A Commitment to Doing Better

This week I have learned more about race in America than I have in the last 34 years. Which says a lot about both my education and what I’ve chosen to pay attention to in my life. Based on what I’ve read and watched, I’m embarrassed about many of the actions I’ve taken and mortified about how I’ve handled certain situations in my past.

I handled them without knowledge of what I was doing to perpetuate systemic racism. That is not an excuse, that is a huge problem. But if we can all change going forward now that we know more, that is a start.

This isn’t about me or my feelings. It’s about committing to learning more and using the privilege that I was born with for doing better for people being treated unfairly. This is not about changing overnight. It’s about continued growth.

This is where I will start:

1. Educate myself: There are not enough movies, books, documentaries, podcasts, and articles in the universe that could make me understand what it’s like to be a black person in this country. But through reading and watching and listening to as many as I possibly can, I can become a better ally and learn to ask the right questions and understand the history. Through this education, I can become truly anti-racist.

As a reminder to myself and other white people reading this, you don’t have to learn everything this week. Commit to watching one documentary or movie a month this year. Commit to reading the anti-racism books that look the most interesting to you. Don’t try to do it all right now and burn out. Keep the momentum going.

This seems to be my problem in general as a person who cares about causes that are important to me. With many of them, I get fired up and excited to do more and be better, and then when the initial drive dims down, the motivation goes away. Get people to hold you accountable for turning your words into actions. You guys are that, for me.

2. Share what I learn: I will continue to share resources, stories, articles, images, and videos that are educational and powerful both on my blog and on Instagram. All of my stories will be saved to a highlight so you can go back and refer to them later if you missed them the first time. Today, I have a few recommendations in addition to my original list:

13th: If you haven’t watched 13th (on Netflix), I highly recommend it. I watched it over the last two days and it was heartbreaking and infuriating.

My White Friend Asked Me on Facebook to Explain White Privilege. I Decided to Be Honest: A very poignant read is this article from 2017 that I discovered through a friend’s post.

The Case for Reparations: This is a longer article that is worth sitting down for 20-30 minutes to read.

3. Use my voice locally: Over the last few days, I have had my eyes opened to an incredibly disturbing history of and continuation of racism in my mostly-white town. I’ve read a lot about the segregation of beaches after it was brought to my attention that Connecticut’s beaches have a history that is devastating but no longer surprising to me.

In looking into racism in Westport, I read four prize-winning essays written by local high school students about how micro-aggressions affected their high school experience (scroll down in the article to read the essays). I also found this very disturbing letter written by a black high school student at our local high school to local media.

The first thing I am doing is writing to an editor I know at our biggest local magazine, asking her to feature more people of color both in imagery and writing and to feature a local POC to share his or her story about living in this community. My goal is for it to be a front-page story.

I joined and I encourage local followers to join SURJ Fairfield County (Standing Up for Racial Justice). If you’re not local, you can find your local chapter here.

I will support local businesses and restaurants run by POC throughout Fairfield County and will promote these businesses.

That is where I plan to start locally and will share the other ways I plan to get involved as I discover them.

4. Teach my children: Amalia will be a student at the high school mentioned above one day. It is imperative that parents of little ones do better and start now so that students of color aren’t ever treated as less-than again.

Our generation has failed (so far) to make the systemic changes needed in our country The fact that eyes are being opened (my own included) gives me hope that the next generation could be the ones to fight for and make the big changes. That starts with parents teaching our children from a very young age.

I originally shared that I would be purchasing and reading anti-racist books for Amalia but have since realized through conversations and reading that focusing on books that feature black people in a positive way and celebrate diversity is the best place to start.

A few favorites in our house are Dream Big Little One and We’re Different We’re the Same (Sesame Street).

I also bought Hair Love, Rosa Parks, Sulwe, and a few others for us to read together going forward. Once all of our books arrive, I’ll put together a list of them all. This list features 50 children’s books that celebrate diversity.

(Note: I used affiliate links here. See below for how I will be donating all affiliate earnings this month.)

6. Donate affiliate earnings: When Anel and I donate money, we generally keep it to ourselves. We donate to causes because they’re important to us, not for recognition. So I went back and forth on whether or not to share this but right now I think it’s important for anyone with a voice online to share everything they’re doing to help. And when you can, donating money to the causes doing the best work is a powerful way to make a difference.

For the month of June, I will donate 100% of my affiliate earnings to Campaign Zero. For the rest of 2020, I commit to donating 20% of all my affiliate earnings to organizations that support the Black Lives Matter movement.

7. Do more for my industry: Every month I share the things I’m loving and reading and watching in my 5 Random Things series. I commit to including more brands, books, and films run by/written/made by black people in those lists. In addition to that, I’ll be more conscious of diversifying my content to include more black authors, business owners, and other content creators.

On the backend of this business, campaigns featuring multiple creators often include zero diversity. Going forward, I will be sure to ask about diversity within multi-creator campaigns and have conversations with brands around making those efforts. If a brand isn’t willing to budge, I commit to saying no. My friend Grace talked about how “inclusivity riders” in our contracts are being thrown around as an idea for influencers and I love that.

In addition, I commit to talking to the brands run by people I know about adding more diversity to their campaigns. About using black models on their website and including images of black people on their feeds.

8. Learn from my mistakes. I have made a lot of mistakes up until today. I will continue to make mistakes going forward. But instead of feeling fragile about them, I will step up, learn from them, and continue fighting against racism in my town and in my country.

That is my commitment. If you’re white and reading this, please join me in doing your part as well.

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