Here’s a list of specific steps you can take, as recommended by members of the TED community.
Dr. Ibram X. Kendi’s New York Times bestseller How to Be an Antiracist is one of the most important books I’ve ever read. (Watch Dr. Kendi speak on “how to build an antiracist world” here.) He provides an empowering lens and language to understand that the opposite of racist is not “not racist.” In fact, the opposite is antiracist, and we can all strive to be antiracist with our words and actions every day.
I’m reminded of this quote from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, who said, “In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.” Right now, if you truly want to stand in solidarity for Black lives and racial justice, we need you to break your silence. This goes beyond company statements denouncing systemic racism and police brutality and extends to all of us at home, work, school and in life to elevate the cause of racial justice to both an urgent and sustained priority. With this in mind, I created the #Move4Justice initiative — which encourages all people to educate themselves on antiracism and post themselves doing some kind of physical movement on social media — in order to build awareness of antiracism and inspire new allies in the fight for justice.
Outside of monetary giving, consider what doors you can open and what expertise you can provide to accelerate any organization focused on systemic racism, policing equity, and criminal justice reform solutions.
– Torin Perez (TED Talk: Folk tales come in all colors )
We are in a time in which Black people have reached their limit with white supremacy and are forcing the nation’s eyes open to witness her destruction. Many white people are just awakening to understanding the plight of Black people in the US and around the world.
It is important to start at a place of acknowledging how irresponsible and deliberate that slumber has been. White people must turn inward and observe their own bias, be honest about how that bigotry continues the legacy of white supremacy, and dig it out from the root.
We cannot tolerate another round of false starts for our liberation. We don’t have the time. It’s crucial to understand that white supremacy is a white problem, not a Black one as Black people have done nothing to earn our oppression. It is not a question of benevolence or empathy but morality. Once these realizations are made, we may have a real shot of running hard towards an equality this country has never known.
Read Angela Davis’s Are Prisons Obsolete?. The movement calls for the abolition of the police, beginning with defunding the police departments and reallocating funding to education, homelessness and public health. Davis helps us imagine a world with a radically different relationship with the current carceral start that we live within.
Sign up to drive protesters or hand out supplies. Do this by contacting your local organizers and asking them to be included on their text lists.
Create a phoneathon and email day with your friends and family to demand that Breonna Taylor’s killers be fired and charged for her murder. The phone number of Mayor Fischer’s office is 502-574–2003; emails are email@example.com; Robert.firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com
Form an accountability group with your friends and family to analyze and confront the ways you perpetuate white supremacy in your own day-to-day life through your privilege. Commit to honesty and unlearning through discussions, journaling, reading and paying a consultant when needed.
Transgender Law Center, which is helping to advocate for an extremely under-resourced and under-protected demographic
Support Black businesses that closed due to Covid-19. Search for Black businesses in your community that have had to temporarily or permanently close, and ask them how you can best support them.
– Malika Whitley (TED Talk: How the arts help homeless youth heal and build)
During this time, it’s a burden to educate people on the systematic racism that this country was founded and built on. Many Black people were forced here centuries ago, so the issues that exist today are not new. When I am expected to educate non-Blacks on what they can read, write or watch, it takes time away from my ability to cope, answer questions of hurt and pain from my own community, and give comfort to others when we need it most. It’s also a stark reality that no one has paid attention all along. That adds to the turmoil and reminders of why as a Black woman I have to continue to do programming, be vocal and one day pray that someone respects me enough to listen and join in action.
The privilege to be educated during this time or to never know this reality further saddens me with reminders that those who are in networks full of education/pedigree, who push liberation , and push diversity need justification and examples of why the killing of Black bodies is a problem. Pinning things to a moment or one person takes away the weight and gravity that this is an age-old problem. There will be multiple perspectives, moments and approaches to addressing the problem, and all Black people — regardless of whether we made the history books or not — should be valued.
Instead of asking me to educate you, use free resources like Google and your own lived experiences with racism, sexism and prejudice. I also encourage you to see if there are non-Black people you identify with who have helped Black liberation and analyze their skills and methods to see how that may apply to you. Then, come back and ask me questions once you do your own internal audit and research. I am sure somewhere in your lifetime, someone has been prejudiced toward you or held biases. If not, I wish I knew what that felt like.
