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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  1. Katie Sabbatino said:

    Thank you for sharing your journey with us! I firmly believe that if we didn’t start before, then the second best time to start is today! And for what it’s worth, I came for the outfits and lifestyle and recipes, and stay for the deeper content too!!

    6.3.20 · Reply
    • Julia said:

      Thanks Katie. Means a lot!

      6.4.20 · Reply
  2. Meaghan said:

    Thank you so much for this post. It is sincere and actionable, particularly when compared to the silence or tone deaf-ness so many others with a platform are demonstrating. As a white, upper middle class woman who grew up in Fairfield County and now lives in Boston, so much of this echoed how I’ve been feeling the past few days, and I plan to use this as a framework to approach anti-racism myself. I look forward to engaging with your posts and brand going forward and being exposed to more black content. Thank you again!!

    6.3.20 · Reply
    • Julia said:

      I’m so happy to hear that this content is resonating and helping you to make a change as well.

      6.4.20 · Reply
  3. Katherine said:

    Thank you for sharing resources and education material. I am committed to doing and being better but was feeling a little lost on where to start since there is so much being circulated right now (which is great that there is all of this information). I really hope that the engagement from all walks of life continues and doesn’t fade away.

    6.3.20 · Reply
    • Julia said:

      I hope so too. And I hope this gives you a good place to start.

      6.4.20 · Reply
  4. Lauren B. said:

    Our oldest son is the same age as Amalia. A few of our favorite kids’ books are Jabari Jumps (about a little boy who goes off the diving board for the first time), Leo Can Swim (to psych my son up for swim lessons when he was younger), and Matthew and Tilly (two friends who have a disagreement and learn to apologize). I’ve tried to be more conscious of supporting black-owned businesses whenever possible. The Skimm included a round-up of black-owned bookstores with online purchase options:
    https://www.buzzfeednews.com/article/ariannarebolini/black-bookstores-black-authors-books?bftwnews&utm_term=4ldqpgc#4ldqpgc

    It’s not about perfection, it’s about progress. I have largely stopped reading your blog in recent months because of an over-saturation of influencers pushing products at a time when it feels like the world is on fire. I love a good skincare purchase as much as the next person but so much of that messaging has felt incredibly tone deaf when people are struggling to keep themselves and their families healthy and safe. I hope you will consider making accountability on these issues a monthly series so that we can all benefit from the reminder to keep learning and unlearning bad habits. You’re not the only one with commitment issues (there’s a reason so many of us abandon our New Year’s resolutions before February) but this is too important to let slide.

    If I may ask one more thing of you it’s to engage your readers and their voices in your posts. I understand that this started as a personal blog but it’s evolved to become a brand and if you’re serious about expanding that brand then I think your business will benefit from including more perspectives. Our capacity to learn and grow is exponentially greater when we’re challenged to think differently and consider another person’s point of view. I challenge you to think of yourself more as a facilitator of important conversations and not always as the star of the show.

    I appreciate your consideration.

    6.3.20 · Reply
    • Julia said:

      Thanks for sharing these resources and for your honesty, Lauren. I absolutely hear you on engaging more readers voices. I will spend time this week figuring out how to best do that. Really really great point and I appreciate it.

      6.4.20 · Reply
  5. Jill said:

    Thank you. This is terrific and I look forward to the new content you’re committed to bringing to your already wonderful site. I ordered books for my little one! Thank you again and keep up the good work!

    6.3.20 · Reply
  6. kirsten said:

    Thank you so much for sharing this and your last post Julia. I am in a very similar life place as you and also recently moved from a more diverse city to a very white town for the sake of what I considered to be “better schools” (in my case, Danbury to Trumbull.) Reading the comments from Gabriella and others on the last post really struck a chord with me and opened my eyes to past decisions I’ve made that I did not even realize were systematic racism. Like you I vow to change, learn more and do more. I am also looking into ways to make sure my daughter gets more exposure to children of other cultures by planning more of our activities in diverse areas. Please continue to share your journey as it really helps us all to learn and grow. Thank you!

    6.3.20 · Reply
  7. Thank you for your inspiration and reminder that we can all do better. You’ve given me some great starting points.

    6.3.20 · Reply
  8. Mary Aarons said:

    Hi….great post. One tiny comment tho.
    Rosa Parks is in the Little People, Big Dreams series. (not the Dream Big, Little One series.)
    Yes, confusing!
    In the Little People, Big Dreams series there are lots of other wonderful titles including Martin Luther King, Jr., Josephine Baker, Wilma Rudolph, Harriet Tubman, Muhammad Ali, Ella Fitzgerald, Mahatma Gandhi, Anne Frank, Maria Montessori, David Bowie and so many more (both picture books and board books!)

    6.3.20 · Reply
    • Julia said:

      Oh thank you! I will fix that now.

      6.4.20 · Reply
  9. Kristen said:

    I think in order to effectively teach Amalia, she needs to have friends who are minorities, and teachers and other adults who she respects who are minorities. Sending my kids to a diverse Title 1 public school (although mostly Hispanic, Asian, and mixed race, similar to California’s racial population) has been one of the best decisions we made. Numerous studies have shown that when privileged white kids are enrolled in diverse elementary schools, their test scores don’t suffer because so much teaching happens at home.

