Facing the realities of racism towards the black community can bring up shame and guilt for white people, and further, the desire to stop facing it, or to blame the black community for it. For white people who want to participate in the struggle for racial equality, it is essential to keep working, especially when it gets difficult. Ultimately, we must determine to vilify neither ourselves nor black people.
- Learn black history with new eyes. Not the history we, white folks learned in 7th grade; the detached history that does not teach us to see the link between the treatment of black folks then and now. Our new history teachers can be: Isabel Wilkerson, Audre Lorde, Toni Morrison, Alice Walker, James Baldwin, Richard Wright, and President Obama. From our new teachers we can learn, for the first time, what black history in america means.
- Pay attention to what black entertainers and black academics are communicating. Dave Chappelle's stand up comedy routine (Rated R) starts with him talking about his relationship to police, a big issue in our country. Hip hop artists talk about the negative consequences of racism on their families and communities. For example, Kanye West raps about the loss of traditional black values and the adoption of materialism. Chris Rock's documentary film "Good Hair" shows the adoption of the black community's Eurocentric ideals of beauty.
- Develop an understanding of institutional racism. There are laws currently on the books, in our local communities, that reinforce racism. Consequences of these laws on the black community may not (or may) have been understood at the time of the laws' passing. A prime example is the disproportionate number of black men in prison. Civil rights lawyer and legal scholar, Michelle Alexander, has written a book about the mass incarceration of black men in our country.
- Participate in community dialogues. Non-profit organizations like InterFaith Works, feature community dialogues lead by trained personnel. Showing our children how to be global citizens is the best teaching we can offer. One of the best ways to become a global citizen is to forge friendships with diverse peoples.
- Fight poverty, provide access to education. Dr. Cornel West advocates that fighting poverty is fighting racism. The number one predictor of people breaking out of poverty and into the middle class is education, from when children are very young, and their parents/guardians read to them every day.
From Native Americans to black slaves, our nation was built on their oppression. Although invisible to many, the foundational structure of oppression is still in place today. Peace and prosperity built on the backs of suffering will topple. In order to make our foundation strong, we must understand and correct our institution of racism. Then we can truly say that we are a nation that upholds the Declaration of Independence.