This is my appeal to white Americans. It is not well edited or perfect, but it is my way of doing what I can to encourage all white Americans to do what we can for fellow Black Americans. Below is a video I recorded, followed by the bulk of that transcript and then links to the resources I mentioned. Thank you for taking the time to listen, read, and consider being an ally in action for Black Americans.
Hello, my name is Courtney Fay and I live in Rochester, NY. As a white American, it is incumbent upon me to speak to my fellow white Americans. I do this for Black Americans, because the onus is not on them. It must be on us. I am imperfect and I may stumble, but I will not let that prevent me from doing what I can, to push for change, to stand with Black Americans, and to demand that all white Americans do the same.
I’ve been watching the protests and listening to Black Americans speak about the injustice they live with daily. I have seen cops instigating the attacks on peaceful protesters, I’ve seen outside agitators riot and loot and light a match to this tinder keg. I do not believe they are antifa. It is much more likely that they are white supremacists looking to delegitimize these valid protests.
The only place I can think to start, is to step up to the plate and do what many Black Americans ask us to do. Confront my own racism. To be a white American is to be a product of a legacy of racism. There is no way around this. To deny it is to deny the last 400 years of white supremacist oppression of Black Americans. My grandfather, on my dad’s side, was racist. I didn’t know him well, because he had a stroke before I was born, and ½ of his brain had been paralyzed. What I knew of him, was that he was a strict man. He went to Harvard to become a lawyer, but could not finish his degree. He changed course and became a teacher, and then a principal.
I only had one experience of his racism, but it was enough. My cousin and I were folding laundry in the back room of my grandparent’s house. My grandfather was in the living room watching the Olympics, which my cousin and I were also watching, as we folded clothes. There was a track race on. I remember hearing the highlights of the runners, including a runner from an African country, though I was too young to remember which country. The African Olympian blew the other competitors away, and I was so impressed as he ran across that finish line. As he did, my grandfather, in the other room, yelled at the tv, “You learned to run like that in the jungle, you (n-word).” I shot up from my seated position on the floor, and was about to scream bloody murder at him, when my cousin shot up after me and slapped her hand over my face.
She looked at me and said, “Upstairs. Now.” She said that he was born in 1910 and didn’t know any better. It was how he was raised. I said that it was still wrong. She agreed, but noted that I was not going to change him and I would only cause problems. Even if he would have been receptive, with his stroke, that was highly unlikely. Because I was around 8 at the time, she was probably right, even though I still wish I had said something. The thing was, her mom and my parents had irrevocably broken that cycle. Her mom (My Aunt) taught English as a second language in a city school. My parents raised my brother and I on principles of love, and inherent equality for all people.
This is one example of the legacy of racism that I come from. My parents broke that chain, but it is not enough. It is not enough that I do not embrace racism. As a white American, it does not matter that I am Jewish. It does not matter that most people care more about my Judaism than knowing I am also ½ Catholic. It does not matter that I am a Lesbian. When I walk down the street, or into a store, or into a job interview, or into an emergency room, or into a police station, I am seen because I am a white American. I am seen as not a threat.
That is not the reality for Black Americans.
This nation was built on the promise that all people had an inherent right to equality and equity.
That is not our history, but that is our promise.
I love Black people. I do. I love Black men. I love Black women. I love Black children. It is not enough.
I knew there was racism, from the time I was young. My family was one that watched the news, and kept informed. My parents did not shield us from seeing racism, but rather pointed it out, so we would know it was wrong. Growing up in the 80’s, seeing it was thought to be enough, from my white bubble. It wasn’t until after 2000, that I was able to see that Black Americans needed more from white people, than for us to call them our friends. We needed to put our friendship into action.
This is not just police shooting Black Americans, and getting away with it. This is intersectional, systemic, generational racism, that seeps into every crack of every Black American’s life. It is death by 1,000 paper cuts. It is micro-aggressions that get flung every time a Black American turns a corner. I know this, because I’ve been doing my part to listen to Black Americans and I’ve learned how important it is to believe them. To that end, I want to pass along some of the ways I have learned, that we white Americans can break the bubble of privilege we live in.
The first is to speak up. That means owning up to the racism and implicit biases we carry. Any time we react differently to a situation, based on the race of the person in the situation. Anytime we realize that we have neglected to acknowledge a Black American in front of us. Any time we classify all Black Americans, or most, as any one attribute, trait, or behavior. All white Americans are not one thing, but for some reason it is not a problem to put this on Black Americans. It’s gaslighting, to let it go, in any situation, because one situation turns into 400 years of situations.
