We can put up a black square, but what does it mean or matter if we don't follow through?
I thought long and hard about this very question before I posted the black square, and even so, I almost titled the post "My Virtue Signal." Jeff, you don't use social media (and how wise you were to make that decision!), so you won't have seen that it's very rare I participate in what some people call "slacktivism" - changing their profile photos and other gestures to mark the media tragedy of the week. My reasoning up until now has been "Why do we acknowledge only the immediate injustices that hit the news while much greater but unreported tragedies go unseen every day?" So as per usual, I wasn't going to comment, even obliquely, on the anti-racist protests happening in the United States. But then I began to wonder if that choice was a form of moral cowardice, if I was trying to avoid controversy and censure by staying "above the fray," as it were. And I thought of the non-white friends and colleagues I've had over the years, and I wondered what it says about me if I couldn't even do simply this, a gesture, at least, of sympathy and solidarity. Hence my decision to participate in Blackout Tuesday, not only with this post and by changing my profile images on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, but by spending the evening reading works by black authors, watching a film by a black director with black stars about the black experience, and sharing commentary from black voices with my circle of social media followers, however small that may be. Of course this kind of activity is far from sufficient when what's really needed is true change, the sort that comes from new legislation that not only acknowledges the built-in barriers to quality of life for racialized people, but actively removes those barriers. Even more importantly, those of us who have any kind of privilege need to do more to listen to non-white voices and help amplify those voices. So my own follow-through, small as it may be, is a promise to myself to actively seek out those voices, read and watch for better understanding, and share, along with reviewing my charitable giving strategy to see which organizations are doing the best job of correcting racial injustice. I know it's not enough, and I know that even this reply is laced through with ignorance and privilege, which is why I didn't try to explain the original post. But I felt I had to do something, however small, to support the millions who have to navigate a racist system every day. Why now and not years ago? I don't have a good answer to that question. All I can do is try to do better. And as always, Jeff, thank you for asking the right questions.
Great response, this.
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