It’s been hard to figure out what to say. I sit in a place of privilege. But as someone who wants a better world for her sons, who believes that God is love and did not create beautiful people of different races so we could hate each other, who graduated from the University of Virginia proudly, it is hard to know what I can do on the Internet to fully express my heartbreak. Much has already been said by people with stronger voices anyhow.
But then I realized: I don’t want to just say. I want to do.
I understand the articles about “not keeping quiet,” and the calls to “speak up or you are condoning it all.” And speaking loudly has its place.
But so, honestly, does action. Instead of speaking out against terrible hate crimes or boys who have been brainwashed into thinking that the only reason they aren’t happy is because someone else of a different color stole it from them, how can we stop those moments from happening at all?
The odds are, especially if you are reading this, you live in a fairly segregated world. It isn’t intentional, but it is. I become silently wide-eyed when people tell me that racism or racial discrepancies don’t exist anymore, that it is only because “they” (what does that pronoun really stand for?) aren’t working hard enough to seize opportunities.
But look around. How many people of any color besides white are around you, in your grocery store? How many come to your spin class, join you in hot yoga, or attend your children’s school? White, non-Hispanic Americans make up 61.3% of the total population so it should look like that in the room that you are in right now. To say that there isn’t a racial divide (whatever your philosophical or rational reasons are) is simply not true. But that isn’t what we are really talking about on this blog today, anyhow.
As a person who firmly believes that equal opportunity should exist for all of the people, I want to take actions and steps to keep the world from getting to the point where young white males feel so deseparate for something that they grow up to be Nazis brandishing torches.
A big question for me becomes: How do we even keep these moments from developing? In other words, instead of being reactive, how can we be proactive?
I have been brainstorming some ideas I have for you and, thereby, for me:
Support the right people doing the work.
I don’t believe that all politicians are crooked. I think we sometimes vote in evil and fradulent people because we don’t spend enough time really learning about candidates. We might not agree with each other, but we should still be conscientious that we are putting people who share our morals in office. I realized awhile ago that the morals I most vehemently believe in are all related to social causes: love, support, help, and the good stewardship of resources. (And this point is not aimed at the presidential level – that ship has sailed.) There are local elections gearing up in your town right this minute. There are mayors and state houses and senates and judges and everything in between. Pay attention! Then go campaign and go vote.
Be a mentor.
Think you know what children should be doing to grow up to be better people? Great! You can tell them yourself. Become a mentor. There are so many opportunities and there is so much need. So many kids start life with the odds stacked against them. Go show them what they could be. And pst- there are a lot of white boys in America who desperately need support, love and positive role models, too.
Volunteer your time.
It doesn’t have to be for civil rights – it can be for whatever passion you have. How can you help your community with your talents? Habitat for Humanity? Hospice visits? Literacy foundation teacher? Wrapping diapers for babies in need? Knitting shawls for those who are grieving? Serving soup at a homeless shelter? Fixing bikes for poverty-stricken kids? There are so many interesting and diverse nonprofits out there, all doing the hard work of helping, not just giving money, that you really have no excuse.
Donate your money.
Of course, you can always give resources. I know that’s hard to do, we work hard for every dime. But given that the average American household has 2.4 smartphones and 2.8 TVs, we have to be doing better than we admit and perhaps we can do as God asked: share some of our blessings with those who need a hand. So have an honest conversation about what you can do with your financial resources. Three less Starbucks a month or water instead of Gatorade for the kids’ sports games – either one of these changes and you have enough money to sponsor a child through Compassion.
Don’t see it? Start it.
If you see a community need that isn’t being met, go tackle it! Don’t sell yourself short. Don’t allow yourself to be talked out of it by your own head monsters. You have the resources you need. As my experience has taught me, it is so hard but the right people come along at the right time once you start.
Donate your stuff you don’t need.
I know that with a certain demographic the Konmarie method is wildly popular. And while it’s a cool challenge, it stops short. What if we cleared our closets, bookshelves, and clutter because we are doing it with a giving heart? Because we know we don’t need 15 Target shirts when a child at the elementary school the district over only has one? If you don’t use it, clear it out because someone else might need it.
Books. Novels. Literature. Poems.
This means get outside of your comfortable places of viewing and reading. Don’t just read what your friends post on Facebook because the odds are you are cocooning yourself in your own comfortable world of people who share your beliefs (how many people have you unfollowed this week?). Switch off whatever news channel you are watching (liberal or conservative) and instead go watch a Frontline documentary to really understand history and context. Change it up. Read articles from big, thinking places, like The Atlantic, not just a Huffington Post click bait creation. Attend a class at a community college, which is one of the best places to actually get to know people with different backgrounds all working hard.
I want to be really clear: I am working on all of these things myself. I know where I am in life, I know what God has blessed me with, and I know I have the responsibility to use my great fortune to help make the world better. I am listening and struggling and changing and hurting and failing and making tiny steps, just like you.
I also understand that the human condition is flawed and there may be a futile feeling here, like we are all tilting at windmills.
But we can’t give up. We can make a change.
Keep signing your petitions, posting on social media, and showing up to the marches. Of course.
But also think of ways you can roll up your shirtsleeves to get in there and help those in your community who are hurting before someone fills that hurt with hate.