We’re all looking for ways to be more resilient. Taking pride in your identity and culture is a powerful way to do just that. Every February, Black History Month—a public celebration of Black culture—provides Black people with a space to both cultivate and celebrate this resilience.
Resilience continues to be necessary for Black, indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC) individuals in the face of relentless racism. The legacy and continued occurrence of countless acts of racially-driven violence and murder last year has brought the tragic consequences of racism and anti-Blackness to the forefront. What’s more, COVID-19 has disproportionately affected BIPOC communities, shining a light on healthcare disparities, economic inequalities, and educational barriers—all of which are closely tied to systemic racism.
However, BIPOC communities’ and individuals’ resilience is not enough to combat racism pervasive in everyday life. Systemic change is needed. All of this has many people asking what they can do to be anti-racist. The prospect may seem daunting and discouraging at first: How can a single person’s actions dismantle a whole system of racial injustice? But there’s good news. Your actions don’t need to be grand gestures. Indeed, there are small things we can all do to support one another and promote racial justice.
Here are some ways to provide meaningful support and make lasting change for Black people—not just during Black History Month, but every day.
1. Elevate and Celebrate Different Cultures
“I don’t see color”—it’s a well-meaning but misguided statement that does nothing to actually solve racial inequality. Yes, Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., did say that he dreamt of a world where people would not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character. However, that dream does not mean we should mute the cultural differences among us. Removing race from our conversations or overlooking its existence doesn’t eliminate bias. Instead, it further marginalizes BIPOC people by silencing their very existence.
A better approach? Practice multiculturalism by elevating and celebrating different cultures and identities. This allows us to demonstrate people’s inherent value, regardless of their backgrounds, while championing the very things that make us uniquely human. To support one another and promote racial healing, we must embrace the beauty in our diversity. The result: We create a society where everyone can thrive.
2. Practice Active Listening
Living authentically—having harmony between our values, thoughts, and actions—is crucial for well-being. Speaking our truth is a big part of that because it allows us to feel heard, validated, and empowered. One small way we can support that is to actively listen to others’ experiences. That means being completely present and open to what someone else is sharing with us. It requires us to be still and quiet in the moment, to be deeply curious and engaged, and to express empathy. In other words, active listening means listening to learn, rather than listening to respond. When we do that, it lifts our marginalized friends and amplifies their voices.
3. Reflect on Your Social Location
By now, the phrase “check your privilege” has become cliche. Even more, it can make us feel personally attacked, guilty, insecure, and resentful. But “checking your privilege” shouldn’t mean feeling guilty or regretful. Instead, it should be an opportunity for reflection.
In particular, I mean reflecting on how we are each situated or located in society and understanding the implications and consequences of that. Like it or not, we are all connected to systemic racism simply by being a member of society. And when we are complacent, we contribute to and are affected by systemic racism. To counter this, everyone must take ownership of their part in this system. The only way to do this is to understand our own social location in society and how that affects privilege and oppression. You can begin this process by educating yourself—reading blogs and books, watching TED Talks and documentaries, having difficult conversations about your social identity, and learning from others.
The work of being anti-racist is not easy, but the small anti-racist actions we each take do add up over time. In this way, we can both support Black people and promote racial justice.