Ever since I learned of the term virtue signaling, I've always felt slightly self-reprehensible whenever I shared a #blacklivesmatter post on my Instagram story or retweeted a socially charged tweet. The guilt is valid, and I've been thinking more and more about how to add some substance behind the futile social media support I offer to causes that I am "passionate" about.
In light of the current situation in the United States triggered by the death of George Floyd, my team and I got together to come up with a way to show our support for those affected that goes beyond the facade of virtue signaling. Here's what we came up with.
First, we need to remember that this is not an isolated incident, so we need to stop treating it as such. It is systemic. This means that is an ingrained part of American society. It is not caused by a single person's — or even a collection of people's — bigotry or ignorance, but it is rooted deeply into the system that runs this country —hence systemic. This is an ongoing problem that requires continuous effort towards a solution meaning that one donation, one book, or one change of view will not magically erase this issue. This requires a generational paradigm shift.
Here are the four things that we decided we would work on ourselves to help, and I hope that sharing these will help us move forward together as a society.
We found that education is the most important thing that we can do to help the situation —personal education on why the system exists in the first place. It's startling to see that so many people have no understanding to why systematic racism exists beyond "because slavery." The word systemic gets thrown around like a buzzword now. We need to rein the word back in from buzzword-land by educating ourselves, and the best way to do so is through books. Artist Jane Mount has a post on Instagram that contains several community suggested books. See below for some immediately accessible ones we have been suggested / ones that we are currently reading.
So You Want to Talk About Race, Ijeoma Oluo
How to Be an Antiracist, Ibram X. Kendi
Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You, Jason Reynolds
I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings, Maya Angelou
Between the World and Me, Ta-Nehisi Coates
My founders and I are not black (three Asian-Americans and one Italian-American). We are seeking to be a part of the conversation by reaching out to those affected. We found that it is exceedingly crucial here, however, to know that we start not as a full participant in the conversation but only as a listener. And it is our duty to be a good listener. This Twitter thread is a good resource. Listen and be receptive to the community.
Organizing peacefully helps show solidarity and support. We need to exercise our First Amendment rights to lawfully assemble. Social media is a great resource for finding out when and where to gather. We follow https://twitter.com/blmla. We believe that our support, presence, and bodies will make a difference.
While we encourage people to utilize their voices and ability to gather, we strongly condemn violence directed towards fellow humans.
You can also participate in our democratic processes by voting in local elections for both representatives and legislation. Take particular notice to the ones that speak on police reform and defunding. In addition to voting, you can also directly reach out to the legislators that represent your area. While petitions are readily available on the internet, we suggest getting together with your friends to compose strong letters for your representatives. Below are a few resources we like taking advantage of.
Protestors are the ones on the front lines pushing for change to happen. It could be dangerous and potentially life-threatening. If one cannot physically participate in that, then they can donate to organizations that help protestors with jail bails, legal support, and much more.
https://minnesotafreedomfund.org/ - The MFF has received over $2 million in donations now, and we encourage contributions to be made elsewhere.
It is not enough to just like or retweet what we think should happen. We need to understand that we are all fully capable agents of change, and change must be brought forth by a conscious, earnest, and active effort. Our empathy for one another strengthens and forwards the embracing of inclusivity and diversity.
At the time of this writing, my founders and I have contributed what we could to the foundations listed above.