This is a pivotal moment in our nation’s history. Inarguably a dark moment indeed but one rife with potential & promise as well. We face both the pandemic of the Coronavirus & the epidemic of systemic racism & white supremacy all at once forcing us to stand together like never before. It is that very togetherness that creates an utterly unique opportunity to create real & meaningful change. We can & we will make this moment into a movement!
There is hope in many facets of this struggle & the unrest therein that we all experience on a daily basis. This hope is difficult to recognize as all we see around us seems to be the strife & the violence, whether it be physical, emotional, or psychological. That hope takes many forms & one of which is named Izzy.
Izzy represents the light that shines in this dark moment & that can lead us forward to a brighter future. This young woman, this inspirational Princeton High School student, organized a candlelight vigil recently to remember George Floyd, to honor all victims of police brutality. She gathered together hundreds of folks in peaceful protest representing the very essence of community building, & here’s the thing, there are thousands like her doing the same across our country, all around the world, & they are the future. They are standing up, they are speaking out, they are leading the way, & if we are smart enough & brave enough & compassionate enough to follow them, then we can finally look to that brighter future. Then we can start the arduous but imperative journey of moving forward together in a truly meaningful way, that national coming together into a Beloved Community, that ideal of Dreaming Audaciously.
This is also a time when we look to how we can best support & strengthen each other individually & empower each & every community as a whole. As a cisgender, somewhat fluid but mostly straight white male, I am an ally, I strive to be an advocate, & ultimately aspire to be a co-conspirator. I will always step up & speak out when the need arises & when the occasion demands. I will do the difficult work that our friend Dr. Ibram X. Kendi espouses to be actively anti-racist.
I also recognize that the platforms which we are afforded stemming from our privilege need to now be ceded to those folks who can speak from true authentic experience. If ever there was a time to pass the proverbial mic as it were, this is certainly it.
In that respect, I approached my good friend Dr. Peniel Joseph, Founding Director of the Center for the Study of Race & Democracy & author of the extraordinary book, “The Sword & The Shield: The Revolutionary Lives of Malcolm X & Martin Luther King Jr.”, & I am proud to report, the newest member of our Bayard Rustin Center for Social Justice Board of Directors.
I asked Dr. Joseph if he would share some advisement that would be of service to all of us at this pivotal moment & he offered his “Five Point Guide to White Allyship” which I will now share with you in hopes you will find it as helpful & as inspirational as I do.
Dr. Joseph espouses these tenets for us to follow, he asks us to:
- LISTEN to the Black community’s pain, narrative, personal story, familial experience – at this moment.
- FOLLOW coverage of the protests, demonstrations & peaceful gatherings that are taking place.
- READ. There are many that could be shared here, but these are the best books to start with if you are white & want to change your conditioning.
- White Fragility by Robin DiAngelo
- How To be An Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi
- Thick & Other Essays by Tressie McMillan Cottom
- The Sword & the Shield by Dr. Peniel Joseph
- When They Call You a Terrorist: A Black Lives Memoir by Patrisse Khan-Cullors & Asha Bandele
- ATTEND (at this time, virtually, or in person if appropriate safety measures taken) racial justice/equity events, not just around criminal justice reform, but housing affordability, health care, environment, racial segregation in schools/neighborhoods, & employment. Think about how to create real grassroots charitable giving in order to assist racial justice organizations, whether in education, universities, non-profit spaces, & especially locally.
- SEE Black people as human beings! This has proven to be a task much harder than it seems given this country’s tragic racial history.
This is a lifetime of work & goes beyond having African American friends, partners, children, family. White supremacy is based on power & privilege, but also fragility, claims of innocence, & ever-present fear of Black bodies. Developing racial empathy requires not just anti-racism personally & politically but confronting & reconditioning your personal historic narrative.
Eradicating hate & racism is not just about changing policies, it is also about feeling the pain in our hearts, wanting to see the change in our minds, & acknowledging that the way we have been existing is not righteous in our souls.
I thank Dr. Joseph for sharing these powerful words & ideas with us for the purposes of this article but even moreso in allowing us all to move forward in a meaningful way. It is in these interactions, conversations, & writings that we can see each other more clearly, celebrate our differences, & realize, rather than tearing us apart, they have the tremendous potential & give us an extraordinary opportunity to finally come together.
When one of us steps forward, we all step forward – our beautifully diverse communities, not coming together as one, but rather as a wonderful tapestry, a collective as immutable as it is invincible.
It is in this way again that this moment becomes a movement.
Robt Seda-Schreiber is Chief Activist of the Bayard Rustin Center for Social Justice, a community activist center, educational enclave, & safe-space for our LGBTQIA kids, intersectional families, & all marginalized people, connecting our disparate communities, both locally & nationally. The BRCSJ organized Princeton’s first-ever Pride Parade last year & followed this year with NJ’s biggest Virtual Pride which gathered together well over 10,000 marching in solidarity & celebration, offers free therapy & counseling in-house for Queer youth, & holds numerous rallies, events, & happenings, both of-the-moment in response to current events & in dedicated planned programming in support of political, environmental, gender, & identity issues.
In response to these extraordinary times & still best serve the community, the Rustin Center is now live-streaming the BRCSJ SOCIAL JUSTICE POWER HOUR every nite from 7-8pm EST. Creating virtual community-building conversation & remote fellowship, the broadcast attracts thousands of viewers & has hosted an impressive mix of inspirational local folks & more diverse & nationally-known figures such as Valerie Jarrett, Ibram X. Kendi, Raquel Willis, April Reign, Darnell Moore, Lizz Winstead, Imani Gandy, & Cecilia Muñoz.