to get to work envisioning and creating a more just and equitable future in my classes, school, and beyond.
Will you join me?
Check Out These Resources:
#BlackoutTuesday – Zoe Haylock
#AmplifyMelanatedVoices- Layla Ilchi
Who Are the Black Squares and Cutesy Illustrations Really For? – Rebecca Jennings
Performative Allyship Is Deadly (Here’s What to Do Instead) – Holiday Phillips
How to Be A Good White Ally, According to Activists – Emily Stewart
The Guide to Allyship – Amelie Lamont
9 Reasons Why Acting in Solidarity for Racial Justice is Preferable to ‘Allyship’ – Jaime Grant