Charlottesville, White Supremacy, and the Action We Must Take

Art by megmake.com for Refinery 29.

Art by megmake.com for Refinery 29.

I’m hitting “publish” on this later than I intended to. I have been writing, reading, and rewriting this post over the past week before finally letting go of “getting the words right” and instead letting them flow, unfiltered, from my heart.

After the horror that unfolded in Charlottesville, I’m reminded of the lesson I learn over and over:

It’s OUR responsibility to create the healing, change, and progress we claim we want.

Our responsibility. Our duty. Our moral obligation.

As women (and I’m speaking more specifically to white women), as business owners, and as brands with our own platforms — we owe it to our communities, our tribes, our clients and customers, and the planet to step forward, speak up, and take action and contribute in a way that is meaningful during these tumultuous times.

I’ve been contemplating what meaningful contribution looks like as I’ve been seeing many posts and emails from my peers, leaders, and brands in our industry that have left me thinking, “What. the. actual. fuck?”

For example, emails I’ve received mentioning Charlottesville (briefly) and a link to the person’s blog post or video about being loving, carving out more time for joy and rest, how-to advice, or a “helpful interview.” Yes, I’m being serious. #notappropriate

Or an author expressing sadness at what’s happening and recommending her book and event with multiple links to purchase. #notappropriate

Don’t even get me started on social media comments and threads. I’ve seen everything from, “Well let me tell you about my upbringing, in which I did not live a privileged life even though I’m white…” to “I didn’t create this and I’m angry I get blamed for it.” #icantbelievethisshit

If you’ve done any of the things I mentioned above, take note so you can do better next time rather than be defensive. I’ve seen a lot of defensiveness and that isn’t helpful.

(I acknowledge there have been some amazing discussions too, discussions that we need to be having.)

The truth is, I’m still learning and making mistakes too.

For a long time I thought it was better to take action offline and quite honestly, I looked at online conversations as a waste of time when I could be doing something. That was wrong and I see that both are valuable.

Being Canadian, it was also easy to look at this as an issue for Americans to figure out. I’m sorry for not using my online platform to speak out when I had something to say and contribute.

So yes, over the last week I have been navigating what meaningful contribution looks like, but one thing’s for sure: I’m quickly feeling what it’s not.

It’s not spouting empty words that do nothing to move the conversation forward.

It’s not calling for love and light, but then defending your privilege.

It’s not saying you want to change the world, but then staying silent after witnessing injustice.

Meaningful contribution starts with listening, but doesn’t end there.

We must listen to our sisters and brothers who are targets of white supremacy and racism in order to learn how to better ourselves.

After we’ve listened, we can’t just hide behind our computers hoping someone else will take care of hate in the world. That moment passed a long time ago, and as activist L’Erin Alta powerfully states in this post on her Instagram: Silence will not make us safer.

And simple outrage on social media and our websites is not enough. Action is what counts.

I hear countless entrepreneurs say, “I’m here to serve” all. the. time.

I want to ask you this: Are you really here to be of service or is that lip service?

If you want to make an impact on the world with our work and our brilliance, how specifically are you taking action to make an impact?

Other words and phrases I hear more and more: I am a queen/goddess/light. Embrace your inner queen. Tune into your inner goddess. Change the world.

We need goddesses, queens, and warriors more than ever. You don’t embody the goddess by putting on a long, flowing dress and flower crown.

Many of the queens and goddesses I invoke and celebrate are fierce, strong, powerful. They wield swords and fight for love and truth and justice. Durga, Nzinga, Boudica, Kali. Look ‘em up. Let their stories seep into your bones.

And while we’re on the topic, it’s worth bringing to your attention the white-washing of goddesses today. That’s just another example of white supremacy.

Each of us has a role to play in this, and each of us must go beyond social media posts and find our way to step into it. I know many people just don’t know how to take action and make a difference. I assure you, you can, and the rest of this post is dedicated to helping you do just that.

Ericka Hines (follow her as she shares so many resources for staying informed!) has compiled an ever-expanding, incredibly useful list of action steps you can take to combat racism and hate. The complete list can be found behind this link. While I’d love to include it all, I’m sharing some of the most instantly actionable items below, the things you can do today no matter where you are.

Here are 5 steps you can take right now to start playing your part, and make a powerful difference on the planet.

1. Use Your Voice

  • Speak out against white supremacist marches. ACT for America is planning a nationwide series of at least 50 rallies on September 9th. Get more information here.
  • “Post on social media that you are anti-white supremacy and that you denounce white supremacists. Do the same in your actual not-online interactions (even more important).”
  • “Talk to your racist parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, whatever about why their racism affects you, others, and people you care about. Help them fix their racism. It’s your job. (See list of articles/pieces at the end of the full document)”

2) Attend a Charlottesville Solidarity rally in your town

The complete list is here. Details about solitary actions you can take to combat racism are also included in that article.

3) Donate money to…

Charlottesville-based anti-racist organizations:

Medical funds of folks who were injured by Nazis and Alt-Right protesters:

Political candidates:

4) Prioritize educating yourself

  • Find your local NAACP chapter at http://www.naacp.org/find-local-unit/. NAACP is a multi-racial organization working to eliminate race-based discrimination.
  • Look into POWER, an initiative focused on educating and empowering those involved, or wish to be involved, in anti-racist movements and organizations.
  • People’s Institute for Survival and Beyond is a New Orleans based organization providing quality anti-racist training to understand what racism is, where it comes from, how it functions, why it persists and how it can be undone. They hold workshops all over the US.

5) Get out and march, and call your elected officials

Righteous Resistance is keeping an open-source platform of events going on and actions that you can take.

I challenge you to complete at least one of these actionables today — but the most important thing to keep in mind is that we must push, donate, raise our voices, and create the change we wish to see.

Godspeed.

Natalie MacNeil's Signature

 


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