Here are some practical and important ways white Americans can fight for racial justice
Photo by Clay Banks on Unsplash

Hey, fellow white Americans.

It's been a week. Many of us are horrified by the murder of George Floyd and Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor and other Black Americans and are finally coming around to seeing how real the issue of racism is in our country. We hear our friends who aren't white asking us to take action. We may recognize that we have a responsibility to do more than simply "not be racist," but we may not be sure where to begin or what action looks like in practical terms.

Welcome to the world of anti-racism.

The goal here is to dismantle racism in our systems and institutions, as well as root it out within ourselves. As inheritors of a country built with the labor of enslaved Black people on land stolen from Indigenous people—a country whose systems were designed by and for white people—racism comes with the territory. None of us are immune.

Don't take it personally. We didn't choose our skin any more than anyone else, and this isn't about "guilt." But we inherited a racial legacy, and we have a responsibility to see where we benefit from it. We also have a responsibility to use our power and privilege to repair the damage that racial legacy has done and keeps doing.


A simple definition of racism used in racial justice work is "prejudice + power." Most of us are fairly clear on what prejudice entails —stereotyping, profiling, discriminating, etc.—but many of us struggle with what the power part means for us. And that's the part that we can utilize to enact desperately needed systemic change.

We may not consciously realize it, but white Americans, as a collective, have more power than any other single group to either maintain or change things. And we also have individual power that we can wield for better or for worse.

Keep in mind that none of this is simple. Since we're trying to build an equitable and just society—which we've literally never seen in this country or arguably anywhere on this planet—we're all in learning mode. But a lot of work has been done by racial justice advocates and activists to determine how white folks can contribute most effectively to this work.

Though not an exhaustive list, here are some practical ways we can use our power to push for racial justice on an ongoing basis.

Use the power of PRIVILEGE to disrupt incidents of racial injustice.

White privilege means your skin color offers you a certain measure of protection in our society—and that privilege can be used as a tool. That might mean stepping in with your voice when you witness injustice happening, knowing that a fellow white person or person in authority is more likely to listen to you than a person of color. Sometimes it means physically standing between a person of color and someone who is trying to harm them. We may not think it makes much of a difference, but it does. White folks are less likely to be viewed by other white folks as a threat or a suspect or a potential criminal, and we can physically disrupt racial injustice simply by placing our white self in front of it.

Here's an example of disrupting injustice with your voice:

Cracking the Codes: Joy DeGruy "A Trip to the Grocery Store" www.youtube.com

Here's an example of stepping in to shield a person of color with your body:

Use the power of your WALLET to support the work of people of color.

The economic disparity between white and Black Americans is a vast and often overlooked element of racial inequality. From the lack of generational wealth stemming from nearly 250 years of slavery to laws and policies that specifically kept Black people from accumulating wealth, white power-holders in the U.S. created and maintained this disparity. That doesn't mean all white people are rich and all Black people are poor; it means there's an ongoing collective disparity caused by racism that needs to be redressed. We can help by financially supporting minority-owned businesses, as well as creators, artists and activists of color.

Use the power of CHOICE to defer to leaders of color in this fight.

We are free to choose how we take action and decide who we listen to. Some of us might feel compelled and eager to lead a movement or launch an initiative ourselves, because that's how we're used to taking action. But there are already leaders in this space—powerful, activist people of color who have been at this for a long, long time, whether we've realized it or not. This movement doesn't need us to sweep in as a savior and take over anything. Look into organizations like Color of Change or Showing Up for Racial Justice. Our role is to take direction from the leaders already here, to listen and learn, and to be of service alongside the people who've been doing this work in ways that they tell us are most helpful.

Use the power of your PLATFORM to elevate voices of people of color.

Social media gives us the opportunity to speak publicly any time we wish. Most of us have fairly homogenous social circles, even if we live in diverse communities, so exposing our mostly white networks to diverse perspectives helps voices that need to be heard reach further. Start following social media account of people of color (here's a list of Black thought leaders to start with) and share their posts. When you read an article by a Black author, pass it along. Use the public platform you have to amplify the voices that need to be heard.

Use the power of POLITICAL ACTION to contact lawmakers and demand change.

White people have massive political power. We have always held—and still do hold—a disproportionate number of seats in legislatures (and all governmental positions). And whether we admit it or not, we are the ones who the people at the top listen to first and foremost. We can use that power to push for reform. One place to start right now would be police reform. The Center for Policing Equity is a good resource to explore what kinds of reform to push for.

