Racial reckoning: That's what some people are calling this moment in history. Suddenly ordinary people — people who aren't activists, organizers and had heretofore been content to be insulated by Whiteness — appear to be truly reckoning with race for the first time.
For those just reckoning, this is a time of newfound energy, but personally, I'm tired. There is a weariness that resides between my chest and gut, that no amount of mind-clearing exercise, mindfulness, rest, reflection, or trendy self-care remedies can touch. I'm tired because anger is exhausting.
Behind my fatigue I am angry with everyone who just woke up and realized racism is real. I am angry because even though protests around the country haven't stopped, even though hundreds of actions are happening nationwide every day, the media coverage has almost completely dropped off. I'm angry because in the last month, six Black and Brown men have been found hanging from trees from Texas to California. Old-school lynching is back, and it's being swept under the rug as "suicide." I'm angry because I'm afraid.
I'm afraid this racial reckoning will fade from the streets as quickly as it did from cable news. I'm afraid that even if this isn't just another cause of the week for the people who have the privilege of tuning out racial violence by taking a "weekend to unplug," there will be so much White violence within the movement from self-proclaimed "allies" that those of us who never walk without our IDs will be forced to carry the weight of Whiteness in every corner of the fight for liberation until our backs eventually break. Until my back eventually breaks. Because I'm not like the heroes I read about. I'm not Fred Hampton. I'm not Angela Davis. I'm not strong like that.
Breaking is not an option, and for me, neither is separatism. So instead, I welcome the newcomers. We were all newcomers once, rocking the boat, our enthusiasm a liability before it was honed into strength, through teamwork.
So, to the non-Black people new to the racial reckoning, for whom marches and car processionals, and packing public meetings (by Zoom this time, of course) are novel to your weekend schedule: Welcome.
I'd like to offer you a word of orientation.
First, let's clarify what this moment is not. It is not about the president, or any single election. It's not about scoring partisan political points, or owning your Trump-loving uncle on Facebook. Joining this movement means understanding that racism is backed into all of America's institutions — not just policing or the prison industrial complex — but public schools, business, scientific discourse and, yes, both major political parties.
The movement is not about sign waving, marching, protest art, car processionals, pulling down statues, or filling up the Monroe Street bridge. It's not even about donating to Black-led organizations (though we'll happily take your money to build our liberation war chest). These are all tactics, means to an end, but the tactics are not the objective.
The objective is justice.
We want the kind of justice that scares people, the kind that takes persistence and unbending integrity to achieve, that breaks systems down to their foundations, examines the rot, and if necessary, hammers the foundations to rubble and clears the land for a garden. We want reparations. We want public investment and community repair. We want new policies, new systems and new institutions.
If you join this movement, your life will change, and it will be harder. You will need to get comfortable with discomfort, become used to correction, learn to step back, to decenter yourself, to listen to what people say and resist the urge to fixate on how it is said. You will have to learn to leverage or surrender your privilege as necessary, and to carry immense emotional weight, while recognizing what you carry is not as heavy as what is carried by the Black people with whom you stand in solidarity.
Nothing about this will be easy. You in? ♦
Jac Archer, who prefers the gender-neutral pronoun "they," is a writer, activist, organizer and local sexuality educator in Spokane. They serve on the steering committee for Spokane Community Against Racism (SCAR) and as a Human Rights Commissioner for the City of Spokane.