Following Damon Young of Very Smart Brothas With My 10 Things I Do Every Day To Fight White Supremacy

10 Oct

Damon YoungDamon Young from Very Smart Brothas (VSB) posted a piece on The Root a few days ago, titled, 10 Simple and Subtle and Easy Things I Do Every Day To Fight White Supremacy, and in his usual comedic genius style, got to the essence of how he defies white people’s systems of oppression simply by being himself.  He makes you laugh, but if you’re white, and have a conscience and care anything about racism and lived experiences of people of color, you have to nod in recognition of how we get in the way of Damon Young’s freedom. And, he shouldn’t have to work so hard to fight white supremacy. That should be the job of white people, right? I mean, we’re the ones who set up the systems in the first place, so, while Damon lists what he calls his simple, subtle, easy things he does, as white people, we have to work a lot harder. I know. We’re not used to having to work harder for something based on the virtue of the color of the skin we were born with–but since I have heard so many Black people share about how they were told growing up, or learned themselves, that they had to work at least twice as hard as white people to have their achievements and worthiness in school or at a job given due credit, it’s only fair that we work harder on knocking down white supremacy.  Aside from the community anti-racism work I do, I check myself every day when it comes to taking some kind of action to fight white supremacy. Here are my 10:

1. Root for everyone black.

I am copying number one from Damon Young’s list because it is something I’ve been doing for some time now.  I know Black people don’t need me to be their cheerleader, but I can’t help myself, because like Jesse Williams said in his famed BET Awards  acceptance speech last year,…”just because we’re magic, doesn’t mean we’re not real.” I believe in the magic that Black people possess. I have also always been attracted to who goes unnoticed, and doesn’t receive the attention and recognition they deserve, which is what has happened to Black people for centuries. We downplay or completely ignore the positive contributions Black people have made to society–think NASA mathematicians, Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan, and Mary Jackson, who most people only found out about with the book and movie, Hidden Figures, and there’s Guy Bluford, the first Black astronaut to go into space,  and the countless inventors, and creators of what we consider American culture, like rock and roll, and jazz, and spoken word poetry, and on and on. I have been rooting for Black people ever since my white elementary school classmates would find some way to disrupt and run out of Thalia Hick’s birthday party every year, and around the same time, in fights with my girlfriends over who was better, The Jackson 5 or The Osmond Brothers. Predating the Jessie Williams speech, there’s even a post I made several years ago reflecting on when my daughter Darla asked me at the dinner table one night, Why are Black people so special?


2. Post, post, and post some more, articles on social media about racism, and white privilege, and the achievements of people of color.

Every day I share articles that give examples of white privilege, articles about the manifestation of racism in its latest, ugliest form, as well as share about arts and culture related achievements of Black people (because I love arts and culture). Why? While mostly I’m preaching to the choir, I’m hoping that other white people on my page who don’t get it, will see how important and how real all of this is. And, because I’m hoping that the 100th time I explain why “taking a knee” is not disrespecting our flag or those who serve, maybe I’ll be believed. And because I am hoping that they will see the magic too, instead of trying to whitesplain why focusing on Black-on-Black crime is more important than protesting police brutality.


3. Find a way to bring race into the conversation

Sometimes I surprise myself because I’ll be talking with someone and we’ll be talking about education, or where they live, and all of a sudden I’m talking about how race and racism factors into the equation of housing and education, and I start talking about inclusion and white bubbles, and then I wonder if the people I’m talking to notice this about me, and if they’re annoyed by it, or thinking, “why does Wendy always have to bring race into everything..” and then I think, “well, I’m just doing my job.”


4. Wear my feelings on my sleeve. Literally.

If you’re quiet like me, sometimes you have to let your fashion speak for you.  That’s why I’m grateful for our local non-profit art organization, AS220, and their Community Printshop for hosting not one, but two, free printmaking sessions where community members could print t-shirts and tote bags emblazoned with Black Lives Matter, Look At Yourself To Reject White Supremacy, and other social justice statements.  I wear my tees, and carry my tote bags often, because like I said on a recent BLM tote boasting photo I posted on Facebook, “it seems like some of y’all need to be reminded on a daily basis.”


5. Call out and question microaggressions and full-on racism when I hear it or see it.

Like I said, I’m quiet, and I can write better than I can talk. Even though I read as much as I can, and work on educating myself about the history of Black people in this country, about slavery, Jim Crow, structural racism, and today’s current events, sometimes in the moment when I hear someone say something that feels like even a subtle microaggression, or is clearly racist, I worry the words won’t come out right, but I speak up anyway. I may stumble. I may feel like I could have been more eloquent, or framed a better question instead of having a knee-jerk reaction, but that is not what matters. Not letting someone slide is.


6. Feature Black artists on my home screen at work.

I often find, unless you are working in a setting that is led by, and/or focuses on serving or doing business with people of color, a lot of the environment is centered around whiteness, and imagery and representation of cultures other than white culture is rare. That’s why while my co-workers’ computer home screens feature photos of Tom Brady, or puppies, or Rhode Island seascapes, mine has featured rotating photos of Michael Jackson, and for the past few months, a really cool photo of Jean Michel Basquiat in a suit, sitting in his studio, with his artwork in the background.  I’ve enjoyed being able to share about who he is when my work mates ask me, and be sure to let them know a painting of his sold at auction for $110 million this year, just in case they didn’t know about the magic part.


7. Blog about white privilege and racism so you (white people) don’t have to.

I started writing about race relations from a personal, non-political point-of-view about twelve years ago when I moved to Tulsa, Oklahoma from New York City, and was jarred by being plunged into whiteness, and people living in white bubbles (before I knew of the term white bubble) and not even noticing or caring that they did. Writing was a way to explore what was going on inside of me after this move, and to figure out why I cared so much about connecting across color lines. Living back East in Providence, Rhode Island, ten years now, I started this blog five years ago. White people sometimes tell me they’re glad that I write and share about things too uncomfortable for them to share publicly about themselves, and that they feel less alone in their concern about addressing matters of race.


8. Go to cultural events featuring the work of Black artists.

I love art and music and dance and theater and witnessing the creativity of others. I support Black artists out of a true love of their work, and because, as I said previously, I am drawn to the works of those often overlooked and excluded from the more mainstream arenas. We can interrupt the dominant narrative of who belongs in the “mainstream” by supporting the work of Black artists.


9. Buy Black.

See Number 8. I remember when I first moved to Tulsa, I went out of my way to find and support Black-owned businesses. I was a regular at the high-end dessert shop run by a woman of color and her son, and a frequent buyer of tiny treasures from the elder Black couple at the Saturday Tulsa Flea Market. I need to do better here in Providence. I notice how white many of the dining spaces I eat in are, and am reminded by a friend, a poet who is Black, who says he will not eat in an establishment that does not have staff of color who work the front of the house. I did ask the CVS clerk though yesterday why they don’t carry Nubian Heritage skin care products any more.


10. Part the way for Black people to pass by.

Damon Young’s Number 10 on his list spoke of how if he is walking down the street and there is a group of white people walking toward him and one of them is going to have to move to make room on the sidewalk, he is not the one moving, because it’s “reverse gentrification; payback for colonization.”  Lately, I’ve noticed that I go out of my way to be the one that moves, to make the way, to almost bow my head as I do, to, as Damon says, payback for colonization. And, yes, it’s metaphorical, too. Make way. Get out of the way. Stop taking up so much space. Be quiet. Yes, we need to fight white supremacy, but we can do it with grace.


Can you share just one thing you do to fight white supremacy?




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