Hi. In a way, everything feels terrible right now, doesn’t it? I’m pretty tired of feeling terrible, and super tired of feeling like the country is in a new level of shit, when - let’s be honest - it’s been shit for everyone but white men since the beginning. I hear a lot of people feeling powerless; folks are tired. Me too, y’all (and #metoo).
I don’t know what everyone is capable of, though I believe it to be more than we even realize, but I have figured out what I can do right now. I’ve been a programmer for a long time, and part of open source software communities for many years. This combination means that when I figure something out I make a list and I write a blog. So… in line with my devotion to open source knowledge, open communication, transparent processes, and public commitments, here I am publicly committing to what I can do 100% of the time* in the next 12 months. I’m going to vote, obviously. But beyond that, I’ve asked myself: What does it look like to make a conscious, sustainable effort to invest in the future I want?
The big key for me is sustainable: I have a job; I’m in graduate school doing work that I believe will make me a more effective change agent when it’s done; I’m involved with several dysfunctional communities that need my support. What can I commit to doing constantly and consistently in light of my other obligations? A lot of the commitments below are things that folks already say they do all the time - but if they did them all the time, I think the world would look pretty different. My trust for white folks (and white women specifically) is at an all-time low, so despite some of these feeling like really base-level behavior, I think it’s important to be explicit and to specify exactly how I’m going to honor and fulfill my commitments. These public commitments also mean that if you see me breaking them, I invite you to call me out on it.
tl;dr: I commit to put money in the pockets of people of color and put emotional energy into dealing with my racist and sexist white sisters.
I have economic commitments
The absolutely easiest way I can act in line with my values is by paying attention to where and how I spend money. Simply not spending money at companies that do violence to communities of color is a no-brainer. It’s also different from actively trying to put my money into the pockets of people of color in my community.
- I increased my donations to Southern Poverty Law Center and the ACLU
- If I drank alcohol, I would avoid Constellation brands in solidarity with those fighting for water rights. Read more at Latino Rebels and NPR.
- When I’m choosing a service, I commit to specifically searching first for businesses that are black or POC owned. Anything you need, you can find from a business owned by a POC. I don’t spend a ton of money on things (see above re: grad school), but when I do, I do it specifically from black-owned businesses.
- When I get my head shaved, I go to a local black-owned barbershop.
- When I’m shopping on Etsy, I start with their listing of black owned shops
- There may be a black-owned farm or grocery store in your area, but there’s not one here that I’ve found yet.
- This is a great black-owned crystal shop
- If you have a regular service provider who is white, can you change so that you’re putting money into POC pockets? I’m actively looking for a POC sports massage therapist in my area.
I’m still struggling with how to spend less money on Amazon - I need to buy books, and I need to get them used and not spend a ton of time tracking them down - but I’m working on it.
I have academic commitments
- Last year, I sat in a master class with a well-known (white, cismale) scholar and listened to him denigrate United States slaves. None of us said anything because we were scared of our department chair and the scholar. I haven’t repeated that silence, and here I renew my commitment to calling out racist, sexist, colonialist, transphobic and other bullshit every time I see it in a classroom, regardless of the power dynamics at play.
- I #citeblackwomen and, wherever possible, read womxn, trans* folks, people of color, indigenous, and disabled scholars.
- I commit to recommending only work by people who do not identify as cisgendered white men.
- I commit to collaborating only with scholars whose politics and ethics I respect and whose values are anti-racist, anti-transphobic, anti-Islamophobic, anti….. If I find out that I’m working with a scholar who does not share these views, I commit to terminating that working relationship (but helping them wake the fuck up, if they are white women; see the next section). As a graduate student, my attention and labor are the only currencies I have to spend - I commit to spending them with scholars who are working to make the world better.
I have social commitments
Here’s where it gets really exhausting, but I’m doing it anyway: I commit to talking with all of the white women in my life whose actions support patriarchy. This is my least favorite thing to do and the thing that I think is the most important here. These conversations mean that I often need to ignore cisnormative/transviolent dialogue to help folks ease into thinking critically about patriarchy. I commit to that ignoring in the service of bringing folks along.
- commit to being visible and vocal in my communities to advocate for victims of abuse and harassment.
- Tactically, this means that I commit to responding publicly when an issue occurs and making it uncomfortable for white women to perpetuate patriarchal and racist violence.
- This means that I’m willing to be that person who won’t shut up about an issue that continues to make communities dangerous.
- commit to supporting others doing good work and getting into good trouble in any way that I can.
- commit to addressing 100% of the racist, sexist, ableist, homophobic, *ist comments that I hear
- I would like this to mean calling in whenever possible.
- commit to holding space for folks to come together and process what’s happening
- I would like this to include support in meaningful ways - time, food, physical space
- commit to volunteering in my community at least once a month, with organizations that work towards racial and economic justice. I don’t believe that courts will save us, and I know that putting my body and energy towards people who need it is valuable.
I have limits
Lest it seem like I’m here all “look at me do all the things,” here are some things I’m not doing this year because I know I can’t engage with them sustainably or in a way that’s safe for me.
- spend time or emotional labor educating white cisgendered men. (Get on it, other men)
- spend time caring for and curating safe online spaces.
- read material from the “other side.” I’ll be passing on works by Jonathan Haidt, thanks.
- make time commitments to recruit voters or to campaign for candidates.
- commit to actively interrogate the politics of people in designated “no politics” zones. My gym, for example, is a wild mix of political views (including folks who are alllll the way right) and they try to leave it all at the door, so I’m respecting that. I will, however, continue to not tolerate any racist bullshit from other white people.
Will this change the world? Nope. But this will change how I feel about what I can do tomorrow. It will keep me accountable for actively doing my part to dismantle oppressive systems. I hope that it encourages others to make public, time-based and specific (aka SMART goals) commitments to what they can do. Most importantly, this gives me a framework to move forward and know that I’m making small differences while I figure out where I can make big difference. Have questions, white women? Let’s talk.
* The 100% of the time is really important here. In recovery circles, folks talk about the exception reinforcing the need for commitment. “I’m going to have one drink on Thanksgiving because I can’t handle my family” reinforces the assertion that maybe the speaker needs to commit to abstinence. “I’m going to fight racism except this one time with my boss” reinforces white supremacy and the speaker’s alliance with oppressors.