writing prompt for nonblack folks

We are coalescing with the energy of so many other people, not only across the U.S., but globally around the movement for Black Lives. Along with protests, solidarity posts, and donations, there is also quieter work to do– the work of unraveling the thoughts, behaviors, and actions that reinforce the conditions that necessitate this uprising.

I offered the writing prompt below over social media last week, and emailed it to my coworkers at our staff meeting on Monday. It is meant to help us nonBlack folks recognize and address ways that we have been complicit in anti-Black racism, and to reflect on our power to make tangible commitments to change.

The Prompt:

The work of dismantling racism requires consistent reflection, study, and practice.

Think of 3 moments when you could have shown up for a Black friend, colleague, neighbor, student– and didn’t.

Why didn’t you? What were your fears? What could you have done differently?

Now, think of 3 ways that you, in your daily life, with the access that you have, can better show up for Black people. Write them down. Commit to them, knowing that there may be times you fail, and must recommit to them.

That is the work. That is our work to do.

Guidance for the reflection/debrief process, either on your own, with a friend, or both:

  • Find a debriefing partner with whom you are close enough that you can hold loving space for each other through this, preferably one who is impacted by -isms to a similar degree as you are. Do not ask a Black person for their emotional energy.
  • Let yourself be with the emotions that come up. Shame may arise, and it is natural– we are all complicit in the systems that create these conditions. It is natural to feel shame and guilt at the ways our identities and behaviors have perpetuated injustice. It is important to recognize those behaviors in order to change them. We have to move through those feelings and let them motivate us to act.
  • The second part of the prompt is about action. Your thinking should include how to support Black people directly, AND also to the ways that you can recognize and interrupt anti-Blackness when it shows up in any setting– whether a Black person is present or not– in your own thinking, with a friend, a family member, in a staff meeting.
  • “Practice makes permanent.” We have to practice at interrupting racism within us and around us. The more frequently we do so, the more we will find ourselves able to overcome the reflex of staying silent. The more we will be able to embody our values.
  • If there are no Black folks in your life, neighborhood, or community, this is a time to investigate deeply how and why that came to be.

This reflection is meant to be concurrent with listening to Black voices and supporting the movement for justice in whatever ways you are able.