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We need you NOW to stand with us for Ahmaud Arbery

I want to start this off by saying happy birthday to Mr. Ahmaud Arbery. Ahmaud, you’re a man who should be here today. An all-American athlete, and kind and loving person as described by family. I’m not going by these false media reports and narratives working to put you, the victim, on trial. In my course at American University entitled Intercultural Communication, we talk about a wide range of issues from Islamophobia and homophobia to anti-Semitism and sexism. One of our sections deals with #blacklivesmatter and unarmed killings of people, primarily of black people by law enforcement, but also in situations like this as well as the case with Trayvon Martin and George Zimmerman, who were slain by vigilantes. I stopped watching videos of black people being slain until it’s time to teach this course so I have not watched the video of Ahmaud Arbery being slain.

One of the questions that I ask to my majority white students in class is the same question I’m asking you if you are not black: do you see yourself or your family members or people you know who are not black in those same situations? And the overwhelming response for the majority of my students is that they do not. And this is where the problem lies. This thing we call common humanity, many people don’t have it as it relates to black people. There’s still this mentality of “Well, he must have done something…” or “Well if he wasn’t running…” then Arbery would still be alive. These questions are never asked of white people.

There is always a reason to justify black death because we all don’t see ourselves in the lives of black people. People don’t see themselves in our predicament. When I see somebody get killed who’s Jewish in an antisemitic attack, I see myself and people I know in that situation. When I see somebody get attacked and beaten or bullied because they’re gay, I see myself in that situation even though I’m not gay because they’re human beings. As Dr. Maya Angelou said that, we’re human beings so nothing should be foreign to us. If we are going to find common ground in these uncommon times, I need you to start seeing your own children, your own mother, your own father, and your own brothers and sisters in these situations and really take a deep reflective stance as to how you’re going to be an upstander for all humanity. If all lives really matter, then we need you to join the fight to prove it!

The Arbery tragedy is every day for us. Many of us don’t even click on these videos anymore because we’re tired and it hurts in our soul. A recent study spoke about how racism itself should be considered a disease or linked to disease because of the way it shortens our lives. Do you think about this if you are not black? Do you just call yourself an “ally” and call it a day? We don’t need allies right now. I don’t believe in allies. I believe that the term allies has become a very arrogant term. And it’s the term that people have used to act like they’re kind of better than people. Allies go to sports games, cheer their home team, and go home. We need people to see common humanity and do something about it!

We have to get out there and do the work. We need all of you to get out there. Keep Ahmaud in mind when you’re running because he can’t run anymore. Keep Ahmaud in mind when you get out and exercise. Keep him in mind when you’re out there doing your best and forgetting the rest. Think about his parents and think about his mom on Mother’s Day, his father and Father’s Day and all of the people out there from the Sandra Blands to the Trayvon Martins of the world. Live and fight for the people who we won’t be able to get back.

We don’t have time to wait. We need you to get out there with us in solidarity because we are human beings and we deserve that respect that we have given to so many of you all across diverse communities around the world. That support has always been shown, oftentimes at the expense of our own community and now we’re asking for just a little of that back. I think that’s the least that many of you out there can do. We’re not waiting for you. Whenever you’re ready, come out and hit the streets, hit the airwaves, hit whatever with us because we are hitting it hard to get justice for Mr. Ahmad Arbery and so many other people. So I say to Mr. Arbery, rest in peace and rest in power. Whenever the rest of you are ready to join us in this common fight for humanity and dignity and decency, you have a place with us. Peace.

The 10 Antiracist Commandments (lyrics)

I been in this land for years, they see me as an animal

Time to end these racist lies, just read a manual

A step by step booklet for you to get

Time we learned how to be anti-racist

Dr. Kendi laid out the blueprint of how to do it

You wanna be an antiracist this is how you pursue it

Said it ain’t just good enough to say what you ain’t

You gotta do the work, box that hate out the paint

Start by checking yourself why you got those fears

Look at who’s been teaching you those racist ideas

White hate black, black hate white, black hate black

When it comes to being racist we should all step back

And check it all from how we police clothing and behavior

To how our system’s based off the need for a white savior

From power and body to class and biology

The racist roots of society is our biography

But it ain’t gotta be just because it’s how it was

We can’t keep the status quo just because

With our future on the line I believe that it’s time

To look in the mirror start to change our design

Rule nombre uno:

