Ok, so this is NOT a pie chart. This bit of writing began as a pie chart about types of lists I was seeing circulated, but I realized I had a lot more than a few slices to say. So you're getting words instead.
Last weekend, I posted on Instagram, "The question I've been sitting with is this: How can I make it a more central part of my life—in an ongoing, systematic, and sustainable way—to counter the racist structures that I benefit from? Especially on the particular issue of police violence." I got a lot of messages from my fellow white folks asking for action items and resources on how to do this.
This is a way we have been conditioned to "take the next step" beyond posting or liking on social media: Lists
. Checklists. Reading lists. Action items. Black creators to follow. (Did you read the piece I linked above
, by cultural critic Lauren Michele Jackson?) These documents are full of great information, yet many of them have a one-size-fits-all feeling. I haven't been sharing them because, when I examine why I
haven't been doing more to live in accordance with my beliefs, what I find is laziness. A failure to sacrifice my weekend hours, a failure to take the extra time to have a difficult conversation, a failure to pause and think a little harder about a choice in front of me. To address this, I know I need a specific interrogation of my life that goes deeper than a resources list.
Practicing for the world I want to inhabit (thank you again, Mariame Kaba!) requires a plan that is aligned with my skills, my life, the power I hold, the people I'm invested in, the communities I'm part of. And while I am definitely reliant on outside sources (yes, some of them found on lists) to craft this personal plan, most of these actions have come from asking myself about all the ways I can better live my values.
What resources do I have to contribute?
Money. In many cases, I have shifted to make smaller-dollar recurring payments rather than large, one-off donations.
Who is accountable to me, and who am I accountable to?
I see myself deleting emails from national organizations when my schedule gets busy. But I do not hit snooze on a message from a friend asking me to send an email, carpool to a public meeting, or make a donation. My friends and I are sending more of these emails, and blocking off time on our calendars to do this work together.
What institutions am I invested in, and how can I change them from within?
Here's just one example: I have a book publisher, which means the publishing industry and I are in bed together. It also means I have direct access to powerful people at one major publisher and can ask what they are doing to address the overwhelming whiteness of the industry
Who am I amplifying, week in and week out?
There's a lot of power associated with being a gatekeeper of the primary platforms I work on, this newsletter and Call Your Girlfriend. I can commit to devoting more attention to Black writers and creators—and not only when they're making work that directly addresses racism and its effects.
I'm aware that it might come across as self-congratulatory to spell all of this out here. But explaining my resource-list aversion, and a bit about my own still-developing practice, feels better than offering you a flippant pie chart this week.