How to Help in the Wake of Racial Violence

Hi, friends! It’s been a hell of a month. Between rumblings from North Korea, Twitter being full of fast-and-furious news updates, the aftermath of Charlottesville, and Steve Bannon getting Apprentice’d, there’s a lot to absorb. And to top it all off, hurricane Harvey is wreaking havoc on an enormous scale. Cities and communities in our country are being devastated by natural disasters and racial violence.

In response to Harvey, absolutely donate what you can. Focus on monetary donations instead of supplies at first, because the postal service doesn’t have boats and the highways aren’t exactly great right now. Check on your friends on the coast, and offer asylum if you are local-ish and on higher ground.

In the wake of Charlottesville, things might be a little more hazy when you’re overwhelmed by wanting to help but not sure where to start. If you’re white and hundreds of miles away like me, you may be asking yourself if there’s anything practical you can do. Because clicking the share button a couple dozen times a day never feels like enough, right?

Now, there’s all the usual stuff. Contact your representatives, at all levels of government, tell them what you think of the job they’re (not) doing. If there’s a march or a demonstration you can get to and you’re able to make it, get off your duff and show up. Share the petitions & donation pages & articles, focus on that signal boost, because it really does make a difference.

Safety pin on the collar? Pass.

Get your phone out and record what’s going on when the local PD are giving your Hispanic neighbor a hard time? Absolutely.

Wear your best interview attire to the counter-protest and park your lily-white self between that group of LGBTQ/black folks/Jewish folks/Muslims/etc? Go for it. Let the white supremacists try to sell *that* photo.

Can’t march, for whatever reason? No problem. Offer to babysit for people who want to go but can’t because they have kids. Offer to make or buy food/drinks for support personnel, especially medics.

Take a street-medic/first-responder course and be ready if you’re needed. Take a look at what you do for a living, and what you do in your off hours, and see how that can be used to lift up people with fewer advantages than you.

But what else? What about when you don’t have a dime to spare, and you’re already doing all that stuff? Or if you do have cash to burn, you’re doing all that stuff and donating, and still have that nagging sense that you could be doing more. (Hint: we can always be doing more.)

Let’s talk about redirecting money we already spend to businesses owned by the people you want to support. 

According to public data available on www.bls.gov (that’s the US Dept of Labor, Statistics division), black people as a demographic have the highest unemployment rate in the country at 7.4%, followed by Hispanic/Latino folx at 5.1%, and Asian populations at 4%. White people, by comparison, slot in at 3.8% unemployment overall. (Yes, those statistics break down further when you get into gender and education, but that’s another blog!) Are you following me here, readers? The unemployment rate among black people is consistently, over decades of recorded data, twice that experienced by white people.

Why do jobs matter when we’re talking about buying? Per www.thepresidentscouncil.com, black-owned businesses are the second largest employer of African-Americans after the government. Other minorities and marginalized groups follow similar trends. By redirecting our spending (the money we spend anyway on the things we already buy) to businesses owned by the people we’re trying to support, we help to create more stable employment opportunities, reducing joblessness and raising financial security in marginalized communities. The President’s Council site offers a mailing list wherein you can receive news about events & programs, and includes a monthly show-case listing of black-owned businesses. (Yes, they ask for your digits. Entering all zeroes works. Sign up! Go, do it now! No, seriously, faster than that!)

Check out the twitter campaign for #buyblack and the #buyblackchallenge. 

Especially right now, when there’s lots of seasonal shopping going on for school supplies, new clothes, fall & winter gear. When take-out might be happening more often because of after-school activities. When you might be getting hair & nails done for homecoming some other school-related function. Use this time to think about where you spend your money, and how you can redirect it to communities that fight oppression on a scale us white folks will never understand.

“But I do most of my shopping online”, you say? NO problem. Check out https://webuyblack.com/

According to their About page, “WeBuyBlack.com is an online marketplace for Black owned businesses to showcase and sell their products to a global community.” And it is a pretty stinkin’ impressive marketplace, folks. They have an incredible range of products, clothes, home décor, jewelry, books, toys, bath products, school supplies, cleaning products, even shelf-stable foodstuffs, and more.

The point of all of this? Get on Google and find opportunities to use your wallet where it will do the most good. Support minority-owned businesses anywhere and every time you can. And research those businesses, make sure they’re actually owned by the people you’re wanting to support, rather than white people hiring based on race to make it “look” right. (Gross, yeah? Gross.) Ordering lunch for that business meeting? See if there’s a local Mexican place with good reviews. Buying school clothes? Find out who owns the local mom&pop clothier’s. Or the office supply place, the car repair franchise where you get your oil changed, the bookstore, the grocery, the salon where you get your nails done.

And don’t get hung up on trying to shift all your spending to minority-owned businesses all at once. Pick one thing this month. Say, school supplies. Take that money you’d spend at Walmart and try to find a better place to put it. Then next month, add another thing, then another, you get the idea. 

Like it or not, we live in a capitalist society, and money talks. The Almighty Dollar can accomplish a lot, when it’s spent with intent. What’s your intent? Put some thought into where your money goes, and see if you can send it to places where it will help people. Click Share on all those articles and fundraisers and awareness links… and then do the research and vote with your wallet.

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