Amplifying Black Voices as a White Woman

Part II

I read a post at Absolutely Luvvie that was helpful (thank you, Luvvie) and worth sharing. The post is called “Another Day, Another Hashtag. White People, You Gotta Get to Work NOW”   I strongly encourage you to click through and read her post.

  1. Listen
  2. Amplify
  3. Talk with Family and Friends
  4. Donate to Anti-Racism Work
  5. Know who you are voting for
  6. Demand accountability
  7. Be a witness
  8. Protest
  9. Commit yourself to fixing this, you are not helpless

I blogged about the first suggestion – to listen. Today, I’m going to explore a step close to my heart which is to signal boost black voices. Luvvie writes

When you don’t have the words to speak up, give your mic to someone Black, who does. Share their Facebook status, retweet them, and tell others you know to drink up their perspective. At the minimum, you can do that. It is a statement in itself.

After Michael Brown was shot and killed in August 2014 in Ferguson, I kept bumping into this advice to use my social media capital to give a signal boost to share the voices of black folks without adding my two cents. So I’ve tried very hard to do that over the past two years. I intentionally include black voices, both straight and QTPOC, in my social media shares and my daily reading. I listen and I share. I work very deliberately to invite QTPOC to contribute to my own #AMPLIFY series.

I’ve already listed some resources you can consult, but again I think it is perhaps most powerful if you are paying attention to the voices and experiences of people that you actually know. By all means, share the blog posts. But you can also share the original content created by your friends and neighbors – their everyday thoughts, their feedback on news items, their events and their fundraisers. You can essentially help your own network of white folks have a more robust understanding of the everyday experiences of your black friends simply by sharing their content.

I’m resisting the impulse to jump ahead to other items in the list because I want to stop and really hold these individual steps in my heart and my consciousness for a moment.

I don’t think this means you should run to your black friends or the black community each time a terrible incident happens and ask them to do the explaining for you. I think it means carefully demonstrating that you are paying attention on a regular basis. It means acting with deliberate intention to include voices of people of color in your own content and getting out of the way to let them speak through your microphone.

So for example, I include certain sites in my “daily read” to find content that I want to consume and share. I make a point to include links to those sites to stories that resonate with me. I deliberately share that content with a tag because I know that people who follow my social media profiles might read it.

I make a concerted effort to write a blog post for each trans woman of color who is murdered in our country. I always, always visit the TransGriot website to read what Monica Roberts has posted. I also now visit Autostraddle to read the content created by Mey, a trans Latina writer. I do this to lift up their voices as women who are experiencing this epidemic from a vantage I can’t assume and to remind you, dear readers, to read their content on a regular basis.

I follow events that I might not attend, but that feature or highlight or serve my black friends. I share those links, too.

But I also share their other content. I deliberately try and as ridiculous as it might sound to get so detailed on this issue, I want to keep reinforcing that this is intentional work to change the way we consume and share content. It isn’t about responding to crisis alone. It isn’t sharing a meme here and there. It is an investment of our time and our social media capital to demonstrate that we are paying attention and we think other people should as well.

It is also not about quitting when you feel uncomfortable or suspect you are dealing with a lost cause. But that’s getting onto the next item on this list.

This obviously has the benefit of exposing your own network (especially your white network) to the black community. It is a show of support, but it is also a show of solidarity. You don’t need to create new content. You can share something and use whatever signal you like to indicate that your folks should read it. You don’t have to interpret or qualify or otherwise insert yourself into the commentary. The content doesn’t need your filter; it needs your signal boost.

What I found in my experiences is that the most I listened, the more natural it becomes to find content to share. Real content created by real people versus excerpts and quotes and memes ripped out of their original content and pasted onto an unrelated image.

Maybe you don’t want your FB page to be political. Maybe you feel awkward posting content created by people you don’t know. Well, that’s the price we pay to create more justice in the world – we push through our own feelings to do the right thing. It does back to listening to what our black neighbors are telling us versus what we think is the best way to show that #BlackLivesMatter to us.

So I’d suggest the next time you are tempted to post a quote from MLK or Rumi, stop. Stop and consider if you could use that few moments to share content created by actual people that you know.

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