In the wake of the police killing of George Floyd, posts on social media have exploded into a vibrant, dynamic conversation about race. Many white people and non-Black people of color are sharing links to organizations supporting Black communities, receipts of donations they’ve made to such groups, reading lists of anti-racist material — the list goes on.
There’s no doubt the info-sharing taking place online is having a tremendous impact. It’s (finally) waking people up to the long-standing systemic racism in the U.S. and across the globe, and inspiring people to take stock of what steps need to be taken to effectuate change.
At the same time, the social media activity can be exhausting and anxiety-inducing. Social media apps are designed to be addictive; it’s easy to get sucked in for hours on end and it can take some serious discipline to break away.
Research shows prolonged social media use can negatively affect mental health. Given that we’re arguably on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter more than ever right now, it’s physiologically impossible to not experience some level of burnout.
Yet, it can also feel irresponsible to take a break from social media in this moment. It’s definitely not the time to tune out the conversation, but intermittent breaks from social media prove reinvigorating so you have more energy to put back into the world.
“Switch off the news, set aside the eye-opening book or documentary, pause the argument; then rest, recover and get back to it,” Daisy Onubogu, the head of network at the London-based seed-stage fund Backed VC, wrote in a post on Medium about how allies can persist, even when you get tired (because you will).
Plus, there are plenty of ways to stay informed and connected outside of social media. After all, that’s where the real change happens. If you’re a white or non-Black person of color looking to make a difference, here are just a few other actions to take outside of posting (along with educating yourself, donating and more):
Hold your company accountable
Many companies have diversity and inclusion (D&I) initiatives integrated into their framework from top to bottom, but employees often feel removed from these processes. Antwan Jones, a professor of sociology at George Washington University, said workers “have power to urge companies to develop awareness of some of these strategies to create meaningful change.”
Workers should be familiarizing themselves with their companies’ current D&I and racial equity programs — especially those related to leadership, recruitment, promotions, trainings and development — and understand the impact they’ve had so far.
“This research can give employees ways to see how leadership has thought about issues of diversity, the extent to which the approach is comprehensive, and where there are opportunities for growth and change in the policies,” Jones said.
If your company doesn’t promote diversity and racial equity policies, kickstart an employee resource group that can press leadership to create the change employees want to see, Jones added. Here’s a list of ideas that can be reimagined and applied to many industries.
Shop Black-owned businesses
A number of Black-owned businesses have been damaged by violence or looting ― on top of being financially hurt by the coronavirus pandemic. To help them overcome these setbacks, shop, eat, and buy gift cards at Black-owned businesses. (There are several directories where you can look up which businesses are Black-owned, including The Black Wallet, DOBOBO, and Black Wall Street.)
And it’s important to support local minority-owned businesses not only right now, but in the months and years to come.
“I don’t think it’s just about doing it now, this is something that needs to be sustained,” said Imani Cheers, an associate professor of digital storytelling at George Washington University.
“I don’t think it’s just about doing it now, this is something that needs to be sustained.”
Supporting Black-owned businesses strengthens local economies ― it brings resources into communities, helps create and sustain local jobs, and supports the Black owners and their families.
“Structurally, it is one step toward righting the wrong of economic-based discrimination against Blacks who sought small business loans, and it addresses the racial wealth gap by allowing black entrepreneurs access to wealth,” Jones said.
Have genuine conversations in your own circles
It’s common to engage in a riff with friends and relatives via Facebook comments ― and while that’s one way to start a convo, we need to discuss race, identity and privilege with our networks in real life, too.
The goal is to normalize talking about these subjects, even if they’re uncomfortable. Doing so can make a huge difference in how we all move through and experience the world.
We can’t keep pushing off hard and complex conversations about race. We need to have adequate, confident conversations about these issues, even if it’s uncomfortable.
“That’s where the growth happens. Get comfortable with being uncomfortable,” Cheers said.
Understand policing in your city
Take some time to research where your community stands with policing. Learn what the call to defund the police really means. Write to your local government representative and police chief regarding the divestments or reforms you’d like to see.
Cheers recommended attending local meetings where you can discuss community policing. ”Are you engaged? Are you there?” Cheers asked.
Kick start these conversations in your town. “There’s so much misinformation, there’s so much mistrust, there’s so much angst, there’s so much anger. The only way we’re going to move forward is by talking,” Cheers said.
Your voice counts, and you can use it to hold local leaders accountable.
Fight predatory ticketing
Ticketing ― a huge revenue generator for law enforcement ― is one of the prime encounters police have with Black people, according to Henry Louis Taylor Jr., a professor of urban and regional planning in the University at Buffalo School of Architecture and Planning.
“Members of Black communities are three to four times more likely to have their driver’s licenses suspended than whites or to receive multiple tickets in a single traffic stop,” Taylor said.
“Do not let this be a moment, but a new or renewed way of interacting with the world around you.”
Taylor said you can start addressing this inequality by forming a small group interested in fighting for fair fines. Do your research and gather information on predatory ticketing issues. Talk to communities hit hardest by predatory ticketing, listen to their stories. Raise public consciousness about the matter, then write and lobby to members of the city council or county commissions.
“No matter what state you live in, you can encourage your local elected officials to dramatically reduce their reliance on fines and fees to balance their budgets — this is a regressive system of taxation that disproportionately harms people of color and low-income communities,” said Jag Davies, the director of communications from Fine and Fees Justice Center.
Real change takes time. Make a plan to stay engaged in the long run. Listen, learn, discuss, plan and act. Challenge your community members.
“Do not let this be a moment, but a new or renewed way of interacting with the world around you,” Jones said.