While systemic racism has always existed, for many, the events in 2020 brought into clear focus how systems, including police departments and the criminal-legal system, disproportionately harm black people and people of color, and sparked nation-wide protests in defense of black lives. In the wake of the murders of Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, George Floyd, Tony McDade, and countless others, millions of people have engaged in support of one of the largest collective movements in history. A handful of cities like Portland, OR have crossed the 100-day mark for sustained protest and cities like Denver continue to organize marches and collective action in an effort to keep the momentum alive. However, as the summer wanes and the media spotlight has drifted, so has the attention of many of the people engaging in the Black Lives Matter movement for the first time.
For many people engaging in political movement for the first time, it was like going from zero to sixty. People who were previously less aware of the harmful implications and impacts of a culture built on punitive discipline were engaging in serious conversations about reimagining public safety or advocating for systems change to address persistent inequities in social services. The challenge for us now is to continue the momentum, recognizing that true change takes time and sustained engagement. Part of maintaining activism over time is doing the self-work of knowing your boundaries, understanding how your gifts fit into the larger movement, and dismantling how racism influences your decisions daily.
Whether you’re still out protesting every night and calling civic leaders every day, writing the occasional emails, or picking up that book on systemic racism that you put down last month, here are some reminders and resources for staying committed and engaged in anti-racism or other social justice movements.
Reminders and Resources:
We’re all human — it’s natural to feel overwhelmed or burnt out and it’s always good to remind yourself of any privileged identities that allow you to more easily take a step back.
It’s okay and necessary to take breaks, but work to notice when the same strategies you use to relax become tools for numbing or actively disengaging.
- Practicing mindfulness is an excellent way to both relax and recharge. “10 Ways to Release Stress in 5 Minutes” offers quick tips to reduce tension when you’re feeling overwhelmed.
- Sometimes, stress can fuel your need to take a break. Use these stress relieving strategies to help you stay centered and focused.
Expect to make mistakes and commit to learning from them. We are all complex and nobody is perfect.
- Brené Brown, a leader in research around shame, just re-released her first book, The Gifts of Imperfection, which works from the simple assumption that “my story matters because I matter.” Brené’s website includes additional resources for embracing imperfection.
- If you’re more of an auditory learner, Brené Brown also has a podcast called “Unlocking Us.” Her episode on the first try is especially relevant if you’re finding yourself new to anything, including this movement.
Any anti-racism effort begins with self-work. Make sure to take your time reflecting inward and take active steps to understand how oppression shows up in you by addressing your own racist attitudes and beliefs.
- Racism Recovery Center, a fellow Denver-based organization, works at the intersection of anti-racism and mental health. They offer coaching and self-guided courses for inner work.
- The Body is not an Apology is both a book and a movement created by activist Sonya Renee Taylor. The website contains a variety of op-ed pieces across a multitude of social justice issues. The book is also an excellent tool for self reflection.
- Another audio option — In their podcast, “Finding Our Way,” Prentis Hemphill interviews leaders like Sonya Renee Taylor and Patrice Cullors, co-founder of Black Lives Matter, and includes conversations about boundaries and other modes of self-empowerment as social justice tools.
Remember that it’s never too late to re-engage. Start small and hold yourself accountable to taking action regularly. Every anti-racist act is a step toward change.
- Do you start your day with emails from subscription services like The New York Times or The Skimm? Anti-Racism Daily is an educational resource in the form of a daily email. It provides regular opportunities for learning and taking action.
- Looking for ways to keep engaging your friends and family through authentic conversations? TCC has you covered with tips for having difficult conversations.
- There are a ton of community compiled google docs on the internet that offer suggestions for ways to get involved. Many of them are customized and take you through a daily action or are organized by time commitment. Justice in June is one example and many others are easily found with a quick web search.