#BlackLivesMatter – How to Be an Accomplice
You’ve likely heard it said, as have I, that it’s not enough to proclaim to be anti-racist, you have to DO stuff that supports such a proclamation. Otherwise, it’s rather meaningless to make any proclamation at all. You know, that whole actions speak louder than words thing.
You have to speak up. You have to take a stand. You have to be an ally. You have to help bring about change that is needed even when it’s easier to sit back, keep quiet and let others do the hard work.
You might want to read, I Will Be an Ally for my Friends with Metastatic Breast Cancer. Always.
Having empathy is necessary and a good place to start, but no, it’s not enough.
You have to be an accomplice.
Advocacy is often an uncomfortable role. You put yourself out there. You write stuff. You say stuff. You take risks. You do stuff you perhaps wouldn’t normally do. You support others who are doing the same and even more uncomfortable stuff than you are doing.
You know you’ll say and do the wrong things at times, but you keep at it. You keep trying because the reason you’re advocating is so much bigger than you.
Being an advocate in Pink Ribbon Fantasy Land was hard at first. It took me a while to find my footing, to find my voice. Pushing back on the rah-rah sort of advocacy that’d been going on for decades made me uncomfortable at first. It no longer does. Well, not as much or as often anyway.
I am comfortable in my own advocacy skin, so to speak.
There is so much noise in the world right now. Call me cynical, but I wonder how many white people are protesting because they are more about show than the substance. They want to say, look at me. I am one of the good ones.
Then again, who am I to judge anyone’s motives? Shouldn’t we all want to be “one of the good ones”?
Calling myself an advocate in the Black Lives Matter movement makes me uncomfortable. Even writing and publishing this post made me uncomfortable. Why I’m not entirely sure. I’m changing lanes or something. But I’m really not. Breast cancer, healthcare, disparity, politics and yes, even racism, they are all intertwined.
Still, I don’t feel “qualified” because I’m not black. And yet I am qualified. So are you. We all are because we’re all human beings.
This blog is my platform. I want to do more. Exactly what, I’m not even sure. But I am a good listener. I’m an educator at heart, and I can start by educating myself. I’m embarrassed to admit I knew little about Juneteenth and the massacre that took place in the Greenwood district of Tulsa, Oklahoma in 1921. I don’t recall learning about either in history classes.
Not talking about segments of our history because those parts make us uncomfortable is not okay.
Ten years ago, I didn’t know much of anything about advocating in Breast Cancer Land and no, I’m not comparing the two realms of advocacy; I’m comparing the learning part. My learning part anyway.
I’m hoping to learn as I go along in this advocacy realm too.
I’m pretty sure it’s gonna take all of us to bring about the change that’s been coming but at the same time, not coming for generations now.
Why does meaningful, much-needed change often take so long to happen anyway?
Well, that is a topic for another day.
One thing I know for certain is that disparity and yes, racism exists in Cancer Land too. Black women (and men) are diagnosed at later stages more often than white women. More black women die from breast cancer than white women. Black women make up only 6% of breast cancer related clinical trials. Access to healthcare is not equal. A lot of things are not equal.
There is a lot of disparity, inequity or whatever you want to call it across the board.
I was born and grew up in the Midwest. I still live there. I was raised in a small town that didn’t have any black people at all living there. There were Hispanics and yes, I remember disparaging comments made about them.
I remember the Civil Rights Movement. I vaguely remember George Wallace being on TV saying Lord knows what. I remember listening to Walter Cronkite talk about desegregation, busing, and various other stuff that was hard to make sense of as a child. I never understood why white kids didn’t want black kids in their schools. There was a lot I did not understand. There still is.
I never had to worry about a lot of stuff because I happened to be born white. White privilege is real, and there’s no need to get defensive about that fact. There is so much I do not understand because my experience is not the same as anyone’s of course, but it is definitely not the same as that of a person of color.
But I am here. I am listening. Sure, there is a lot I cannot do. But there is a lot I can do.
First of all, I care. I can empathize. I can listen. I can learn. I can speak out when the need arises. I can defend. I can support those doing the heavy lifting. I can be uncomfortable. I can make mistakes. I can do better. I can encourage others to do better too. After all, even the small things you and I do make a difference.
Below are a few basic, easy things you can do if you want to be an accomplice:
1. Listen. No, I mean really listen. Care enough to listen. Listen enough to care. Then, figure out what YOU can DO.
2. Visit and explore the #BlackLivesMatter website.
3. Read, download and share the Accomplice Guide put out by my friends at For the Breast of Us.
4. Educate yourself. Reflect upon your values and examine your past actions. Make changes if needed. Start discussions with others. Lots of resources are listed here.
5. Help amplify voices of those doing the heavy lifting any way you can. For example: follow individuals and organizations supporting change to end systemic racism on social media. Share their stuff. March. Donate.
6. When you witness racism, call it out. Silence is not an option.
7. Vote for candidates who best support your values even if they’re not perfect because guess what, there are no perfect candidates.
8. Voting is not the end of your responsibility. Followup with your elected officials. Call them. Email them. Write to them. Do it when they fall short, mess up AND when they do things right.
9. Read and take the Inclusion Pledge.
I will keep adding things to this list. Share your ideas with a comment below. Thank you in advance.
I can be an ally.
I can be, no, I will be an accomplice too.
What about you?
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Above featured Minneapolis photo by Fibonacci Blue via Flickr.
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How do YOU intend to be an accomplice?
Do you have an example of disparity and/or racism you’ve experienced that you’d like to share about?
What suggestions do you have to add to the above list?
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