Right now, you might be breathing a sigh of relief as you scroll through your social media feeds and see more and more of your “normal” feed instead of constant posts about police brutality, protests, and the senseless murder and brutalization of Black people.
I know I have.
It’s nice to be able to mindlessly scroll through Instagram, to look at pictures of cute plants and funny comics and insultingly accurate Gemini memes. And those things have value too. It is okay to have interests outside of social justice, and it’s absolutely essential to have little, daily things that bring you joy, like this adorable coffee calling me out on my bullshit:
All of that is important, but we cannot go back to “normal.” As tempting as it is, we need to recognize what “normal” really means in America.
Normal means Black people are killed by police without consequence.
Normal means Black people are stopped, harassed, and arrested by police without cause.
Normal means Black students are suspended at nearly double the rate of non-Black students for the same offenses.
Normal means Black Americans make up nearly 40% of prisoners even though they only represent 12% of the total American population.
Normal means Black people are being lynched—literally, 3 Black people have been found hanging from trees in the last week.
Normal is the fact that they have all been ruled suicides or without suspect of foul play.
Normal in America is the extermination of Black lives.
So we cannot go back to “normal.”
The End of White Supremacy Has to Start With White People
Even after our social media feeds go back to normal, we cannot let the status quo for Black Americans go back to normal. We have to do our part to tear down this system of white supremacy, starting with white people.
I am a white person, and I would not consider myself a white supremacist. But I am realizing now that I have not done enough to actively fight white supremacy. I’ve always seen it as this vague problem that a handful of shitty white people promote, but nothing to do with me.
All of the protests and posts on social media have made me realize that isn’t the case at all.
White supremacy is built into everything we do as Americans. It is the source of a lot of my privilege, and every time I use my privilege to help myself but refuse to use it to help others, I am enabling white supremacy.
It’s an uncomfortable truth, but it is the truth. Let me give you an example.
Last year, my husband and I bought a house. We lived with his parents for a year, scrimping and saving so we could put 20% down, got pre-approved for a loan, toured some houses, and then when we found the right place, we bought it. In this situation, I don’t feel like I took advantage of my white privilege at all. But I still had it in spades.
First, the (white) bank guy who helped us get pre-approved? He asked our race, something he is forbidden to do by law. He actually told us that when he pre-approves people over the phone, he is supposed to guess on race based on the person’s name and how they talk. He chuckled as he said this. But we’re white, so it didn’t matter.
Second, it is thanks to generational wealth that my husband’s parents had a large enough house to take in their son and his wife for a full year with only mild discomfort (this is not to say my in-laws don’t work hard for everything they have, but the reality is that their parents likely helped them out just like they helped us out, and this cycle of family assistance is only possible because of generational wealth).
Third, it is likely because my husband and I are white that we were able to get approved for as much as we did. Even though I make a good amount as a freelancer, self-employment income only counts toward your pre-approval if you’ve been doing it for at least 2 years, and at the time when we got pre-approved, I’d only been freelancing for 1 year. So we got pre-approved for an amount that bought us a 3-bedroom, 1,000 sq. ft. house based on my husband’s income alone, in an entry-level position. Why do I feel like if we were people of color, white people would say it would be “irresponsible” to give a loan of that size to people who can’t prove they have the income to pay it back?
Here’s the real kicker though: I’m just now acknowledging all of the ways our white privilege helped me and my husband get our house. I have done absolutely nothing up to this point to make things better for POC looking to buy a house. I didn’t even think to report the bank guy for illegally asking our race. Because it didn’t negatively affect me.
And that is actively promoting white supremacy. And I won’t do it anymore.
When Social Media Goes Back to Normal, Make Sure Your Daily Life Doesn’t
Here is the reality: in a society that legitimizes white experiences over Black experiences, white people are the ones who have to end white supremacy. Black people can report people day and night for discrimination, but until white people start saying “Hey, that bank guy totally did ask our race, which is super illegal, and he needs to be fired, now,” nothing is going to change.
So what can you do to ensure you aren’t part of the problem of white supremacy, even after your social media feeds go back to normal?
Well, first, don’t let your feeds go completely back to normal. Follow social justice accounts like @blklivesmatter, @mvmt4blklives, @aclu_nationwide, and more. Make sure you are not using your white privilege to look away from injustice. Put it right there on your feeds, every day.
Second, learn about your role in white supremacy. Without understanding white supremacy and acknowledging that you benefit from it in many ways, you aren’t really equipped to change anything. You have to understand the problem first. There are countless anti-racism reading lists out there, but you can also follow some amazing social media accounts to make this learning part of your daily experience as well. A few that I highly recommend are @thegreatunlearn (created by activist Rachel Cargle (@rachel.cargle), @ikaylareed, @hereweread, and @adriennemareebrown.
Third, don’t let racism slide around you anymore. If people around you are making racist comments, let them know that isn’t okay, and have those hard conversations about race (if you need some encouragement or help on how to do that exactly, here’s a helpful post on how to have hard conversations about race when you’re white and have anxiety).
Fourth, get involved. This is the area where I’m struggling the most. It’s one thing for me to write about racism and read about racism and do internal work on myself, but it’s a completely different beast for me to actually put myself out there and maybe join a local activism group or call our bank and report that guy. I am working on this step, but I’m struggling. That’s okay, we just have to keep trying. I will keep trying.
I’m curious, how are you all finding ways to be actively anti-racist and dismantle white supremacy? Does anyone have any tips for getting involved when you’re super socially anxious? Oh, and please drop any helpful IG handles in the comments, I’d love to follow more anti-racism accounts!