I have mixed thoughts about making this post. There has been a lot of discussion going around about performative allyship or performative anti-racism, and I believe it is important to define and discuss that so that people can self-analyze whether they are motivated by helping those affected by racism or whether they are motivated by attention for their declarative posts. While sometimes performative behavior is obvious from the outside, very often it isn’t because the difference is internal. There is no way for me to make a public post about the steps I’ve taken to be anti-racist without calling attention to myself. Making the post is an inherent ask for attention, even if I’ve emotionally detached from the approval (or lack thereof) which results.
On the other hand, humans are social creatures and we learn many of our behaviors by watching the example of others. In an aerobics class, the instructor stands up front and does the steps so that other people can watch and learn what the steps should be. If everyone who is doing anti-racist work is quiet about it, then those who would follow an example are left to shuffle around making things up. Also, if we all go quiet about our anti-racist work, then many people who were partially ready to make changes will settle back into their old habits. Systems that preference some people over others will stay in place. The major media has moved on to the next story, which means the conversation only continues if people are willing to continue speaking up.
On the whole, I’ve decided to risk performance and post about what I’ve done in the past month and what I intend to do for the next months. It forces me to examine whether I’ve gotten complaisant.
- Read at least one non-fiction book that specifically addresses understanding racism or anti-racism (Many people had a similar goal and the books sold out. I’m still waiting for mine to arrive. However I did do a lot of online reading. I watched Just Mercy and Malcom X. I’ve watched Uncomfortable Conversations with a Black Man.)
- Seek out books of fiction written by marginalized writers. The books themselves do not have to be about marginalization. I’m just expanding the range of perspectives in the storytellers I give attention to. (Did this one. I have more books arriving from a local bookstore as well.)
- I’ll celebrate the 4th of July by spending a week posting on social media to promote the work and businesses of POC or LGBTQ creators. BUT the focus is on promoting the work not on their marginalization. This means I need to do the homework and find brilliant works that fit my criteria. They’re already out there, I’m just ignorant of them. (This was fun. I liked the challenge of seeking out new sources for things I liked. I found some amazing things.)
- Take steps to expand my professional networks beyond my currently existing network of mostly white, middle-class, American people. I am missing out on amazing talent because I haven’t taken the time to become familiar with their work. I’ll start by following some new people on twitter. (I followed new people on twitter. I’ve started learning where I can reach out to make sure that when I do a project I’m actually finding the best person, not just grabbing who is closest/ familiar.)
- Read the Anti-Racist non-fiction book as soon as I can get my hands on them.
- Continue to read books written by marginalized authors, people who have different perspectives than I usually read.
- When I need to purchase things, don’t just default to the nearest big box store. Instead do some research to find small businesses I can support, particularly small businesses that serve communities which struggle more.
- Continue to expand my professional networks. Work to connect with and understand the new people I’ve followed on twitter. Listen to them.
- Examine the power I have in my communities and be willing to use that power to make space for voices which the community norms tend to sideline or exclude.