We must say these things out loud. Own up to them in front of other white Americans, and call out those prejudices in our family, with our friends, and our colleagues. There can be no equivocation. For 400 years, Black Americans have been told that they just need to be patient, act right, don’t be too loud, don’t agitate anyone, just be good enough, and maybe you will live. That would never be put on a white American. In having conversations with fellow white Americans, it will be difficult. There will be tension. There will be pushback and gaslighting and there will feel an urgency to compromise, and back down. This cannot be tolerated.
We must also educate ourselves, about Black American experiences and stories and narratives. There are a plethora of amazing Black Americans to learn from and learn about. Excellent books, new outlets, journalists, activists, and organizations. When you are a white American, you have to go out of your way to hear and see Black stories, because they are not the default in your bubble. Pick a movie or tv show to watch. Pick a book to read. How often is the default of what you see, primarily white people’s stories? In order to hear and see Black American voices and people, you must make the choice to seek those stories out. To read, and listen, and care about understanding as best your can, what their experiences are in this country. The good news is, that once you do that, you widen your bubble. It’s the best thing you’ll ever do.
I think it is excellent to be vocal on social media, to share and promote Black American voices, and to care from the comfort of our homes. I also believe that being an ally means we must do more than talk. We must listen, and heed the urgency for white Americans to support Black Americans and protect them from white supremacy in this country. It has undeniably infiltrated our police departments.
Below are some lists that I ask white Americans to spend some time going through. I put together some lists of ways to support Black Americans in action. I recommend books to read, including my to-read list for further suggestions, documentaries, limited series, and movies to see, journalists, news outlets, activists to follow, read, and listen to, elected officials and candidates to support, organizations to support, other action items, and some of my action items for the next week.
These are not by any means exhaustive lists. These are just some of the Black American voices, stories, and people, whom I respect and appreciate. I find worth in what they have to say. I see them, and I hear them. I believe what they have to say is worth knowing and worth sharing with the world. My view is still limited, and that enables implicit bias. I look forward to expanding these lists, and there are many I did not include, because I am simply trying to help offer some hopefully useful suggestions and resources.
Books to read:
- The Fire Next Time, James Baldwin (https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/19073499-the-fire-next-time)*
- Really, anything by James Baldwin (https://www.goodreads.com/search?utf8=%E2%9C%93&q=James+Baldwin&search_type=books&search%5Bfield%5D=author)
- Uncle Tom’s Cabin, Harriet Beecher Stowe (https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/41016406-uncle-tom-s-cabin-by-harriet-beecher-stowe?from_search=true&from_srp=true&qid=r9i0HsPWCE&rank=4)
- The Truths We Hold: An American Journey, Kamala Harris (https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/40861864-the-truths-we-hold?from_search=true&from_srp=true&qid=jSHAWr0gRa&rank=2)
- Kindred, Octavia E. Butler (https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/60931.Kindred?from_search=true&from_srp=true&qid=4hToHwnkyk&rank=1)
- The Color Purple, Alice Walker (https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/11486.The_Color_Purple?from_search=true&from_srp=true&qid=9FHrz1VZeK&rank=1)
* currently reading
On my to read list:
- Becoming, Michelle Obama (https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/38746485-becoming?ac=1&from_search=true&qid=uQwev189PK&rank=1)
- The Hate U Give, Angie Thomas (https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/32075671-the-hate-u-give?ac=1&from_search=true&qid=LrxWDSvLY5&rank=1)
- Between the World and Me, Ta-Nehisi Coates (https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/25489625-between-the-world-and-me?from_search=true&from_srp=true&qid=pJAwU8dYON&rank=1)
- The Light of Truth: Writings of an Anti-lynching Crusader, Ida B. Wells-Barnett (https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/20893307-the-light-of-truth?from_search=true&from_srp=true&qid=5x6k969i9Z&rank=1)
- The 1619 Project, Nikole Hannah-Jones (https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2019/08/14/magazine/1619-america-slavery.html)
- Moving Forward: A Story of Hope, Hard Work, and the Promise of America, Karine Jean-Pierre (https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/44674907-moving-forward?ac=1&from_search=true&qid=sjE77nPIQP&rank=4)
