My heart is sick for Charlottesville.
I was tending to a different social justice priority this past weekend, so I’m a little late to the party, but I’ve been following along. I was heartened to see my friends and erstwhile colleagues on the religious left doing their part to stand up to bigotry (and mown down for it!) in body and in hard conversations on social media.
I’m no expert. In order to pay the rent this past year, I’ve become much more of an armchair activist than I would like. Nevertheless, I’d like to offer some suggestions – some of the things that have helped me understand this weekend and over the past year, and some suggestions of where we could go from here.
Explore why #ThisIsUs, and how we can be better. I recommend a good “after Charlottesville” reading list (one example, and another), Ava DuVernay’s Oscar-nominated documentary “Thirteenth,” and this PBS documentary about Timothy McVeigh, one of America’s most murderous white supremacists, as well as this Oscar-winning OJ Simpson documentary that’s really mostly about race in America. Read up on the Newark Rebellion and other “riots” of the Sixties and their legacies today. Read the people Chris Crass reads and follow him on social media, and the people he follows.
If you want to know what you can do, I recommend this evolving list as a good place to start. It includes ways to support the medical and legal expenses of anti-racist activists in Charlottesville, legislation to support with your phone calls and letters, and more. See also, “So You Want to Fight White Supremacy,” and “Welcome to the Anti-Racism Movement, Here’s What You Missed.” Follow Shaun King, and the people he follows. Set up some recurring donations if you can afford it.
Thank your elected representatives if they’ve been on the right side of this milestone in history. Badger them to do the right thing if they haven’t.
Know a teacher? A professor? They’re going to need material and emotional support for the year ahead as they confront rising racism, classism, sexism, homophobia, anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, flat-earthers, Dominionists, etc., as humanity’s darker side, long repressed, is increasingly allowed to surface. And there’s the trauma of the victimized students, too. Buy your teacher friend dinner, or a coffee shop gift card, or offer to babysit their kid, or encourage them to take a sick day when they need it, or remind them to go to the dentist (this, too, is self care!), but try to apply more forethought than “What do you need?” when you can.
The same goes for any social worker, psychologist, activist or first responder you know. Check in. Be supportive.
The same goes for your friends who are minorities, immigrants, bi-racial, LGBTQ, live with disabilities (visible or invisible), Muslim, Jewish, poor … or parenting or partnering someone with any of those identities. Check in. Be supportive. I’m fond of making this offer: “Do you want to get together and talk about it? Or not talk about it? I’m up for either.”
Find a liberal religious community whose efforts you can join. For too long, the extreme right has claimed to have the religious moral high ground in the so-called “culture wars” because liberal religious people are reluctant to name their faith as a motivating factor for social justice. That’s beginning to change. You don’t have to be religiously aligned to march with Unitarian Universalists, or even to talk with a minister about your thoughts and feelings, and the United Church of Christ would probably have you, too. Pay attention to Rev. William Barber and Repairers of the Breach in the African American liberation tradition, and Sister Simone Campbell and the Nuns on the Bus in the Catholic tradition of social justice, or Jews for Racial and Economic Justice. Don’t let the right have exclusive claim to religious moral authority. Don’t be afraid to say that your faith drives you to be anti-racist, be it your faith in God(s), your faith in humanity, your faith in science, or your faith in the long moral arc of history bending towards justice.
This is not an exhaustive list, but it’s a place to start. Please join me.