Use the power of your VOTE to elect anti-racism candidates.

Don't underestimate the power of voting at all levels—local, state, and national. White folks have always been the largest voting block in the nation, and historically we've used that power to elect a disproportionate number of white government officials. Supporting people of color as candidates and voting for candidates with a proven anti-racism track record is one way to shift that power to make our government more representative of the American people.

And local elections are particularly important, as in many localities voters elect sheriffs, prosecutors and judges—positions that directly impact racial justice. If you're not sure if you're registered to vote or need to know how to vote in your area, go here.

Use the power of ACCESS to resources to educate yourself.

One thing that becomes woefully clear to as you dive into anti-racism work is how abysmal most of our education on the history of race in our country really is. Like, it's so bad. I grew up in a household that actively valued education and worked to battle racial prejudice and was still baffled. Most of us don't learn the full history of white supremacy and how deep those roots run. We aren't taught that the Confederate states didn't want to keep slavery primarily because of economics but because—as they announced in no uncertain terms—they believed white superiority over the Black race was and always would be God's intended purpose. We don't learn about the bombing of Black Wall Street in the Tulsa Race Massacre of 1921. We don't learn the details of voter suppression, redlining, or the fact that MLK, Jr. and his activism was disapproved of by most Americans in his lifetime.

And that's just basic history. We also need to wrap our brains around the psychological, sociological, and economic impacts of racism. It's a lot, but it's vital. This link to Anti-Racism Resources for White People is a great place to start with that self-education.

** An important note here: While we need to listen to people of color, don't ask Black friends to educate you. It is not their job or responsibility to educate us on our own history and our own issues with racism. When we ask a Black person to educate us, we are asking them to do labor for us for free. When you think of it in those terms, it's pretty clear why it's problematic.

Anti-racism is everyone's fight, but we have a unique and vital role in it as white Americans. And if we don't use our power to actively push our nation toward equity and justice, we don't just contribute to the problem, we are the problem.

Courtesy of Amita Swadhin
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In 2016, Amita Swadhin, a child of two immigrant parents from India, founded Mirror Memoirs to help combat rape culture. The national storytelling and organizing project is dedicated to sharing the stories of LGBTQIA+ Black, indigenous people, and people of color who survived child sexual abuse.

"Whether or not you are a survivor, 100% of us are raised in rape culture. It's the water that we're swimming in. But just as fish don't know they are in water, because it's just the world around them that they've always been in, people (and especially those who aren't survivors) may need some help actually seeing it," they add.

"Mirror Memoirs attempts to be the dye that helps everyone understand the reality of rape culture."

Amita built the idea for Mirror Memoirs from a theater project called "Undesirable Elements: Secret Survivors" that featured their story and those of four other survivors in New York City, as well as a documentary film and educational toolkit based on the project.

"Secret Survivors had a cast that was gender, race, and age-diverse in many ways, but we had neglected to include transgender women," Amita explains. "Our goal was to help all people who want to co-create a world without child sexual abuse understand that the systems historically meant to help survivors find 'healing' and 'justice' — namely the child welfare system, policing, and prisons — are actually systems that facilitate the rape of children in oppressed communities," Amita continues. "We all have to explore tools of healing and accountability outside of these systems if we truly want to end all forms of sexual violence and rape culture."

Amita also wants Mirror Memoirs to be a place of healing for survivors that have historically been ignored or underserved by anti-violence organizations due to transphobia, homophobia, racism, xenophobia, and white supremacy.

Amita Swadhin

"Hearing survivors' stories is absolutely healing for other survivors, since child sexual abuse is a global pandemic that few people know how to talk about, let alone treat and prevent."

"Since sexual violence is an isolating event, girded by shame and stigma, understanding that you're not alone and connecting with other survivors is alchemy, transmuting isolation into intimacy and connection."

This is something that Amita knows and understands well as a survivor herself.

"My childhood included a lot of violence from my father, including rape and other forms of domestic violence," says Amita. "Mandated reporting was imposed on me when I was 13 and it was largely unhelpful since the prosecutors threatened to incarcerate my mother for 'being complicit' in the violence I experienced, even though she was also abused by my father for years."

What helped them during this time was having the support of others.

