Saturday, November 29, 2014

The Root: 12 Ways to Be a White Ally to Black People

People across the country are shocked by the lack of justice in Ferguson, Missouri. Since Michael Brown is deceased, he cannot share what happened to him that unfortunate day when he was gunned down executive-style by a white law enforcement officer, Darren Wilson. "No Justice, No Peace" are the chants in the streets. If you want to get involved, Janee Woods from The published an excellent article on 12 ways whites (and people of color too!) can become an ally for social justice. The most important thing to remember is that even the oppressed need allies to continue the movement for racial justice.

1. Learn about the racialized history of Ferguson and how it reflects the racialized history of America. Brown’s killing is not an anomaly or a statistical outlier. It is the direct product of deadly tensions born from decades of housing discrimination, white flight, intergenerational poverty and racial profiling.

2. Reject the “He was a good kid” or “He was a criminal” narrative and lift up the “Black lives matter” narrative.

3. Use words that speak the truth about the disempowerment, oppression, disinvestment and racism that are rampant in our communities.

4. Understand the modern forms of race oppression and slavery and how they are intertwined with policing, the courts and the prison-industrial complex. Black people aren’t enslaved on the plantation anymore. Now African Americans are locked up in for-profit prisons at disproportionate rates and for longer sentences for the same crimes committed by white people. And when we’re released we’re second-class citizens, stripped of voting rights in some states and denied access to housing, employment and education. Mass incarceration is the new Jim Crow.

5. Examine the interplay between poverty and racial equity. The twin pillar of racism is economic injustice, but don’t use class issues to trump race issues and avoid the racism conversation.

6. Diversify your media. Be intentional about looking for and paying close attention to diverse voices of color on television, on radio, online and in print to help shape your awareness, understanding and thinking about political, economic and social issues.

7. Adhere to the philosophy of nonviolence as you resist racism and oppression.

8. Find support from fellow white allies. Challenge and encourage one another to dig deeper, even when it hurts and especially when you feel confused, angry and hopeless, so that you can be more authentic in your shared journey with people of color to protect principles of anti-racism and equity.

9. If you are a person of faith, look to your Scriptures or other holy texts for guidance.

10. Don’t be afraid to be unpopular. If you start calling out all the racism you witness (and it will be a lot, once you know what you’re seeing), some people might not want to hang out with you as much. But think about it like this: Staying silent when you witness oppression is the same as supporting oppression.

11. Be proactive in your own community. As a white ally, you are not limited to reacting only when black people are subjected to violence very visibly and publicly. Moments of crisis do not need to be the catalyst. Taking action against systemic racism is always appropriate because systemic racism permeates this country. Some ideas for action: Organize a community conversation about the state of police-community relations in your neighborhood; support leaders of color by donating

12. Don’t give up. We’re 400 years into this racist system, and it’s going to take decades—centuries, probably—to dismantle.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Salon: “It embarrasses them, they feel ashamed”: Why America still can’t talk about race

The progressive organization, PolicyLink, recently released a research brief ("The Equity Solution: Racial Inclusion Is Key to Growing a Strong New Economy") on economic and racial inequality in the so-called, post-racial America. People of color are still more likely to live in segregated, resource-poor, and impoverished neighborhoods than their affluent peers.

An excerpt from Salon interview with PolicyLink founder and CEO, Angela Blackwell:

Salon: Linking racial equality and economic equality makes sense, but it’s not something you often hear being promoted in more mainstream or establishment-friendly places. How do you respond to people if and when you come up against resistance or skepticism — or simple confusion, since making the link is not especially common?

Angela: One of the things I often say is that if people of color don’t become the middle class there will be no middle class in this nation. Not only are we becoming a nation in which the majority will be people of color, but the majority of young people will be people of color. Right now, 46.5 percent of all children under 18 are children of color, but 80 percent of all those over 65 are white. The median age among white people is 42; the median age among Latinos, the fastest-growing population, is 27.

We have to understand that as we become a nation of mostly people of color, that we have mostly people who would be the parents, the young earners, the young entrepreneurs. Those are the people of color who we have to make sure can be the middle class. When we think about some of the work of Raj Chetty and Emmanuel Saez, who are looking at social mobility in this country, they’ve pointed out that social mobility is very much tied to class and geography. If you’re born into a family that’s low-income you’re very likely to stay there, and if you’re born in certain areas of the country — particularly the South — you’re very likely to not have much social mobility.

Those things can also be talked about in racial terms. In the South, what we see is our inability as a nation to deal with race, and so segregated communities and disadvantaged people of color disadvantages everyone. We have to get over this holding some people back because what it means is that we’re holding everybody back. We’re not investing in a robust public education system, not invested in a robust infrastructure that could connect regions to the global economy.

This notion of being born into a certain area — we know that people who are Latino and African-American are disproportionately poor and low-income, so we have to create more pathways out of poverty, not just in terms of people who are poor having pathways out of poverty but people who are poor because of the way we have racialized opportunity in America. We cannot separate the nation’s dire need to have a strategy for a vast and stable middle class from the nation’s dire need to finally have strategies that deal with the legacy of racism and the continuing impact of racism in America.

Freep: Why Ferguson outcome should haunt every parent

From Stephen Henderson at the Detroit Free Press:

Every parent of a child of color lives, every day, in fear that a hoodie, a certain gait or an offhand remark might inspire authorities to see menace, and to strike with lethal force. I can't begin to know how to explain that to my son, now 11 and brown-skinned and beginning to look like some of the older kids I see in news reports like those from Ferguson.

Every parent in the nation should live with unease over the sustained and wretched dehumanization that assigns expendability to some children. Can we respect each other, let alone live together, if it's OK to kill some of our kids?


We are required to go deeper — back to promises made to all Americans but unfulfilled, still, for African Americans. We are required to look broader — to the swelling number of incidents that remind us, not in isolation, of how easily and without consequence black life can be taken. And we are required to think harder — about who we are as a nation, and whether we can ever reconcile enough of our history to create a future built around the idea of justice.

As black people, America breaks our hearts over and over again. No group has more reason to resent this country's very existence, built as it was on the notion of unmovable racial inferiority. And yet, no Americans have persevered so much, for so long — journeying from three-fifths of a man to president of the U.S. in just more than 200 years.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Foundations think out of box to aid Detroit

In the city of Detroit, major foundations -- Kresge, Community Foundation, Kellogg, just to name a few -- have agreed to take on greater risk in projects that need major investment -- a light-rail system and tackling blight for instance. This is an unprecedented role for the foundations, who traditionally engage in more low-key, behind-the-scenes, and specific social issues. As a native Detroiter, this news gives me hope that the revitalization of Detroit will continue to progress with great success.

Foundations are giving differently in Detroit, in a manner unseen in other American cities. And the $366 million "grand bargain," is a prime example of that.

It's philanthropy's biggest calling and its biggest collaboration in Detroit history, credited as the cornerstone in the city's bankruptcy.

The joint agreement by 12 foundations, in which private funds as well as $195 million from the state and $100 from the Detroit Institute of Arts, will be used to shore up city pensions and protect the art collection from creditors.