We spent the past week talking amongst ourselves and reflecting on recent events in the United States.
Below is a personal essay written by AnnieCannons’ Director of Product, Grace McCants, followed by a snapshot of AnnieCannons’ community members’ reflections.
We’re also working on an action plan of short- and long-term changes AnnieCannons can make internally and promote externally to combat racism and racial violence.
It took a long time (and wine) for me to figure out what I wanted to say publicly at this moment. The best I could think of was to talk for a moment about how I feel. And maybe a bit about how I got here. The act of writing it all down was a cathartic and ultimately helpful exercise. Thank you all in advance for reading.
How do I feel? I feel like shit. I feel hopeless, angry, and scared at the world. I feel disappointed. And I feel sad. I feel like the little cup that holds my ability to deal with it all is full and I can’t handle much more. In these moments, therapists have told me I am what they call “OVERWHELMED.”
Jokes aside, this is not a new feeling at all. Racial violence in America is not new. The disproportionate racial violence against black people is not new. Very disturbing, publicly documented, viral racial violence is not new. It’s not new for me up close or from afar and I assume not new for many folks reading. I’ve cried many times about this on a personal level. I’ve long considered and drunkenly, through tears, asked friends, “why do people hate black people so much?”
Which is to say, fairly confidently, that I’ve never quite gotten it. I grew up listening to Nina Simone tell me I was “Young, gifted, and black!” And was told by my white mom how important and valuable being black was. But I was also taught that despite me being fucking amazing, there were a lot of people that either didn’t feel that way, or benefitted directly from keeping black people down. And that life was simply not fair for some folks in this country.
Strangely, something that keeps coming to mind is a quote from an interview Chris Rock gave a while back about the notion of “black progress.” He says,
“When we talk about race relations in America or racial progress, it’s all nonsense. There are no race relations. White people were crazy. Now they’re not as crazy. To say that black people have made progress would be to say they deserve what happened to them before…
So, to say Obama is progress is saying that he’s the first black person that is qualified to be president. That’s not black progress. That’s white progress. There’s been black people qualified to be president for hundreds of years.”
This connected the dots for me in a way that previously – well, before I read the interview in 2012 – I only understood as a feeling. Black people have always been good. And progress will only occur when white people do better and do more. We have always been worthy of it all. We have always known it.
Two days ago a young black man ran past me towards the demonstrations in downtown Chicago, yelling into his phone, “we kings and queens in this bitch.” It breaks my heart to know that he had to risk his life that night to prove it.
It is not the job of black folks to “pull themselves up by their bootstraps” and present better for the structures that exploit and tear us down.
It is the job of our proposed allies to work harder to keep us alive. Explicitly that means advocate for us when we’re not in the room, fight for us when we don’t have the energy to fight anymore, and imagine a world where hierarchy, competition, and capital do not determine worth. “Progress” is the job of folks who have never shed a tear for a loved one who has been murdered by the police or whose life has been ruined by the criminal justice system. It is your job to consider why we’ve been crying about this since we were old enough to understand.
Black people have always been deserving of praise, of love, of safety, and of peace. We have always been excellent. And things will not get better without the progress of white people and a commitment that your comfort is not more valuable than our lives.
I’ll close with a few PSAs:
The term “woke” comes from the full term “stay woke” which indicates action, not arrival. Also, people don’t really say woke anymore.
Anti-racism is not a badge. It is work. And a lifetime of work.
Solidarity is commitment.
Allyship is imperative.
There are many resources on how to do this work. I know a lot of us already are doing anti-racism work so please share your resources. Get an accountabilibuddy – a buddy to keep you accountable.
The idea to create and share this statement is the bare minimum. It is the very least we can do as an organization. We’ll follow up shortly with a commitment to change and a plan of action.
The reflections below are presented largely unedited and in list form to uplift the individual and collective voices of our community.
The AnnieCannons community has expressed:
- Sadness, outrage, anxiety, depression, anger, grief, and pain.
- Support by following the lead of women and families of color, standing by their side, and uplifting their voices.
- A desire to stand for the lives, well-being, and rights of all black people.
- Fear for their black children.
- Questions of how to prepare their children for the harsh realities of the world while allowing them to feel hopeful and that they can make change.
- Acknowledgement of the false and harmful notion of whiteness as dominant or default.
- “Injustice + time does not = justice.”
- Racism being a major part of the United States’ history and that it’s all Americans’ job to recognize it, condemn it, root it out, and replace it with more just and decent institutions and policies.
- “Revolution is not a one-time event.”
- That rioting is a justifiable response to centuries of state-sanctioned violence. That it is self defense. To focus on Black acts of communal self-defense rather than the centuries of systemic violence and against them misses the point.
- Attempting to stay upbeat for the sake of their kids.
- That this is not new.
- The trauma caused by these black lynchings being posted and shared digitally and without care.
- That we are tired.
Thanks for reading,