Documentaries, limited series, and movies to see:
- 13th (https://www.imdb.com/title/tt5895028/?ref_=fn_al_tt_1)
- I Am Not Your Negro (https://www.imdb.com/title/tt5804038/?ref_=fn_al_tt_1)
- When They See Us (https://www.imdb.com/title/tt7137906/?ref_=fn_al_tt_1)
- If Beale Street Could Talk (Book by James Baldwin) (https://www.imdb.com/title/tt7125860/?ref_=fn_al_tt_1)
- Girl Rising (https://www.imdb.com/title/tt2444946/?ref_=fn_al_tt_1)
Journalists, news outlets, activists to follow, read, and listen to:
- The Root (https://www.theroot.com/)
- Joy Reid (https://twitter.com/JoyAnnReid)
- Nikole Hannah Jones (https://twitter.com/nhannahjones)
- Karine Jean-Pierre (https://twitter.com/K_JeanPierre)
- Maya Wiley (https://twitter.com/mayawiley)
- Bree Newsome Bass (https://twitter.com/BreeNewsome)
- Imani Gandy (https://twitter.com/AngryBlackLady)
- Colin Kaepernick (https://twitter.com/Kaepernick7)
- Tarana Burke (https://twitter.com/TaranaBurke)
- April Reign (https://twitter.com/ReignOfApril)
- Michael Harriot (https://twitter.com/michaelharriot)
- Soledad O’Brien (https://twitter.com/soledadobrien)
- Matthew A. Cherry (https://twitter.com/MatthewACherry)
- Kristen Clarke (https://twitter.com/KristenClarkeJD)
- Jason Reynolds (https://twitter.com/JasonReynolds83)
- Bernice King (https://twitter.com/BerniceKing)
- Jason Overstreet (https://twitter.com/JasonOverstreet)
- Rev. Cornell William Brooks (https://twitter.com/CornellWBrooks)
- Ava DuVernay (https://twitter.com/ava)
- Charles P. Pierce (https://twitter.com/CharlesPPierce)
- Mari Copeny (https://twitter.com/LittleMissFlint)
Elected officials and candidates to support:
- Rep. Maxine Waters (https://twitter.com/RepMaxineWaters)
- Rep. Val Demmings (https://twitter.com/RepValDemings)
- Senator Kamala Harris (https://twitter.com/SenKamalaHarris)
- Senator Ayanna Pressley (https://twitter.com/RepPressley)
- Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton (https://twitter.com/EleanorNorton)
- Rep Lauren Underwood (https://twitter.com/RepUnderwood)
- Stacey Abrams (https://twitter.com/staceyabrams)
- Letitia James (https://twitter.com/NewYorkStateAG)
- Samra Brouk (https://twitter.com/samraforsenate)
- Senator Elizabeth Warren (https://twitter.com/ewarren)
- Jaime Harrison (https://twitter.com/harrisonjaime)
- Mayor Lovely Warren (https://twitter.com/lovelyawarren)
Organizations to support:
- NAACP (https://www.naacp.org/)
- Black Lives Matter (https://blacklivesmatter.com/)
- Alliance for Justice (https://www.afj.org/)
- Antidefamation League (https://www.adl.org/)
- National Urban League (https://nul.org/)
Other action items:
- Verify voter registration is valid and active.
- Contact your representatives at the local, state, and federal level to demand meaningful actions be taken to protect Black Americans. Every police officer, who has killed a Black person, must be arrested and charged. There must be a trial. There must be justice.
- Support local Black owned businesses.
- Donate to local shelters and outreach centers.
- Get off the sidelines and support a progressive candidate for office. Support a Black American candidate for elected office. Actively support Black American representation in this country.
- Support Black voices.
- Listen to them.
- Hear them.
- Believe them. You will have to urge to correct them or pick apart what they are saying. Stop. Just believe them and spend some time with accepting what they said, as they said it, without you trying to control their words or make them fit through your bubble.
- Find ways you can use your white privilege, to support a Black American person in your life. If you see someone stopped by cops, STAY. Video tape, and make sure they are ok.
- If you are present when a Black friend, colleague, acquaintance, or passerby and you see they are being denigrated, disrespected, or attacked in anyway, be a stop gap. Confront the situation. Acknowledge the Black American and confront the white American’s actions. Stand with the Black American and insist the white American do the same. Help de-escalate and aggression and do not dismiss or ignore racism, including micro-aggressions.
My action items for the next week are the following:
- Contact my local, state and federal representatives to demand meaningful actions be taken to protect Black Americans. Every police officer, who has killed a Black person, must be arrested and charged. There must be a trial. There must be justice.
- Volunteer for a fantastic candidate for elected office, Samra Brouk. (https://samraforsenate.com/)
- Reach out to my Black American friends and colleagues, to ask if there is anything I can do to support them. If they think I can help, I want to know, so I can.
- I donated to Reclaim the Block (https://www.reclaimtheblock.org/home) and plan on donating to Black Lives Matter this week.
If you feel I have left out anything important, or if any of my links don’t work, please let me know. Thank you.