"I'm grateful to have had a loving younger sister and a few really close friends, some of whom were also surviving child sexual abuse, though we didn't know how to talk about it at the time," Amita says.

"I'm also a queer, non-binary femme person living with complex post-traumatic stress disorder, and those identities have shaped a lot of my life experiences," they continue. "I'm really lucky to have an incredible partner and network of friends and family who love me."

"These realizations put me on the path of my life's work to end this violence quite early in life," they said.

Amita wants Mirror Memoirs to help build awareness of just how pervasive rape culture is. "One in four girls and one in six boys will be raped or sexually assaulted by the age of 18," Amita explains, "and the rates are even higher for vulnerable populations, such as gender non-conforming, disabled, deaf, unhoused, and institutionalized children." By sharing their stories, they're hoping to create change.

"Listening to stories is also a powerful way to build empathy, due to the mirror neurons in people's brains. This is, in part, why the project is called Mirror Memoirs."

So far, Mirror Memoirs has created an audio archive of BIPOC LGBTQI+ child sexual abuse survivors sharing their stories of survival and resilience that includes stories from 60 survivors across 50 states. This year, they plan to record another 15 stories, specifically of transgender and nonbinary people who survived child sexual abuse in a sport-related setting, with their partner organization, Athlete Ally.

"This endeavor is in response to the more than 100 bills that have been proposed across at least 36 states in 2021 seeking to limit the rights of transgender and non-binary children to play sports and to receive gender-affirming medical care with the support of their parents and doctors," Amita says.

In 2017, Mirror Memoirs held its first gathering, which was attended by 31 people. Today, the organization is a fiscally sponsored, national nonprofit with two staff members, a board of 10 people, a leadership council of seven people, and 500 members nationally.

When the pandemic hit in 2020, they created a mutual aid fund for the LGBTQIA+ community of color and were able to raise a quarter-million dollars. They received 2,509 applications for assistance, and in the end, they decided to split the money evenly between each applicant.

While they're still using storytelling as the building block of their work, they're also engaging in policy and advocacy work, leadership development, and hosting monthly member meetings online.

For their work, Amita is one of Tory's Burch's Empowered Women. Their donation will go to Mirror Memoirs to help fund production costs for their new theater project, "Transmutation: A Ceremony," featuring four Black transgender, intersex, and non-binary women and femmes who live in California.

"I'm grateful to every single child sexual survivor who has ever disclosed their truth to me," Amita says. "I know another world is possible, and I know survivors will build it, together with all the people who love us."

To learn more about Tory Burch and Upworthy's Empowered Women program visit https://www.toryburch.com/empoweredwomen/. Nominate an inspiring woman in your community today!

Cipolla's graph with the benefits and losses that an individual causes to him or herself and causes to others.

Have you ever known someone who was educated, well-spoken and curious, but had a real knack for making terrible decisions and bringing others down with them? These people are perplexing because we're trained to see them as intelligent, but their lives are a total mess.

On the other hand, have you ever met someone who may not have a formal education or be the best with words, but they live wisely and their actions uplift themselves and others?

In 1976, Italian economist Carlo Cipolla wrote a tongue-in-cheek essay called "The Basic Laws of Human Stupidity" that provides a great framework for judging someone's real intelligence. Now, the term "stupid" isn't the most artful way of describing someone who lives unwisely, but in his essay Cipolla uses it in a lighthearted way.

Cipolla explains his theory of intelligence through five basic laws and a matrix that he believes applies to everyone.

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Images courtesy of Mark Storhaug & Kaiya Bates

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The experiences we have at school tend to stay with us throughout our lives. It's an impactful time where small acts of kindness, encouragement, and inspiration go a long way.

Schools, classrooms, and teachers that are welcoming and inclusive support students' development and help set them up for a positive and engaging path in life.

Here are three of our favorite everyday actions that are spreading kindness on campus in a big way:

Image courtesy of Mark Storhaug

1. Pickleball to Get Fifth Graders Moving

Mark Storhaug is a 5th grade teacher at Kingsley Elementary in Los Angeles, who wants to use pickleball to get his students "moving on the playground again after 15 months of being Zombies learning at home."

Pickleball is a paddle ball sport that mixes elements of badminton, table tennis, and tennis, where two or four players use solid paddles to hit a perforated plastic ball over a net. It's as simple as that.

