I've noticed over the past two years an underlying current of fear and discomfort among the white community. I've seen many people posting on social media who want to partake in the New Civil Rights Movement but aren't sure about what to do. I am no expert or hero. Not even close. Going to a few marches doesn't mean I've done anything significant to help, but often the first step is the hardest. So if you want to move from Facebook posting to grassroots activism, here's a beginners guide.
· Go to a Protest or March
> What should I expect?
- Expect a diverse group of people, variant depending on your context, of people who are hurt, upset, and allied with those who are. Expect the protest to be led by black people, particularly by young black people. This is not for white people; do not expect your presence to be acknowledged in any formal way.
> How do marches work?
- Generally, you meet at starting location where speeches are given and the focus is shared. Then the group will march to one or more locations, chanting and singing along the way. Listen, participate, talk to those around you if you wish. Often you end in a different location than where you started, so it’s easiest to just Uber back to where you parked.
> What do I wear or bring?
- Generally people wear black. You don’t have to only wear black, but dark colors will help you fit in and match the tone of the event. I would advise bringing the least amount of things possible, as it gives you less to carry and deal with.
- I recommend bringing a sign. It gives you something to hold on to, which can be comforting and allows you to speak without talking. If you do bring a sign, think carefully about what you write and the message it sends. Not every true statement is appropriate for a white person to hold. Also, the sign should be double sided. Trust me.
> How do I know when they’re happening?
- You’ll have to do your homework. Activism isn’t supposed to be easy. First, start with finding civil rights centers and organizations in your area. Often groups like the NAACP with sponsor events.
- Search social media and figure out who activists in your area are. Search through hashtags like #BlackLivesMatter and #ProtestAtlanta for example.
- You may have success with this website.
> Is it dangerous?
- Most likely, no. If it is sponsored by an official organization, it will likely be peaceful. Despite what gets reported on the media, the majority of protests are peaceful. If, for some reason, you felt uncomfortable with violent behavior occurring, you can always walk away.
· Do Your Research
> Don’t make your one black friend blacksplain everything to you. The Internet is a vast resource that you can and should be using. If you have a question you might want to ask a black person, ask it to Google first. If you still aren’t satisfied, then you can go to a black friend and have a more informed conversation.
· Support Black Businesses
> Money talks. Supporting companies that have black owners is a great way to use your finances to further the movement. Don’t know what those companies are? See the previous point.
> The beginning stages of a boycott are being planned. For more information, I encourage you to sign up and consider participating.
· Protest in Public
> Get a Black Lives Matter t-shirt, pin, hat, etc. and wear it in public. This gives you a chance to talk in person with people you might not get to engage with on Facebook. People are kinder, softer, and realer in person. Face to face conversations can require a bit more bravery, but in doing so often have much better results.
· Talk Less, Smile More
> Okay, I had to sneak a Hamilton reference in there, but it’s just because it’s true. The Black Lives Matter needs more than our Facebook rants. It needs us to listen to hurting, marginalized voices. It needs to follow younger, darker skinned leaders. We must seek to follow their creative, and bold movements. The movement will require us to smile at black faces we see on the street, to pull over when we see a black person pulled over by an officer. I encourage to to seek not so much to be understood, as to understand.
I am not an expert on any of this and I encourage suggestions of ways I can grow in my own activism. We are in the midst of the New Civil Rights Movement. If you ever wondered what you would have done in the early 1960's, you have the chance to live that out today.