So if you’re feeling overwhelmed with current events, including the killing of George Floyd, you’re certainly not alone. I had to take a couple of days to process and be able to do/say anything constructive rather than just getting angry and depressed.
The best, most productive way I can respond is to encourage people to listen to each other and learn, to try to understand and build compassion and empathy. That doesn’t involve me spouting my opinions or my outrage (although I certainly have a lot of both). Rather, I am drawing on my background as an English and American history teacher. I am putting on my teacher’s hat and encouraging us all to listen to what African American writers have to say about their own experience. Even if you don’t agree with every interpretation or point they make on every page, at least listen. Hear what they are saying.
To that end, I’ve recommended two summer reading assignments. They are both fast accessible reads that provide an essential lesson about the racial history of the United States (and beyond).
First, STAMPED, by Jason Reynolds and Ibram X. Kendi. This is a ‘remix’ of Dr. Kendi’s longer work Stamped from the Beginning. It is designed for young readers but is great for adults (like me) as well. If you are an educator, there is a free classroom guide here.
Second, BETWEEN THE WORLD AND ME, by Ta-Nahesi Coates. I reviewed this back in 2015. Sadly, it is even more relevant today. It’s also a very quick read, but very powerful, and will give readers insight (if you don’t already have it) into why the unrest happening today is nothing new and nothing random. This rage and fear have a real, powerful context, and we all need to understand it.
I have a hard time talking about Becky’s and my charitable giving, because we prefer to be anonymous. It’s always been our feeling that we should do something because it is the right thing, and not because we expect recognition or a pat on the back. It makes us very uncomfortable to publicize our giving because it feels like we’re tooting our own horns, and in our minds that defeats the purpose of doing charity for charity’s sake.
That said, since many of you have asked, here are some of the causes we love to support. If you are so inclined, and you are looking for ways to help, these are certainly worth considering:
The ACLU. We have been monthly supporters for many years now. They provide critical pro bono legal services for those whose civil rights have been denied or curtailed. Racial justice is one of their big focus areas.
The Trevor Project. This organization provides hotline support for LGBTQ+ youth who are struggling, and right now, with COVID-19, rising racial injustice, and the unique vulnerability of LGBTQ+ youth of color, their work is more critical than ever.
Black Lives Matter. We support and contribute to BLM because they are providing a critical service of raising awareness and organizing grassroots responses to social injustice. If you are so inclined, you can find links on their site to many petitions and other ways to constructively contribute.
Prison Books Program. This is a program based in our area (specifically Quincy), where my son and I have volunteered over the years and which we support financially. They fill requests from prisoners for free books — a critical service for a critically underserved and at-risk population which is disproportionately people of color (For the ‘whys’ of that, read the summer reading books above and watch The 13th Amendment on Netflix.) As an added bonus, they need lots of new book donations by African American authors, and Wellesley Books has a wishlist from which you can order. Support POC authors, support imprisoned people, support local books. It’s an all-around win.
The International Rescue Committee. We have also been monthly contributors to the IRC for many years. Their work may seem tangential to the crisis at hand, but I think it is very much related and relevant. The IRC works to help refugees and immigrants with legal services and humanitarian aid. Race, and the concept of ‘Othering’ is at the heart of our conversations about immigration and refugee aid. This organization builds compassion and understanding while it saves lives.
There’s more, but that should provide you with a picture of who we support and why. If you are able and inclined, I would encourage you to help any of the above organizations. (Cough. Becky’s and my mutual birthday is coming up on June 5, and that would be the best birthday present ever. Cough).
This is a great article on how to be a white ally by Courtney Ariel. It was helpful to me, and might be helpful to you. One of the main things that resonated for me: It is more important for me to pass the megaphone to people of color to talk about their experiences rather than for me to be shouting what I think!
Stay strong. Stay as safe as you can. Practice listening and kindness.