Kingsley Elementary is in a low-income neighborhood where outdoor spaces where kids can move around are minimal. Mark's goal is to get two or three pickleball courts set up in the schoolyard and have kids join in on what's quickly becoming a national craze. Mark hopes that pickleball will promote movement and teamwork for all his students. He aims to take advantage of the 20-minute physical education time allotted each day to introduce the game to his students.

Help Mark get his students outside, exercising, learning to cooperate, and having fun by donating to his GoFundMe.

Image courtesy of Kaiya Bates

2. Staying C.A.L.M: Regulation Kits for Kids

According to the WHO around 280 million people worldwide suffer from depression. In the US, 1 in 5 adults experience mental illness and 1 in 20 experience severe mental illness, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

Kaiya Bates, who was recently crowned Miss Tri-Cities Outstanding Teen for 2022, is one of those people, and has endured severe anxiety, depression, and selective mutism for most of her life.

Through her GoFundMe, Kaiya aims to use her "knowledge to inspire and help others through their mental health journey and to spread positive and factual awareness."

She's put together regulation kits (that she's used herself) for teachers to use with students who are experiencing stress and anxiety. Each "CALM-ing" kit includes a two-minute timer, fidget toolboxes, storage crates, breathing spheres, art supplies and more.

Kaiya's GoFundMe goal is to send a kit to every teacher in every school in the Pasco School District in Washington where she lives.

To help Kaiya achieve her goal, visit Staying C.A.L.M: Regulation Kits for Kids.

Image courtesy of Julie Tarman

3. Library for a high school heritage Spanish class

Julie Tarman is a high school Spanish teacher in Sacramento, California, who hopes to raise enough money to create a Spanish language class library.

The school is in a low-income area, and although her students come from Spanish-speaking homes, they need help building their fluency, confidence, and vocabulary through reading Spanish language books that will actually interest them.

Julie believes that creating a library that affirms her students' cultural heritage will allow them to discover the joy of reading, learn new things about the world, and be supported in their academic futures.

To support Julie's GoFundMe, visit Library for a high school heritage Spanish class.

Do YOU have an idea for a fundraiser that could make a difference? Upworthy and GoFundMe are celebrating ideas that make the world a better, kinder place. Visit upworthy.com/kindness to join the largest collaboration for human kindness in history and start your own GoFundMe.

'Tis the season to do weird things with pumpkins.

A few years ago, the midwives of the Royal Oldham hospital in England decided to illustrate the horrors of childbirth using the whimsy of Halloween pumpkin art. The maternity ward became a zone of terror, as the "dilation pumpkins" were lined up in ascendant order, matching how the cervix dilates during labor, from a harmless 1cm to a terrifying 10cm.

The first pumpkin looks adorably surprised. Nothing too scary about that, right? Kind of like it just had an unexpected visit from a cute puppy.

Then take a look at that last pumpkin, apparently at the optimum dilation for giving birth, mouth fully agape, with an expression that can't help but convey "OUCH!" No amount of fun googly eyes are gonna make that image less frightening. Yikes.

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Gage Skidmore/Wikimedia Commons

Wil Wheaton speaking to an audience at 2019 Wondercon.

In an era of debates over cancel culture and increased accountability for people with horrendous views and behaviors, the question of art vs. artist is a tricky one. When you find out an actor whose work you enjoy is blatantly racist and anti-semitic in real life, does that realization ruin every movie they've been a part of? What about an author who has expressed harmful opinions about a marginalized group? What about a smart, witty comedian who turns out to be a serial sexual assaulter? Where do you draw the line between a creator and their creation?

As someone with his feet in both worlds, actor Wil Wheaton weighed in on that question and offered a refreshingly reasonable perspective.

A reader who goes by @avinlander asked Wheaton on Tumblr:

"Question: I have more of an opinion question for you. When fans of things hear about misconduct happening on sets/behind-the-scenes are they allowed to still enjoy the thing? Or should it be boycotted completely? Example: I've been a major fan of Buffy the Vampire Slayer since I was a teenager and it was currently airing. I really nerded out on it and when I lost my Dad at age 16 'The Body' episode had me in such cathartic tears. Now we know about Joss Whedon. I haven't rewatched a single episode since his behavior came to light. As a fan, do I respectfully have to just box that away? Is it disrespectful of the actors that went through it to knowingly keep watching?"

And Wheaton offered this response, which he shared on Facebook:

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