Black Lives Matter
Last week we shared a statement upholding our commitments to equity and changing the systemic racism that threatens lives and prevents our communities from thriving. After all that has unfolded in Minnesota, Iowa, and across the country since then, we are compelled to unequivocally affirm that Black Lives Matter and offer action-oriented resources to our network.
The protests we’ve seen across our states and the country are a response to institutional and systemic racism, and we cannot view ourselves as unblemished or inculpable. To remain neutral or silent at this juncture would be to remain complicit in the injustice perpetrated against people of color, specifically Black people. We are resolute in our commitment to speak up, educate, and engage our communities to challenge injustice and want to reaffirm these commitments while also acknowledging how far we have to go in our own anti-racist efforts to build just and equitable communities.
We also want to draw attention to the significant efforts of the Black students and leaders in our network. The advocacy and action of students like Student Body President Jael Karandi, whose response to the murder of George Floyd and collection of thousands of signatures led the University of Minnesota Twin Cities’s to cut ties with the Minneapolis Police Department, and the thousands of students across Iowa and Minnesota who have mobilized the movement by organizing demands and demonstrations in support of racial justice on their own campuses, exemplifies the values we see as integral to the civic mission of higher education and inspires us to be relentless in our pursuit of justice.
These examples challenge us to remember that living our mission will not always be comfortable or straightforward. We invite you to join us in developing sustained and tangible commitments to racial justice. To that end, below are resources that contextualize the current moment and offer guidance on how to hold space and dialogue around race and racism to establish your own path to anti-racist action.
Our team has been working on a framework for developing individual civic capacity that we will be releasing later this summer. It offers a way of understanding paths to engagement in making change. Below we offer a glimpse of that framework in the context of building capacity for anti-racist action. In some ways, these areas of work can scaffold to build on each other. It’s also true that they are not linear and everyone will go back and forth between them. Anti-racism is a practice, and the work of building knowledge and understanding must be continuous.
Civic Awareness – raising awareness of social inequities. This includes reading, listening, and researching issues and experiences.
Most of us still have a need for more education and understanding of the experiences of Black Americans. This includes getting more context and insight on the Black Lives Matter movement, George Floyd’s death, and recent demonstrations. Several articles from recent weeks offer important insights:
- A Weekend of Pain and Protest, The Daily // New York Times
- The Grief that White Americans Can’t Share, Nikole-Hannah Jones // New York Times
- People Can Only Bear So Much Injustice Before Lashing Out, Elie Mystal // The Nation
- Remember, No One Is Coming to Save Us, Roxane Gay // New York Times
- Violence in Minneapolis is rooted in the history of racist policing, Keisha Blain // Washington Post
Building your awareness also includes developing a broader understanding of the history of riots and protests and the racialized rhetoric around “violence” and “non-violence.” Here are a few resources:
- A quick lesson on what MLK and Rosa Parks really said about protests, Valerie Strauss // Washington Post
- The language of protest: Race, rioting, and the memory of Ferguson, Abigail Perkiss // National Constitution Center
- The Double Standard of the American Riot, Kellie Carter Jackson // The Atlantic
Part of building awareness is also reflecting on your role and identity. For white people, the article The Role of White Co-Conspirators in Dismantling Systemic Racism by Andrew Greenia of Embracing Equity offers definitions and frameworks to guide antiracist work and outlines specific questions for white people to ask themselves before participating in antiracist dialogue or action, including:
- What is at stake for you in dismantling white supremacy?
- How is your work accountable to People of Color? Are these lines of accountability explicit? If not, how will you establish accountability?
Above all, remember that building awareness and becoming antiracist is your job. Don’t ask Black people and other People of Color to do it for you. Libraries, the internet, and even Netflix offer a host of opportunities to learn without burdening those most impacted. That being said, it IS important to listen. Where Black people are offering their voices, pay attention. Consider the emotions their words bring up for you and really analyze them without feeling the need to respond or defend.
Other ideas for building awareness:
- Read works by Black authors on their experiences
- Access the “Talking about Race” resources from the National Museum of African American History & Culture
- Watch documentaries such as 13th and When They See Us
- Learn more about your communities’ policies and history
Civic Action – taking action to contribute to the community. This includes volunteering, organizing, and voting.
Racist systems and structures won’t change simply because we are more aware of them. Change requires action and there are many avenues. The Social Change Wheel offers insight into the wide variety of actions that come together to form social change.
One important path is dialogue. This requires openness, humility, quality facilitation and strong listening skills. Guidance for dialogue:
- Why White People Shouldn’t Impose Their Feelings Into Conversations on Race, Shae Collins // Everyday Feminism. This piece demonstrates the need to decenter whiteness in conversations about race and offers several questions and strategies white people can use to ensure conversations focus on and uplift the words and experiences of people of color.
- ‘Moments like now are why we teach’: Educators tackle tough conversations about race and violence — this time virtually, Reema Amin, Caroline Bauman, Stephanie Wang // Chalkbeat (K-12 perspective, but useful strategies for education settings). This piece shares examples of educators’ approaches to conversations about protests and police violence with their students and demonstrates the roles educators can take in facilitating dialogue and action. The idea of hosting a “Day of Action” over Zoom to support students in developing commitments to activism might be especially salient to those working in higher education and community settings.
- Teaching About Race, Racism, and Police Violence // Teaching Tolerance (K-12 perspective)
- Let’s Talk! Discussing Black Lives Matter webinar – This resource collection offers articles and guidance on setting up and facilitating conversations about racism and police violence. It emphasizes the need to ground conversations in history and underscores the importance of directly and consistently addressing issues of race and racism in educational settings.
Other ideas for action:
- Show up. Protests and demonstrations are an important part of social change. Looks for events organized by local organizations and activists. If you can, attend (while practicing safe social distancing). Use your voice, signs, and your body to demonstrate support and solidarity.
- Volunteer. Support the Twin Cities Right Now: This list includes organizations and locations to donate money and supplies to in Minneapolis and ways local residents can support cleanup and recovery efforts across the city. Similar lists have been compiled for cities and regions across the country–Google phrases like “Black-owned businesses” or “Black Lives Matter” + your city to locate ways to support your community.
- Donate. Reclaim the Block, a Minneapolis-based organization focused on moving money from the police department into efforts that promote community health and safety for all, has compiled an extensive list of community organizations focused on meeting the needs of Black and other targeted communities and rebuilding the city equitably.
- Talk about it. If you are a non-Black person and, especially if you are a white person, commit to talking to your non-Black friends, family, and coworkers about race and racism. Start a book club or facilitate a dialogue.
Civic Agency – using your agency to enact social change. This includes recruiting others to volunteer, organizing for action, and educating others.
All of the above builds your individual capacity and agency for change. As that grows you can take on more and more responsibility for organizing and engaging others. Some ideas:
- Push for policy change at the local, state, and national level. Research the demands of Black-led organizations pushing for racial justice in your community, determine who has the capacity to create change, and participate in research, organizing, and advocacy efforts.
- Establish an ongoing practice of antiracist learning, reflection, and action. Several resource lists have been compiled in the past week: Scaffolded Antiracist Resources, Antiracist Allyship Starter Pack, Resource Guide: Prisons, Policing, and Punishment, Historians on the 2020 protests, Resistance and Movements.
As our work continues to focus on how civic and community engagement ensure full participation on our campuses and our communities, we will continue to provide resources and tools to inspire change.