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Frame of Reference

Over the past month I’ve started and abandoned several posts, since George Floyd was murdered within walking distance of my home. I have been directing that energy elsewhere (to petitions, fundraisers, amplifying other voices, etc). But yesterday was Juneteenth. I have been aware of its significance for years though I didn’t learn about the holiday in school. And I’ve never seen the mainstream media or social media run with it so much. Growing up in an immigrant family, I was aware of racism and discrimination at an early age. I’m a light-skinned Arab. I learned to navigate white spaces and brush off the routine anti-Middle Eastern micro-aggressions. Black Americans have always born the brunt of this country’s bigotry. Not just because of our shitty society. Even as a kid I looked to government. It seemed to me these inequalities were all by design. I read Abbie Hoffman and Malcolm X and about the Black Panthers and took the bus to see Do the Right Thing in a nearly empty movie theater in my hometown. I became an activist as a teenager. Every year I skipped school to join MLK Day marches (before it was a school holiday in my district), wrote letters on behalf of prisoners of conscience for Amnesty International, attended Anti-Racist Action meetings, and joined Communities United Against Police Brutality protests. But, I’ll admit, I’ve spiraled into hopelessness more and more into my adulthood. Inequality has only increased and I became convinced nothing will change, especially after Trump’s election. I’ve long believed in a Universal Basic Income and healthcare for all (not tied to employment) and in restorative justice and demilitarizing and defunding the police. I never thought society would catch up with these idea. Thankfully, scholars like Ibram X. Kendi are becoming more widely known and sharing these ideas:

Racist ideas grow out of discriminatory policies, he argues, not the other way around. [...snip...]
The goal is to identify inequalities, identify the policies that create and maintain those inequalities, and propose correctives in six areas: criminal justice, education, economics, health, environment and politics. Kendi also hopes to create an online library of anti-racist thinking.

Crime isn’t higher in Black neighborhoods. Those neighborhoods are just over-policed and underserved. The “achievement gap” has been engineered. The cruelty is the point. And it has been going on for centuries. Slave patrols and Night Watches, which later became modern police departments, were both designed to control the behaviors of minorities. Here is a physical reminder.

Here are some ugly historical events that should be better known:

I’ve been surprised by how many people in my social networks have been outraged and publicly showing support of the Black Lives Matter movement for the first time. It’s great to see but also obvious that some folx are uncomfortable and trying to figure out how to navigate it all. We’re all bound to make missteps when trying to show we are allies and willing to learn. Our feeds are flooded with anti-racist reading lists and petitions and fundraisers. But I’ve been shaking my head at some who have charged in without talking to any BIPoC and end up duplicating efforts or centering attention on themselves rather than on the organizations and people who have been out there organizing for a while now.

For some time now I’ve been following prisonculture on twitter. I’ve been referring folks to their perfectly worded pinned tweet. Questions I regularly ask myself when I’m outraged about injustice:

  1. What resources exist so I can better educate myself?
  2. Who’s already doing work around this injustice?
  3. Do I have the capacity to offer concrete support & help to them?
  4. How can I be constructive?

We all have a lot to learn. About being actively anti-racist. And learning to be uncomfortable and how to manage conflict. But I do hope we can create meaningful change together. Check out the resources at and don’t look away. Keep paying attention and engaging. June is Pride month. Remember now and all year long that Black Trans Lives Matter. And just in the last few weeks a number of black men have been lynched across the country while local governments have been ruling these cases as suicides. The white supremacists are pushing back. This must stop.

Black Lives Matter

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