Gotta let people know

The racist views you hold

And how you plan to let em go

#2: here’s a good next move

Get a good reading list that challenges your views

#3: Never trust nobody

Who says they ain’t racist when actions speak loudly

#4: Know you heard this before

“Some of my best friends are black” don’t say that no more

#5: you don’t want racism to stay alive

Learn how it all started then make sure that it dies

#6: post-racial rhetoric, forget it

Think voting for Obama stopped racism, forget it

#7: this rule is so underrated

Understand why our neighborhoods are still segregated

’cause money and race don’t mix

Like Trump havin’ real ethics

Find yourself impeached real quick

#8: Never keep no hate in you

Exorcise it all costs maybe lose some friends too

#9 shoulda been number one to me

Know from day one we been a racist society

#10: a strong word called “alignment”

Get with like-minded people is your next assignment

Follow these rules your racism starts to shake up

If not, maybe hundred more years until we wake up!

The Problem With White Allies And Anti-Racist Education

I have worked in the field of cultural competency, diversity education, and teaching black & brown boys for decades. Every seven years or so, there is new terminology that develops that seeks to better encapsulate the work that so many of us are passionately engaged in on a daily basis. From cultural competency and culturally relevant education to inclusive curriculum and implicit bias, we find ourselves regularly creating new terms that best represent what we do. This is also the case in other spaces such as the corporate, government, and entertainment worlds. Two terms that have gained steam in recent years are “white allies” and “anti-racist education.” While I have used the term “anti-racist” education as recently as this year, I have never felt comfortable with the term and something never rubbed me the right way about the term “white allies” so I will start there.

The term “white allies” has come to define the need for white people to speak up more and directly challenge the racism that exists in America that is specifically expressed by other white people. There is this philosophy that some white people only will receive words that can change their racist views from other white people. I have never believed that but the bigger issue is that the way we insist on the need for “White allies” comes off as if we’re begging for a savior and this is problematic for several reasons, which can indirectly reinforce notions of white supremacy. As Derrick Bell said: “Our actions are not likely to lead to transcendent change and may indeed, despite our best efforts, be of more help to the system we despise than to the victims of that system whom we are trying to help.” To counter this, we should heed the words of Dr. Maya Angelou.

Dr. Angelou is quoted as saying “I am a human being. Nothing human can be alien to me.” To me, this quotation means that the mentalities of the “ally” creates a belief that white people are somehow above black people and need to descend down from some perch to help us. White people should be actively engaged in finding an end to racism and white supremacy because their fellow human beings are suffering. An “ally” is almost like a sports fan. An ally can come to the “game” so to speak, cheer on the people on the court (black & brown folks) and then go home until they’re called on again. I know this is an over simplification but the main point is that I am seeing a certain level of arrogance developing in the “white ally” movement that is frustrating. I, for example, am not gay but I am not going to call myself an ally to the LGBTQIA community because people in the LGBTQIA are my human brothers and sisters. I’m not going to go somewhere, challenge some people, and then go home to watch my favorite tv show (with possible anti-gay themes but that’s a story for another day). I am actively engaged in the struggle for LGBTQIA rights because it’s the human thing to do, not because “they” need me. The terminology must change, which leads me to anti-racism.

The University of Calgary defines anti-racism as “the active process of identifying and eliminating racism by changing systems, organizational structures, policies and practices and attitudes, so that power is redistributed and shared equitably.” There are other working definitions but I will use for now. I am committed to doing this and that will never change. The words of Mother Theresa, however, ring in my head whenever I hear this terms. Mother Theresa said she would never attend an anti-war rally, only a pro-peace rally. This is extremely important in the era of President Donald Trump. Everyone is caught up in what they are against that we often forget what we are fighting for. Language matters. I now believe in using terms such as “pro-equity” or “pro-equality” education. Again, this may seem like semantics to some but there is serious energy in the language we use and the intentionality of our work.

Several of my colleagues find themselves getting fatigued and frustrated in our line of work. I include myself on that list. Sometimes we are so caught up in the negative that our work risks getting compromised. In order to keep ourselves motivated and focused we need to change our language. We need to refocus our efforts and our energy because there is only going to be more work to do. Human beings working for equity and equality for all is much more powerful than the need for white allies to help with anti-racist education. We need all hands on deck in this movement but we need all hands in, not handouts.