How You Can Begin the Fight Against Racism in Your Hometown

Because, yes, it really does start with you.

A Black Lives Matter protestor holding a sign that reads "No Justice No Peace."

While racism has always been a prominent issue within the United States for centuries before becoming its own country, the murder of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police in the  summer of 2020 sparked a resurgence in the Black Lives Matter movement. With this, many people were unsure as to where they should start to educate themselves on the topic of anti-racism.

Here are different ways you can begin the fight against racism in your hometown on various levels:

  • The Fight Against Racism All Begins with You
  • Bring Your Close Friends and Family into the Fight Against Racism
  • Expanding the Fight Against Racism into Your Community
Ibram X. Kendi, author of How to be an Antiracist.
Ibram X. Kendi, author of How to be an Antiracist. Image courtesy of Pittwire.

The Fight Against Racism All Begins with You

What you don’t know will hurt others, so you have to hold yourself accountable.

Thinking about how to fight against racism can be overwhelming when you don’t have a clear idea about where you should start. However, the answer is actually quite simple: it starts with you. Before you can go about calling on your friends, family, and community members, you have to identify what biases and falsehoods you hold.

Read Stories About the Black Experience: Novels, memoirs, and how-to books detailing the experience of Black people in America are abundant and easy to access through any bookstore. Books are the perfect place to begin your journey on further understanding the Black experience, as well as finding out what you don’t know. Books like Ijeoma Oluo’s So You Want to Talk about Race, Ibram X. Kendi’s How to Be an Antiracist, and Austin Channing Brown’s I’m Still Here are three non-fiction books that will help you further your understanding of the Black experience by providing helpful anecdotes, directives on what you should not do, and how you can help progress society.

Of course, if non-fiction is not your thing, there are plenty of fiction novels that also explore the complexities of race in America like The Black Kids by Christina Hammonds Reed and The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas. Also, while you explore all of the different books that focus on the Black experience, take the extra step and purchase these books from Black-owned bookstores. And, yes, most of them do ship across the country!

Learn from Social Media: While social media is constantly being criticized, it is actually a very helpful tool in the form of educating yourself and others in anti-racism efforts. Platforms like Twitter allow Black people the platform to share their experiences and personal stories that mainstream media does not share or celebrate. By reading the Twitter feeds of Black activists, you can learn so much about who they are and the dangers that they face on a daily basis.

However, it is important to be aware of the concepts of slacktivism and performative activism, which take the greatest form on social media. Slacktivism is using social media as a form of social or political protest, given the lack of effort that is required in spreading the information. Performative activism is utilizing social media to put forth the idea that you are politically involved, when you are only participating in it for attention. An example of this would be posting the black square on #BlackOutTuesday.

Be Aware of the Ethics of Brands: This is a very simple step that you can take on your own, where you research the beliefs and policies that different companies and brands have, and only supporting the companies and brands that have anti-racism beliefs. While this will be a bit of a time consuming task at first, it is something that you will only have to research once. If a company does not have anti-racism policies or beliefs aligning with the Black Lives Matter movement, it is likely that they will not be changing their beliefs anytime soon.

Movie poster for the documentary 13th.
13th is a powerful film that outlines the history of anti-Black racism in America. Image courtesy of Central European University.

Bring Your Close Friends and Family Into the Fight Against Racism

Expand your anti-racism efforts by including those that you are closest to.

When you become comfortable with your own journey in becoming an anti-racist, you should begin expanding your circle of people that you can hold conversations about race with. In fact, if you are educating yourself and not sharing it with your friends and family that are not as proactive in educating themselves, you are really doing them a disservice.

Watch Movies About the Black Experience: Of course, this is something that can be done on your own, but the experience will be much richer if you are able to share in the experience with others. Oftentimes, white people become very uncomfortable when talking about race, as they should. So, if you are able to have a group that will watch a movie celebrating the Black experience, you can hold each other accountable to watching the entire movie.

If you don’t know what movie or documentary you should watch, there are so many to choose from. From 13th to Just Mercy, any movie about the Black experience will be an educational experience.

Hold Book Clubs: Reading books about the Black experience was the first suggestion of what you could do by yourself to help fight racism in your hometown. So, with your own knowledge in your back pocket and desire to continue bringing an anti-racism message to your community, the perfect next step would be to create a book club with these same books! Engaging in these conversations are going to be difficult and uncomfortable, but they will also be very valuable to yourself and your community.

Correct People When They Are Insensitive or Racist: This is a particular privilege that white people have, being able to identify inappropriate and problematic behavior without being directly affected by it. Regardless if this takes place in the presence of a Black person or not, it is your responsibility in the fight against racism to call out and correct the misconceptions, ignorant thoughts, and flat out racist comments that you come across.

Of course, this is not always going to be possible to call out and correct every single time that you come across a racist comment. However, when you are not able to, whether it is because of a safety concern or circumstance of the situation, you should acknowledge your privilege in not being forced to deal with the situation and having the freedom to decide whether or not you want to be involved in the situation.

A Black Lives Matter protest.
Organizing and participating in protests is one way that you can bring awareness of racism to your hometown.

Expanding the Fight Against Racism into Your Community

Racism affects more than the people your closest to, and it is past time for these conversations to be brought to the forefront.

After engaging in anti-racist conversations with those that are closest to you, you can begin bringing these messages and this knowledge into your community. Though, as you take this next step, remember that there is a lot of work to be done and that racism will not end overnight.

Attend and Organize Protests: Of course, organizing a protest is a very hefty task, so do not feel like it is something you have to do, because it is very likely that there will be protests near where you are from. By showing up and having your presence at a protest is showing the country that you will no longer stand for the injustice that Black people face on a daily basis and that change is being demanded. If this is something that you choose to do, please ensure you follow safety precautions.

Call Your State and Federal Representatives: Calling your state and federal representatives is something that you can do for any issue at any time. This tends to be an underused method of change that communities don’t always think to take advantage of. In fact, it is very easy to email or call your representatives at the state and local levels. Of course, it is not always guaranteed that your representatives will always agree with you on these issues, but you are at least getting your voice out there. Then, when election time comes around, you can further show your beliefs in how you vote.

Donate to Local and National Organizations: The last suggestion for fighting racism in your hometown is to donate to Black organizations that work locally in your community, but also all across the country. There are dozens of wonderful organizations that support the Black community and can use your donations, if you are able to provide them.

The fight against racism is a long and exhausting one that has been going on for centuries. There may not be an end in sight, but change is coming as long as you continue these important conversations and continue advocating for change. By educating yourself, engaging in conversations with those closest to you, and bringing these issues to your community, you can help fight against racism in your hometown.

Dean Pinnell

Dean Pinnell is a senior at the University of Pittsburgh studying Communication and Fiction Writing.
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