I’m an educator, the founder of B-360, running an organization uplifting Black voices and identity to dismantle the systems designed to hinder people like me, struggling to conduct business during a pandemic, and someone who is often left out of conversations about equal pay or paying me for my expertise and skill.
These are the types of educational conversations that are perfect and direct ways to move the needle by paying me and others you ask. Show that you value us for our time, brain power and insight. If I am respected enough to be asked, I also ask that you respect me enough to pay me for my time as you would with a training or workshop on various topics.
I recommend paying for training with Overcoming Racism by Mathew Kincaid.
Activate empathy. If it was you, your brother, cousin, uncle, son or daughter dying daily at the hands of police with no convictions for their crimes, how would you feel? What would you do? And would you want people to be silent? If you were left out of federal Paycheck Protection Program loans, never received equal funding for your work compared to non-Black organizations, and were constantly scrutinized for how you look or talk or for your existence, how would you feel?
This thought process will allow people to take a brief moment and shift the guilt and burden that Black people often carry because we can feel helpless in these instances to address the root cause — racism. At the very least, an ally can empathize, superficially understand the pain and use his or her voice to speak out against what’s happening.
I ask for allies to not show pity or savior complexes but to join existing protest movements. Organize your network to have a conversation on race, make sure you always hold others in your space accountable, and make sure you speak up. If Black people did not create racism, why is the toll ours to carry in solving it? The work needs to be done on the receiving end.
For companies: While posting statements are nice gestures, the real activation is displayed through the numbers of Black people who are upper executive leadership/board members/employees, how well Black employees are paid and compensated and how well Black voices are lifted every day. How is the work culture? How is respect as a whole?
Long-term, I would like to see companies with leadership that looks like me, outreach programs, providing direct support to community members, and making asset-based statements through their actions and representations at all times, not just now.
I am proposing that TED — together with me — directly raise money for all the organizations led by Black Fellows (Fellows like me, Brandon Anderson of Raheem AI, and Antionette Carroll of Creative Reaction Lab and others are already here, being overlooked). By enlisting my collaboration, this would show TED’s commitment to Black leadership and it would directly uproot systematic oppression with financial gains to its Fellows, creating long- and short-term impact and a great narrative of empowerment.
For those outside TED, donate directly to Black-led organizations, make an impact in your personal networks, and ask people in it to directly donate to us as well.
Place funds directly in Black leaders’ hands; we know what to do with it.
– Brittany Young, 2020 TED Fellow
Set aside the history you were taught in school, the heroes it told you to celebrate, and the facts it demanded you recite. Learn the history of Black people through their words, their narratives, and their analyses. Reject temptations to layer it onto what you think you know; let it stand alone and be your first understanding of history. Only then can you begin to imagine and help build a liberated future for all.
Read autobiographies, manifestos, thought pieces, memoirs, novels, short stories and poetry by Black writers. Those by Zora Neale Hurston, James Baldwin, Audre Lorde and Maya Angelou, as well as contemporaries like Angela Davis, Michelle Alexander, asha bandele, Ta-Nehisi Coates, Reni Eddo-Lodge and Patrisse Cullors. Read work by emergent voices like Clint Smith, Derecka Purnell, Phillip Agnew and Josie Duffy Rice.
Watch documentaries like 13th and docuseries like When They See Us — both by Ava DuVernay — and listen to podcasts like Justice in America and Pod Save the People. Listen to music and look at works by renowned and burgeoning artists from Nina Simone to Jamila Woods and Jean-Michel Basquiat to Russell Craig. Follow all of them and other activists and organizers on social media. History is being written right now.
Ending racial inequality in the US requires that we follow the lead of Black people: Black activists, Black organizers, Black artists, Black writers, Black educators. It also requires that you do not undermine their transformational demands with your own modest reforms. Accept that Black people know the answers for their communities, even when the answers make you uncomfortable. Defund police means defund police. It is not your place to offer those reluctant to change premature celebrations without outcomes. That includes you. Change must be real.
Visit Defending Black Lives for demands, actions and resources aggregated from Black-led organizations across the country.
Donate to Black-led organizations working to defend Black lives, including grassroots organizations like the Black Visions Collective in Minnesota and Freedom Inc. in Wisconsin, as well as national collectives like the Movement For Black Lives, BlackOUT Collective and LeftRoots, and organizations like Color Of Change.
