This is a powerful moment — will there be resolve to sustain it?
To my new allies:
Across the country, there has been unprecedented unity in the fight against the racist systems that have oppressed Black Americans for centuries without fail. This magnitude of support, awareness, and action is necessary to produce change, and for me, as a Black woman, it has been exciting to witness.
However, I am concerned that this moment is fleeting. Incidents of police brutality or overt racism that receive attention from the media often elicit public outrage, but after a short time, people move on. Unfortunately, Black Americans don’t have that privilege. This is our reality. Consequently, I encourage you to remember this moment and the outrage you feel today, outrage that many of us walk around with every day of our lives without reprieve. Don’t forget your commitment to being an ally when it is no longer trendy.
Allyship is difficult. It requires not only outwardly advocating for others but also reflecting on one’s own actions. Reflect on what has brought you to join this movement, particularly why you have joined it now. We all have heard of Trayvon Martin, Tamir Rice, and Sandra Bland, just to name a few. We all have known that Black individuals have been betrayed by this country, time and time again. So while you are encouraging others to open their eyes to the injustices occurring around them, examine yourself. Determine whether, prior to becoming an ally, you actually did not know what was happening to your Black brothers and sisters or you knew what was happening and decided to be blind to it.
I also encourage you to reflect on how you want to participate in this movement going forward. The actions taken thus far give me hope that this time will be different. However, accompanying that hope is skepticism of the consistency and longevity of your support for this cause. Prove me wrong. Demonstrate that the steps you have taken recently to advocate for Black individuals and to work toward a more just, equitable society are the beginning of your participation in this movement and not the end.
If you support Black Lives Matter, you must back housing for all
It has been two weeks since national protests shook our nation, over yet another devastating strike against Black lives. What feels different about this moment is the avalanche of support for a racial justice reckoning. I urge that while we have the attention to move the needle and condemn racial violence, we focus on our housing needs. Housing is a racial and economic justice issue. If we truly believe that Black Lives Matter, we cannot ignore our fight for housing for all.
Before the COVID-19 pandemic, renters and homeowners in Boston were already cost-burdened, often paying more than 50 percent of their income on housing. The current eviction and foreclosure moratorium is only a stopgap in the larger housing crisis. As we prepare for reopening, we will be left with an urgent housing problem — one that may result in mass evictions and a spike in homelessness.
At the state level, we need to pass zoning reform that reckons with our segregationist history. From our racially restrictive covenants to redlining, our housing history clearly depicts how far we have yet to go. Our zoning laws amount to racial discrimination when only a select few — often white — are allowed to live in our most prosperous communities.
We must increase multifamily zoning and look at housing policies that stand in the way of racial equity. Let’s fight prohibitive federal and state housing policies that ban those with a criminal record and undocumented residents from access to housing resources. Let’s offer more housing options for all at every income level. We need stronger tenant protections that aid our most vulnerable, including seniors and the disabled, and we need development without displacement. And if we truly want to address the racial wealth gap, we must push forward for equitable programs that provide capital dedicated to increasing Black and minority homeownership.
The writer is a board member of Abundant Housing Massachusetts, a statewide advocacy network.
Proud to be American?
America prides itself on spreading the principles of democracy across the globe, but the world is witnessing an unraveling in real time, the fraying of the racism, inequality, and bigotry woven into the fabric of this nation, following the brutal killing of yet another of our Black citizens, George Floyd, by police.
So many of us live in fear of a traffic stop, in fear for the lives of our Black and brown families, in fear of the blatant brutality in policing, in fear of systemically racist social, political, and judicial policies. As our former president, Barack Obama, put it in a recent address, the young people of this nation should be free to realize their hopes and dreams and should not have to worry about “looking at some birds in a park,” a reference to yet another recent racist incident, in New York’s Central Park. There, a white woman filled with an inherent, yet false, sense of supremacy called police because a Black man requested that she follow the leash law, in broad daylight. All of these kinds of incidents are far too common, playing out in our society ad nauseam.
The wounds are deep, an obvious symptom of our national illness, which has been voiced in protests past and present. There is another pandemic in the air, and the world is witnessing it all unfold.
As an American, will you dismiss the obvious, tighten your blindfold, reach for another Band-Aid? Or will you effect change for this nation? As an American, what will you do?
Long Beach, Miss.
Performative allyship is more dangerous than no allyship at all
In response to “We want to hear more Black voices”: I invite the Globe to rethink this ask. Our Black brothers and sisters are aware — and have been aware — of their Blackness and how it affects their hopes and dreams, their daily endeavors, and, all too often, their freedom and ability to live.
I ask that the Globe solicit ideas from their white readers. What steps are they taking to understand their whiteness and the role it plays in their everyday life? If they already possess some understanding of their whiteness and how they present, what are they doing to part with their privilege to help pave a path for inclusion and equity?
What are health systems doing to be less discriminatory toward their patients who are Black, indigenous, and people of color? What are educational systems doing to be more inclusive in their teachings — are they providing multicultural perspectives and voices? Are they telling history not only through the voice of the oppressors?
We challenge the leadership at The Boston Globe to provide us with their plan for increasing diversity and inclusion among their own staff. What initiatives does the Globe have underway to increase BIPOC on the Globe’s masthead, running the news coverage, or among the editorial board? What does the Globe’s governance board look like? Would any of you give up your positions for someone else who has been historically underrepresented?
The deceptiveness of performative allyship is more dangerous than no allyship at all. The Black members of our community can say all day long that they want affirmative action restored, or that our American culture and institutions within are in need of an overhaul, but it is not going to happen until those who hold the levers of white supremacy are ready to (re)move them.
Visions is a nonprofit training and consulting organization specializing in diversity, equity, and inclusion.