    6.3.20 · Reply
    • Marcy said:

      Their test scores also don’t suffer because there are plenty of great teachers at Title One schools! In fact, working in education for over eight years, I can attest that the work done in Title One schools far exceeds the work done in many suburban, non Title One schools. For instance, at my current Title One school in NYC, we’ve pushed the boundaries of innovation in teaching our students remotely. Students are live on Google Meet with teachers the entire school day, and we immediately implemented many interactive online tools to engage students. In suburban areas across our nation, teachers have not even gone live with kids one time throughout this entire pandemic. Many are simply posting assignments and “busy work.” This is of absolutely no slight to the teachers. They are simply following their leadership and are doing what they are told. However, it makes sense that Title One teachers would go above and beyond because they do need to do more to assist vulnerable populations, push test scores, etc. Some of the best teachers I’ve ever seen have come out of the “worst” schools. Yes, what you do at home matters A LOT, but teachers matter too. Great teachers and administrators exist at both suburban schools and Title One schools, and not-so-great teachers and administrators exist at both suburban and Title One schools.

      6.3.20 · Reply
      • Marcy said:

        One final thought—I hope the tone of this message comes across appropriately. I am not writing to negate what you said. I would just be careful of implying that the only reason “white, privileged” students can succeed in Title One schools is because of the parents. It honestly perpetuates the exact systematic racism you are seeking to dissolve. It implies that the white, privileged parents are the sole cause of their success, disparaging any role the actual school might play. Again, I do not mean this to insult, lecture, etc., but rather to invite you to consider a new perspective.

        6.3.20 · Reply
        • Jennifer said:

          YES, THIS.

          – another NYC DOE employee 🙂

          6.3.20 · Reply
    • Martha said:

      Yes! I don’t want to be a negative Nancy, because awareness about racial issues is obviously important and a huge step in the right direction, but really there’s only so much that reading books and donating money will do. If our children never have the opportunity to actually be around and be friends with with people of color then what has really changed?

      I say all of this not to offend or discredit the steps that anyone is taking to educate themselves, but to challenge all of us to think big picture and real life.

      6.3.20 · Reply
      • Martha said:

        I’m rereading my comment and I would like to rephrase. I don’t want to minimize the importance of the donations anyone is making. Julia, your commitment to donating your profits for the entire month of June, and a portion for the entire year, is really amazing. Thank you!

        6.3.20 · Reply
      • Julia said:

        Thank you Martha, Marcy, Jennifer, and Kristen for this conversation. It is something I need to really put some thought into and figure out what to do as someone who lives in a school district that is primarily white. Anel and I fully understand the importance of surrounding Amalia with friends of different races and commit to doing that however we can. Give me time to figure it out. But I will figure it out!

        6.4.20 · Reply
  10. Shannon said:

    Love all this. Please share fellow bloggers of color! xx

    6.3.20 · Reply
    • Julia said:

      I will. Thank you!

      6.4.20 · Reply
  11. Wendy said:

    I would add to others’ comments about not being preachy. None of us has all the answers and being commanded to educate, educate, educate assumes that all your readers are a. white and b. haven’t already been doing the work. A resource I use with my students is this: https://implicit.harvard.edu/implicit/user/agg/blindspot/indexrk.htm
    it’s also about more than buying stuff-be it for yourself or Amalia- it’s about actually developing a diverse community and friend group.

    6.3.20 · Reply
    • Julia said:

      I hear you on all points. Thank you.

      6.4.20 · Reply
  12. Sara Dodson said:

    Thank you so much for this!

    6.3.20 · Reply
  13. Christine said:

    I so appreciate and value your genuine honesty, Julia, and how you are able to recognize limitations and what progress still needs to happen! This is such a great starting point, and I hope more bloggers take note of this too, especially when they have powerful voices and platforms from which to speak. There are many amazing pockets of diversity near Westport (Bridgeport, Norwalk, Stamford), as well as beyond Fairfield County. As one other poster mentioned, updating your Fairfield County guide to include some of this diversity would be wonderful too. As a kid, we used to go to Bridgeport a lot for their Greek and Portuguese bakeries (I grew up around Greeks) and to Stamford for their Peruvian food (I’m Peruvian). There is literally a ‘world’ in these places :). I’m excited and looking forward on what’s to come on your blog.

    6.3.20 · Reply
    • Julia said:

      As soon as I’m able to, I’m going to include more restaurants and businesses run by POC in my guide. I’ve gotten so many great recommendations and am looking forward to trying them all! If you have any specific favorites, send them my way.

      6.4.20 · Reply
  14. Thank you for this, and all you do. I’ve been a reader since before you got pregnant with Amalia, and as the now mom of a 13 month old girl, I’ve followed so many of your recommendations over time. I really appreciate the resources and your commitment, but more-so your honesty and compassion. You’re a real class act and someone I admire for their heart and ethics.

    6.4.20 · Reply