Donate to Black- and Brown-led criminal and immigration justice organizations addressing the systemic injustices of our punishment system — these groups include Worth Rises, Dignity and Power Now, Essie Justice Group, United We Dream, Dream Defenders, Re:Store Justice, and more. And research local organizations working in your area.
Focus on organizations that are not already well resourced.
– Bianca Tylek, 2020 TED Fellow
Michelle Alexander’s The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness
Sven Beckert and Seth Rockman’s Slavery’s Capitalism: A New History of American Economic Development
W.E.B. Du Bois’s The Souls of Black Folk
The arc of these writings span over a century, and it is shocking to see how much and little has changed. It is paramount to understand the social and economic legacy of mass enslavement, denial of land ownership, development of the prison industrial complex, and the extrajudicial treatment of Black American citizens throughout US history. The Public Enemy albums offer a different tone of raw and uncut commentary.
Meet your neighbors. I believe all people in the US should forge direct relationships with one another to foster intrapersonal understanding, empathy and basic humanitarianism.
Buy Black. Find and support Black-owned businesses, establishments, and apps. Although this is not a comprehensive list, it is a start.
Recognize. Today’s systemic racial disenfranchisement is a result of self-preservationist fear and the historically ingrained economic, political and social conquests of a very small group of men who no longer ideologically represent the majority of the US citizenry. We must be the change we want to see.
– Sanford Biggers (TED Talk: An artist’s unflinching look at racial violence)
As a Ugandan refugee who now lives in the US, I have experienced the impact of discrimination, oppression and attempts to silence my voice and censor my work not only in my home country but elsewhere in the world, including countries where I worked as a journalist.
When thinking about the supporters and advocates who want to do more than just participate in the protests for ending racism in the criminal justice system and who seek to eliminate the disparities and inequities of access to economic empowerment and social services including supporting fully insured health care, I believe the following can help to realize the goals of the incredible movement that has blossomed in every state of the US.
An excellent book to start with is Michael Eric Dyson’s Tears We Cannot Stop: A Sermon to White America. In a recent interview with the Skip and Shannon: Undisputed sports talk show, Dyson — a Georgetown University professor of sociology — said, “I weep for my people. I weep for my nation, a nation that still refuses to recognize the decency and humanity of Black people. When we say Black Lives Matter, we’re not suggesting other lives don’t matter, but other lives have been recognized while ours hasn’t.”
This book synthesizes Dyson’s own recollections along with cultural and scholarly analysis and offers suggestions for moral redemption in reconciling and coming to terms with the truth of this nation’s history.
There are numerous ways to participate that go beyond joining the protests, because Blacks and their fellow non-white community members are also contending with the economic pressures of disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and the sudden loss of employment. Many minority-owned businesses have been hit hard and deserve support from new customers, clients and patrons. Visit WeBuyBlack.com or download apps for I Am Black Business, WhereU Came From, and Official Black Wall Street.
Use the opportunity to share the writings, journalism and essays of Black writers to boost their signal and amplify their content. As a journalist, I can attest to the power of casting more sunlight on the work that we do as the best disinfectant to bring visibility to injustices, violent attacks and acts to suppress by police and governmental officials. Their work is helping reinforce the support for the protests that continue across the US.
Become a donating member to organizations such as the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and their state chapters, along with the NAACP and the Black Lives Matter movement (which has chapters in many cities across the country). The ACLU has gone to court at the state and federal levels to argue for — among other things — the protection of civil liberties for protesters and efforts to eliminate cash bail and wealth-based incarceration.
In many cities, groups have organized bail funds, and there are national organizations including The Bail Project and National Bail Out. These efforts are a critical starting point for the bigger and longer game of comprehensive criminal justice system reform, which will also bring significant changes to the way that cities and states handle policing
– Yasin Kakande (TED Talk: What’s missing in the global debate over refugees)
How can we heal the wounds of the world, if we cannot heal our own?
Where does this “peace on earth” begin, if not in the home?
— “Peace on Earth,” composed and sung by Rachelle Farrell
We met at Mama Gena’s School of Womanly Arts in New York City. Let’s call her “Susan.” We happened to sit together, and Susan and I learned we had a lot in common as women.
The fact that she is White and I am Black shapes the work that we do as professors. She is marginalized as a scientist in infectious diseases who teaches in the South at a historically Black university. I am marginalized as a Black ethnomusicologist at a predominantly White university in the north.
