Originally posted in the Healing Solidarity Collective and on How Matters.org on Monday 1st June 2020.
You will by now have heard about the protests across the USA, and spreading across the world, in response to the extrajudicial murders in May of Breonna Taylor in Kentucky, Tony McDade in Florida, Ahmaud Arbery in Georgia, George Floyd in Minnesota, and the subjugation of Black bodies for centuries prior.
The #BlackLivesMatter Global Network is calling for ‘an end to the systemic racism that allows this culture of corruption to go unchecked and our lives to be taken.’
It’s time for all of us to be clear about the side we are on, in our work and in our activism. Black and brown people have been murdered by the state both in the US, the UK, and other countries around the globe for far too long. Global economic and political systems and societies are racialised, as much as they are gendered. Imperialism and colonialism has created a global system of white supremacy, and that system is alive and well in our work in international ‘development’ and solidarity. It is still dominated by large global or white-led entities holding all of the power and resources, while building their organisational “brands.” All the while the communities they claim to help – destabilised in the past by colonial violence and exploitation – continue to receive little genuine reparation for harm. Instead their knowledge, energy, and ideas are disregarded, or worse, extracted and exploited by larger, more resourced “players” in global development, despite any good intentions.
Colonial practices and mentalities persist today in so many global systems and the ‘development’ system is not immune from this.
When up against systems as entrenched, resilient, and interdependent as white supremacy, capitalism and the patriarchy, we must start right where we are.
We are either in resistance to white supremacy, or we are upholding it either overtly or by our silence or inaction in this moment. In “social good” spaces, let us find all manner of ways to call for an end to racism and the injustices perpetuated by inequality and discrimination.
This is a moment amongst many, but it is a moment calling for clarity and action. Overturning white supremacy will likely take generations and yet – right now – there is an opening for dialogue, change, and transformation.
So what can you do? Below are ways to support the broader struggle, to bring about change in your workplaces, and guidance for your personal care and reflection. You’ll also find resources below from here in the Collective to support your learning and connecting the dots.
There are many ways to be part of the broader struggle:
- If you can do so, and can do so safely (also in the context of Covid-19), take to the streets and join the protest.
- If not, read this and decide how you will act: “26 ways to be in the struggle beyond the streets.”
- Give your own resources where you can to grassroots-led organizations, community organizers, and legal funds supporting protest and resistance.
- Offer support to those you personally know who are engaged in action. This could be emotional support, or it could be material support (finances, food, practicalities).
- Raise the issue of racism and your commitment to anti-Black racism with the people around you, with your family and friends.
- Share your own commitment and actions with those in your professional network.
In your work:
- Call for an end to all white boards and all white leadership. Highlight the lack of representation and real decision-making power of Black people, other people of colour, Indigenous peoples, and others with diverse lived experiences in your organisation. Be clear when leadership does not reflect the profile of the communities and societies where your organisation’s work is happening. Be clear about how this reflects on the mission and values of the organisation.
- Call attention to whose knowledge, expertise and experience is undervalued. Question whose voices are being heard and respected most in the organisation overall, and do everything you can to follow the knowledge, leadership, and experiences of Black people. Make different hiring decisions and working to close the gender and race pay gap.
- Be an unapologetic advocate for the redistribution of financial resources. Far too many funding decisions are being made in international headquarters and far too much money is being spent there also. Do everything within your positional power and realm of influence to channel more resources – in more dispersed and unrestricted ways than ever before – to people with the lived experience of the issues on which you are working and involve them meaningfully in your decision making processes. These people will likely be Black and brown. Invest directly in locally-driven and female, Black, and minority-led organisations. (And for goodness sake, get them their grant payments on time!)
- Be an unapologetic advocate for communications that do not center whiteness in the world. Africans and people in the Global South have been calling for the white savior narrative/industrial complex, and bridge characters to be retired for eons. This matters because this is how stereotypes, generalisations, victimisation, exploitation, and heroism are exposed, challenged, and healed. Our organisations must no longer see communications as a means to a fundraising end, but a fundamental part of our impact strategy.
- Examine how you live your organisational values in every aspect of how your organisation is run. Ensure those who clean your buildings, make your deliveries, collect your rubbish, provide your administrative services (most of whom are women) get proper representation, respect, good pay and benefits, proper working conditions, and a say in how things work in your organisation.
- If you identify as white, ask other white people to learn about their unearned privilege and how we recreate the systems created by colonialism and imperialism within our global development organisations. It shows up in our ways of working in harmful ways that maintain the status quo.
Healing Solidarity resources are here to help you to think through and challenge the ways in which all of this shows up in our organisations.
The previous conferences are available to download here. The 2018 conversations are also available in the Collective. In particular check out:
- Angela Brue Raebrun (2018)
- Pontso Mafethe (2018)
- the special conversation with Desiree Adaway in the Collective,
- Edgar Villeneuva with Pontso Mafethe (2019)
- Marai Larasi & Neha Kagal with Pontso Mafethe (2019)
- Women of Colour speak about Racism in Philanthropy (2019)
- Racism, Equity and Care – What can white people do? (2019)
There is a reading list for “Anti-Racism & Decolonising Resources” here.
Consider signing up for Getting Ourselves Together, our practice group on engaging with Anti-Racism for people raced as white.
In your personal and professional care and reflection:
‘The times are urgent, let us slow down.’ ~Bayo Akomolafe
Bold action requires us to be fully resourced. So take care of yourself and others, first and foremost. Black people, please do whatever you need most right now – run, yell, cry, sing, or let the pain be.
As much as this is a time to be in solidarity with the broader struggle, it’s also a time to make sure that we continue to do the inner work so that we may show up for what’s most needed and urgent at this time.
- Explore the parts of ourselves that support white supremacy as a system, and that draw from mental models of dominant white culture. We all play a part in upholding this system or we choose to be part of ending it.
- Let the self-compassion flow. Accept that you will upset people and you may make mistakes when speaking up. When standing up for justice, there is no failure – only learning and un-learning. (Note for those who are raced as white: Do not center your feelings in multi-racial spaces and discussions about racism.)
- Gather your people…because no one can do anti-racism work alone. The support and challenge offered by our trusted advisors and friendly critics is what can help us develop the self-knowledge and understanding of our own pasts, which we need to be able to make change together. So find a friend – many friends in fact. Find groups that can offer feedback, support, and resources.
- For white people, keep learning about other people’s lived experiences. Just because you are part of the global development sector, you are not given a pass as ‘one of the good ones.’ Here’s some authors to consider reading/following:
- Me and White Supremacy by Layla Saad
- Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race by Reni Eddo-Lodge
- So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo
- and many, many more! There’s so many google-able resources to explore and ways to hear directly from Black and brown people about how systemic racism impacts their daily lives and how you can use your privilege to interrupt harm.
Be in touch! Reach out to people in this space. Healing Solidarity – in action – is why we are here.
Compiled by Jennifer Lentfer. Gratitude to Mary Ann Clements, Esua Jane Goldsmith, Shawna Wakefield, Pontso Mafethe, and Swatee Deepak for their feedback and guidance on this joint statement. Washington, DC·