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Do Something

White people, DO something

“We need more to happen now. We need more white folks on board. The next Trayvon Martin cannot wait.”

Here are some things you can do now to make a difference:

Educate yourself
Don’t rely on African Americans to do it for you, or to hold your hand every step of the way. You are reading this on the internet—go read some other things, like this list of Anti-racism Resources making the rounds, from activist/writers Sarah Sophie Flicker and Alyssa Klein, which includes dozens of books, movies, TV shows to absorb and organizations to support. Go read the New York Times’ 1619 Project; Bryan Stevenson’s Just Mercy; Ibram X. Kendi’s How to Be An Antiracist.

Support black-owned businesses, especially now.
Small businesses owned by people of color have been the most left out of government loan programs—and the failure of a whole swath of the economy threatens to wreak havoc on already poor communities in Philadelphia. Order food through Black and Mobile, which is like Caviar for black-owned restaurants.

Tell legislators to fund community development financial institutions, which give loans more readily to small neighborhood businesses. Or donate to the Pennsylvania 30 Day Fund, started by Jeff Bartos, to give $3,000 forgivable loans to mom and pop establishments, most of them minority-owned.

Teach your kids.
As Tabitha St. Bernard-Jacobs, director of community engagement for the Women’s March, said in a letter to white parents last week: “This education needs to start in your homes, not because your kids’ lives depend on it, but because mine do.” Bernard-Jacobs offered two places to start: Embrace Race’s “10 Tips For Teaching and Talking About Race,” and this workshop on raising anti-racist children that starts June 10.

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An open letter to white people

Do you have white friends and family who need to read this letter? Send it to them, share it on social media—and then offer to have a conversation with them about it. Help your community leave the well-meaning, moderate white club and join the fight for racial justice. 

Guest Commentary: “No One Will Mistake Me For the Valet”

A white Temple professor acknowledges what she cannot know about racism in America—but what she must take responsibility for

A white Temple professor acknowledges what she cannot know about racism in America—but what she must take responsibility for

Do SomethingI am a white, Jewish woman.

This means I never had someone call the police on me for asking them to leash their dog in a public park, as happened to Christian Cooper in Central Park. I have never feared being gunned down by three white men, while simply jogging in my neighborhood, as Ahmaud Arbery was in Brunswick, Georgia. And, I never have worried whether a cop, while unjustly arresting me, will cut off my airway, as happened to George Floyd in Minneapolis.

I am a white, Jewish woman and my daily privilege comes simply because I am.

As a professor at Temple University, I once believed if I just learned more about the history of race in our nation, I could identify with many of my black students. I desperately wanted to be able to feel what they experience. I wanted to be a better professor. Yet, now I know, I can never truly feel the discrimination they face every day, simply by living—but I can recognize it!

As with many social issues, in the case of Covid-19, placing this responsibility on those who are the victims, allows the rest of us not to have to discuss the deeper divides in our society.

Much of what I have been reading about race in our nation concerns the legacy of slavery. The materials connect the past to our current issues of inequality and racial discrimination.

Custom HaloFor example, Dr. Sabrina Strings, an associate professor of sociology at the University of California at Irvine, recently wrote in The New York Times about the connection between slavery and health conditions in the black community. As she reports, “available analyses show that on average, the rate of black fatalities is 2.4 times that of whites with Covid-19.”

Data from the City of Philadelphia, as of May 13, showed that African Americans accounted for at least 46.9 percent of Philadelphia’s almost 19,000 coronavirus cases.

Dr. Strings argues that while the media has latched onto the narrative about the relationship between obesity in the black community and their high rates of Covid-19, there is little scientific evidence to support this. Instead, this storyline serves to “reinforce an image of black people as wholly swept up in sensuous pleasures like eating and drinking…”

Simply put, larger society wants there to be blame placed at the feet of the victims of what Strings calls the failures of “our social structures,” such as housing and employment.

As with many social issues, in the case of Covid-19, placing this responsibility on those who are the victims, allows the rest of us not to have to discuss the deeper divides in our society.

We do not have to take responsibility for, as the AMA reports, racial minorities experiencing systemically lower quality health care. We can ignore that minority communities have less access to healthy foods and green space, while as the same time have excess exposure to environmental hazards. We can move on in our lives, not recognizing, as Dr. Camara Phyllis Jones, a Senior Fellow at the Morehouse School of Medicine has reported, racism, “continues to have profound impacts on opportunities and exposures, resources and risks.”

I once believed if I just learned more about the history of race in our nation, I could identify with many of my black students. Now I know, I can never truly feel the discrimination they face every day, simply by living—but I can recognize it!

Most importantly, agreeing with Strings and Jones about continuing societal inequality would mean embracing an uncomfortable truth—we are not as enlightened a society as we believe we are. For example, we would have to admit that the death of Ahmaud Arbery was nothing different than the approximately 4,000 lynchings that occurred in a dozen Southern states between 1877 and 1950. But we do not like these truths, they interrupt our comfortable lives.

Read MoreI am a white, Jewish woman. I live a life of privilege, merely because I am.

I know no one will mistake me for the valet. I do not worry that I will not get good care at the doctor’s office because of my race. I can live my life never having to fear that reaching for the glove compartment, when stopped for speeding, might get me killed—but others in our society do carry these fears and concerns every day. Yes, recognizing this makes us uncomfortable. It should make us uncomfortable—even more, it should make us want to act.

Dr. Abby Jones is an Adjunct Professor at Temple University in The Communication and Social Influence Program in The Klein School of Communication. Having worked professionally in the political and strategic communication arenas, she is also the owner of AJ Research, a computer-aided content analysis firm.

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