Last week, two Black men were brutally murdered by police. The first, Alton Sterling, was held down and shot multiple times for selling CDs (with permission from the store owner) outside of a local shop. The second, Philando Castile was stopped for a busted taillight and when reaching for his license (which he stated he was doing) had his arm shot off by an officer and subsequently died of his injuries. This has to stop. Black lives matter.
But what can we do?
As white folks and allies, we can do a lot beyond posting sad or outraged status updates on social media. Here are some real world, concrete ways you can show that you understand that Black lives are important and that you won’t stand for them to be taken away in this manner anymore.
- Call your local police station and ask them what they are doing to ensure that incidents like this will not happen in your community. Demand to know how they are training their officers to use non-lethal tactics to de-escalate situations so they don’t lead to murder.
- Call your local government officials. Call your city council members or your Mayor, and ask how they are holding police responsible for their actions and ensuring that they work hard to remove racial bias from their ranks.
- Get in touch with your representatives on a federal level. Demand to know what they are doing to ensure that officers stop killing Black people.
- Check out Campaign Zero which can easily help you learn more about what politicians can and should be doing to fix this.
Many of the folks murdered leave behind families that could really use our help right now. Put your money where your sad face emoji is and donate to these verified crowdfunding pages:
People of color should not be expected to do the work on this. No educating. No explaining. No telling folks not to bring racism to their page. A break is sorely needed. So step up and be an actual ally. Come collect other white folks who are mouthing off when they have no place or right to be doing so. Educate them. Shut them down. Whatever needs to be done.
You be the one to post links about racial bias in the judicial system or within the police. You explain why “All Lives Matter” is bullshit.
At the same time, it is your duty to make your space a safe and welcoming one for your friends and family of color. Sure, you might engage with someone in hopes of changing their mind, but do not willfully expose others to hurtful words or blatant racism. Use the block button as it was intended.
Those videos going around—the ones showing the murder of Alton Sterling or Philando Castile? Watch them. Bear witness to their murders. But please, do not post auto-play links to them on your timelines. People of color should choose if they want to view them. However, white folk? We need to watch to understand the fragility of Black lives. So that we can stop this. But do not watch and then post on your page looking for cookies. Do not fuel the notion of trauma entertainment at the expense of Black lives. But do watch, and do bear witness to these murders. It’s uncomfortable and appalling, but the men who were killed deserve to be acknowledged.
Read and share articles from people of color about these murders. Elevate their voices.
- “5 Facts That Will Absolutely Infuriate You About Police and Racist Violence” — Maisha Z. Johnson
- “Alton Sterling and When Black Lives Stop Mattering” — Roxane Gay
- “The Fine Line Between Awareness and Exploitation” — Ebonye Gussine Wilkins
- “Alton Sterling: Guilty of #BreathingWhileBlack” — Neffer Kerr
- “Alton Sterling’s death changes the conversation for every black family” — Crystal Lewis Brown
- “For My Son, In The Event The Police Leave You Fatherless” — David Dennis, Jr.
Post about them on Facebook or Twitter. Use their names. Use pictures that their family would like you to see, not necessarily the ones that the media is promoting. Remember them as people. As fathers or mothers. As somebody’s child, brother, sister, aunt, or uncle. As a human being. As a Black person worthy of dignity and respect. Their lives were taken from them far too soon.
That’s what we can do.