She messaged me a few days after the protests went global. She wrote: “All the protests and turmoil going on right now made me want to reach out to you and say hi. I hope you’re doing okay. Or just ‘managing’ as they say in Gambia.” She returned for a visit here in the States after working full-time on Ebola in Africa for the last few years. The travel ban prevented her from returning, so she began working with a nurse in a mobile COVID clinic. Witnessing how it is “a disease of the working poor and their extended families,” she added, “It is heartbreaking to see the poverty and living conditions. In many ways, it feels worse than working in Gambia. Maybe because the US is rumored to be a developed country, or maybe because it is my own country.”
When I asked permission to share her thoughts, she added, “You can quote me on social media, but definitely anonymously. I am too introverted to speak out publicly.” I respect that, and we need more White folks to speak about their sense of loss about inequality when it comes to Black lives.
As a professor of ethnomusicology and women, gender and sexuality working a book titled Twerking at the Intersection: On the Collapse of Music, Monetization, and Violence Against Girls on YouTube, my personal invitation to readers is this: Notice the constant erasure of women when discussing anti-Black state and police violence. The roots of anti-Black bias are structured by a White supremacist patriarchy dating back to 1619. (Listen to the NYT 1619 podcast, and study the curriculum). Anti-Black bias is a global pandemic of its own as Baratunde Thurston poignantly reframed during a Thursday night session of the TED2020 conference.
The reductive move to resist examining the intersectional oppression entangling racism and patriarchy is part of the challenge. Intersectionality structures bias and socializes an able-bodied, English-speaking, Christian, cis-normative patriarchy, putting profit and property before people in our polity and communal spaces; around the world, it spotlights a mindlessness to the humanity all around us. We have been mindless about uncovering the hidden assumptive world of hetero-patriarchy and white supremacy. It structures the policing of children’s voices and our blindness to their sexual abuse. It structures cis and trans women’s bodies and and our blindness to their murder, silencing their voices and pronouns. Intersectionality is symbolized and most palpably experienced by the policing of Black and Brown people’s social mobility and citizenship in public, face-to-face settings (see Amy Cooper and the “Barbecue Beckys” who weaponize White womanhood).
Intersectionality, coined by Kimberlé Crenshaw, whispers and winnows overlapping messages of marginalization in the ear, defining the ethics of Black and non-White folk: “You must prove your innocence, prove your worth, deny anger, weaponize guilt and shame, and forfeit the complexity of your voice, your identity, and your humanity.” Silence is more than just keeping your mouth shut. It structures the cosmos that says “You don’t belong here, there, anywhere,” even on the internet. (See Lisa Nakumura’s TEDx Talk on 5 types of online racism.) It’s called soul-murder. Ethnocide. Cultural genocide.
I recommend a year-long study with a friend or family members. Study one thing you find curious or alarming that you’ve been resisting. Put your revisions of the assumptions you notice on loudspeaker in your social networks. Don’t hide them in conversations with your few Black friends. Once a week or once a month, take a deep dive with your children, even if they are adults. Make it intergenerational. Do it with biological or logical family. Create one question to explore and continue exploring during the next wave of quarantine.
Watch TED Talks by Black women which are often overlooked. Watch my video on jump rope, or start with Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s talk “We should all be feminists“. Carol Gilligan articulates my favorite definition of feminism: “one of the great liberation movements in human history … the movement to free democracy from patriarchy.” BLM x Feminism = a sustaining liberation movement because women lead and love through generations and across humanity.
Read Dolly Chugh‘s The Person You Mean to Be: How Good People Fight Bias. It’s story-driven and research-based, and it’s one of the most engaging and thought-provoking books I’ve read that tackles multiple facets of intersectionality. I’ve always said: “Anything that separates the human race is a form of racism.” So, learning about bias writ large is a decolonizing act.
As a creative — as a classically-trained, R&B/jazz vocalist, and singer-songwriter — I say pick up a pen. Write a poem. Draw with one pen stroke a self-portrait of the world you’d like to see with you in it. Write or remix a protest chant. Learn from the ethics of antiphony found in a call-and-response civil rights song beyond “We Shall Overcome” (Search YouTube for “protest songs” or a “field holler”.) Or, learn about the legacy of the ring shout in Black music culture that inspires aspects of the dance in the video of “I’m a Black man in a White World”.
