Anti-Black Racism Must End in This Country: A Message to White Legislators
June 2020 in State Legislatures
See our blog post and other messages here.
We write with the assumption that you’ve seen the calls to be antiracist, the multitude of resources for white allies, and the action steps white Americans are being called to take. We echo the calls to find ways to talk with other white people (including your families and your constituents) about how to show up differently. If you have questions or other needs about stepping fully into this type of work, reach out.
But we are not here to implore you just to be strong white allies in the broad sense, but rather to use your distinct power as white state legislators to fight for racial justice. Do your research, listen, and follow the lead of your Black colleagues on the frontlines. If you’re showing up fully, it is going to feel uncomfortable. You will feel stretched and challenged to partner differently with your Black colleagues and constituents, you will realize there are many things you don’t know, and this will require humility and an earnest desire to proactively learn, grow, and stumble along the way.
What does this look like? Ask yourself:
- Have you checked in on your Black colleagues? Have you asked them how they are doing personally and how you can be supportive during this time? When they have made specific requests for support, have you honored those requests? Are you proactively stepping in to share in the emotional and physical labor of advancing racial justice under the dome?
- Are you supporting legislation to combat police brutality and advance racial equity? Are you using your privilege to do more than co-sponsor bills? Are you convincing other white colleagues (in your caucus or across the aisle) to sign on; are you calling on leadership to prioritize these bills? Are you championing these bills in your community and with your constituents? Are you giving credit and airtime to your Black legislative peers so their voices are centered?
- How do you include and center the experiences of Black voices in the creation of your public policy priorities from here on out? How do you engage and build relationships with your Black constituents? How does racial equity show up in the ways you identify, recruit, and support the staff and volunteers you work with?
This is not a moment to temporarily support racial justice, but to fully embrace the lifetime commitment it will take to radically transform our society, our democracy, and our institutions.
To those of you who are seeking moderate reforms, we implore you to stop, listen, and support the work of your Black colleagues. Remind yourself that you and your family have not survived the terror of white supremacy for generations and that you cannot truly understand the experiences of being Black in America.
If you are struggling to respond to constituents who don’t realize that business losses are replaceable, but Black life is not, that the best answer is policy reform that takes the side of justice, not property protection. Know that history will condemn complicity, silence, or aggression in this moment of transformation. It may be tempting to go for the quick wins, but we implore you step back and center the voices of Black folks who have been fighting for liberation for centuries.
Simply, we ask that you live into a new form of governing–by listening to the people who are closest to the pain.
Do not fall into the trap of thinking this is not your issue, this is not your struggle. We all know that racism relies on pitting working people against each other and against good government; we know that economic pain is used to fuel racial resentment and facilitates scapegoating. We can see all of this culminating in the debates about the protests that are happening today.
I hope you see that each of us has a role to play in building a world that honors, respects and protects Black lives. Our lives, our communities, and our future depends on it.
In the words of Angela Davis, “freedom is a constant struggle.” Are you in it?
–Jessie Ulibarri and Neha Patel, SiX Co-Executive Directors