Everyday activism begins at home before spreading to your own backyard. Here are some tips to get you started.
MICHIGAN—Transitions of power can be cumbersome and complicated at the highest levels of government, but locally, it can be as simple as neighbors and neighborhoods having conversations with each other.
In reality, the work toward racial equity in the Great Lakes State is just beginning.
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer recently announced a Black Leadership Advisory Council to help bring Black issues to Michigan’s executive and legislative bodies—and ensure that they are addressed.
Now that the 2020 election is over, here are ways for Michiganders to remain involved in the fight for social justice and racial equity in the state.
Check Your Privilege
Michiganders like Bridget Huff of Port Huron note that the most important aspect of white allyship can be the most difficult for some people to address.
“You step up and offer what you have to give, but you don’t stay there,” Huff told The ‘Gander in a June interview during the height of civil unrest throughout Michigan. “You step back and you let people of color and the leaders in these movements ask you ‘can you do X, Y or Z.’”
Huff and other community lobbyists note that white people often want to lend their personal or professional expertise to help, but that can drown out the voices they mean to amplify. Instead, Huff suggests making yourself available to help, but doing what is asked instead of assuming you know how you can best assist.
Privilege also extends beyond ethnicity. Many suburban Michiganders choose to protest or canvas the state’s larger cities like Detroit, Grand Rapids, and Flint without understanding their own socioeconomic privilege as suburbanites.
Expand Your Personal Network
Thanks to social media algorithms, many of us exist in echo chambers online. This can be counteracted by changing who you follow online, and the events that you go to—whether they’re socially distanced or virtual.
Facebook groups can be a good place to meet like-minded people and ask questions you may be too embarrassed to bring up in person.
EventBrite lists both in person and virtual events across the state, according to your zip code. Consider mingling with groups of people outside your normal circle—and take a friend! No one said making new friends had to be lonely.
The Black experience in America is complicated to understand. Books, movies, and documentaries can help.
Movies about the Black experience are often accused of whitewashing narratives, but they can still offer insight for people who have never witnessed injustice. The 2017 film Detroit highlighted the 1967 riots in Michigan’s largest city, though it was written and directed by white creatives.
Walk With Me: The Trials of Damon J. Keith chronicles the judicial career of the Detroit-born federal judge who presided over some of the nation’s most controversial race-related cases from the 1960s through the 1980s.
Grow Your Professional Network
Combatting everyday racism can be as simple as consciously choosing where to spend your money and with whom to do business. With Black and brown people making up smaller percentages of the white collar workforce, they are afforded fewer opportunities for economic growth than white neighbors.
Shopping at or contracting with a Black business can support a community more impactful than hiring a single Black employee.
If your local municipality does not have a Black Chamber of Commerce, consider connecting with the National Business League to find local businesses to hire.
Professional social networking sites like LinkedIn are great ways to expand your professional network. Follow and engage with Black professionals online in meaningful and productive ways, not simply because they are Black.
Find Your Passion, Join a Group
If giving back is more your thing, do it genuinely and authentically.
Find (one of) your passion(s) and find ways to incorporate them outside of your immediate network.
For example, dancers could reach out to Black studios and dance instructors to find out how their skills could be used. An accountant can connect with local Black-owned businesses or the Detroit Chapter of the National Association of Black Accountants to offer your services.
People who want to pledge their services should remember to be humble, according to Huff.
“Don’t think you’re above it,” she said. “If they’re [Black leaders] asking you to follow the protest and clean up the trash, [don’t think] that that’s an insult. That’s something that you can do.”
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