Music has always been at the center of social change. Music voices what goes unexpressed, what often gets silenced in our muffled pain. It’s what lies at the intersection of oppressions for Black and Brown cis- and trans women and girls.
Donate your time to knowledge activism by editing articles about a spectrum of Black women and girls from the US and beyond on Wikipedia. Find resources for BLM on the Art+Feminism website. They have provided a great set of resources here as well.
Another way to donate is by learning to contribute over time. Save 1 percent to 10 percent of anything you earn individually or as a group, and donate it once a month to a local homeless or single Black mother or to a Black woman-owned business. For more than a year, I’ve supported a local Black girl living precariously in poverty with her mother who has congestive heart failure. I provided her with a subscribe & save order on toilet paper. The order was delivered once a month and was not interrupted during the pandemic.
Don’t forget your music consumption. Donate your attention to music that does not thingify our daughters and women of color.
Offer other in-kind donations of your free time and attention: Translate texts into English and non-English articles with the Afro-Crowd project on Wikipedia, or translate for the TED Translation Project or transcribe videos on YouTube.
Knowledge activism in content creation is its own form of resistance on these platforms. I invite you to always remember: BLM or Feminism without intersectionality — the inclusion of the entire spectrum of what Blackness and gender mean, respecting their boundaries and their pronouns, and resisting the erasure of both cis and trans Black girls and women — is nothing more than the maintenance of White supremacy, heteronormativity and anti-Black racism.
– Kyra Gaunt (TED Talk: How the jump rope got its rhythm)
Read A People’s History of the United States by Howard Zinn. I remember how shocked I was in 10th grade after reading it and realizing US history from the perspective of the oppressed is completely different and implicates us White people in so much death and devastation. This history that Zinn discusses is the primary one we should all learn.
Read Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption by Bryan Stevenson. It’s an engaging, heartbreaking memoir that will open your eyes to the horrific structural racism in our justice system, how being convicted of murder does not actually mean you committed a crime (especially if you’re Black), and what we can do to fix it.
Read Locking Up Our Own: Crime and Punishment in Black America by James Forman. A former public defender, Forman does a fantastic job of reviewing the history of police and policing in Black America — focusing on Washington DC — and the complicated ways that structural racism has led to both under- and over-policing of Black neighborhoods and mass incarceration among Black men.
Call your mayor daily to ask her or him to enact #8can’twait. It’s a simple, effective, evidence-based way to reduce police brutality.
Whatever your area of work, start conversations with your colleagues to think deeply about how you all as a team can do better. Then, act on the insights that come from those meetings. Don’t wait for people of color to ask for this. The burden shouldn’t be on them to figure it out.
Amplify the voices of Black women, men, trans and non-binary people. As a white woman, I will never fully understand their experiences, but I can use my platform to bring attention to those who are lived experts. In my own corner of the world — pediatric medicine — here are a few colleagues to follow on Twitter: @_DrJ, @CodyGathersMD, @DrPowerHays, among others.
And, of course, protest. Showing up matters. As a doctor, I’d be remiss to not say that masks and social distancing are still very important. If you don’t feel comfortable going to a large protest, participate in smaller ones in which folks can stay safely far apart. For example, we’re holding one at the hospital on our lawn.
As a white person, I have access to more money than the average Black person. Median white wealth in the US is 10 times median Black wealth. We’ve accumulated that wealth by oppressing Black people for generations, starting with — but not ending with — slavery. It’s time we redistribute some of that money. This action is justice, not charity.
As a pediatrician, I think about supporting Black-led efforts to empower youth like Creative Reaction Lab, founded by TED Fellow Antionette Carroll. Supporting bailout funds, especially locally, can also be extremely impactful for children as having a parent incarcerated is obviously harmful to children. Scientific researchers call this experience an “adverse childhood experience” or ACE, which are associated with poor health outcomes throughout life.
Support radical politicians who are fighting for justice and change, federally and locally. A few to consider: DeAndrea Salvador (TED Fellow and founder of RETI), who’s running for the North Carolina Senate to represent its 39th District; Jaime Harrison, who’s running in South Carolina to unseat Lindsay Graham from the US Senate; Lauren Underwood, who’s running for re-election to her seat in Congress representing Illinois’s 14th District.
– Lucy Marcil (TED Talk: Why doctors are offering free tax prep in their waiting rooms)