Answer the Call: Dismantle Anti-Blackness

We are hurting. As a Black-led organization, our team is reeling from the racist mass shooting in Buffalo this weekend that took 10 lives and injured three people. We are holding multiple angles of pain as we mourn the senseless loss, feel deep empathy for the victims’ loved ones, and seethe at the constant attack on Black lives. All of this is compounded by the fact that this act of terror is yet another reminder that we must consistently balance vigilance and fear amidst the constant threat of harm.

Just last week, I experienced anti-Blackness at a grocery store while visiting my grandmother out of town. What started as a quick trip to pick up a pie, turned into a racist encounter where I had to make multiple quick decisions to de-escalate and stay safe. I remember calling my mother directly afterwards, who urged me to get home quickly and to call her when I was safely there. When I spoke to our COO, Samson, about it the next day, we shared mutual lamentations about not being safe anywhere as Black people–even in grocery stores…

I returned home from my visit on Saturday evening to the news of the mass shooting taking place earlier that day, and I have been battling despair, rage, and fear ever since. Sadly, these feelings are not new, they are just the most recent resurfacing as a Black person. 

Safety should be a base level expectation, but it is not for Black people. This is a matter of urgency for everyone.

This most recent attack must be a reminder that anti-Black racism is systemic and is embedded into society. It is literally and unconsciously upheld everyday through media, education, institutions, and interactions. It is the air that we breathe, and everyone is susceptible to it–regardless of their age. It is why this 18-year-old white man felt so convicted by the white supremacist notion of “replacement theory,” that he drove 200 miles to target a Black community. It is the reason why he found it pertinent to livestream his contemporary public lynching to the masses.

Anti-Blackness is persistent and pervasive. It will not fade away with time or future generations. We must actively and urgently dismantle it in our actions every single day

As a Black-led organization, we are particularly holding the tension of our philosophy that this is not our work to do as Black people. The call is for allies to act. Yet, we also know that as an organization that trains and equips in Allyship, people are looking to us for direction. 

As always, we want to reiterate that there is no “Allyship checklist.” Allyship is a lifestyle of constant work, so our biggest charge is for people to be anti-racist in everything that they do:

  • Support Black people around you who are in deep anguish over this most recent act of terror. Center Black people, and amplify our concerns, experiences, and solutions. 
  • Talk about race at home, school, and work. 
  • Learn the history about race in this country, in your communities, and how it impacts the present-day. 
  • Call out/in the racist rhetoric and jokes that people make around you. 
  • Drive race equity culture and policies at your workplaces, faith-based spaces, and social settings. 
  • Hold leaders accountable to prioritize race equity in your communities. 
  • Commit your resources to supporting Black organizers, Black activists, Black mutual aid groups, Black-led organizations, and Black-owned businesses.
  • Do the self-work of identifying, interrogating, and addressing your own anti-Black bias and actions. 

These are just a few examples of the many ways that you can act now and regularly, and it will take a consistent collective effort to transform society’s default of anti-Blackness to a truly inclusive and equitable world. This work can only be done from the inside-out, from which nobody is exempt, and for which there is no arrival point.

I am tired of recovering from the collective and recent wounds of anti-Black racism in my short Millennial lifetime. I am tired of bracing myself for the next anti-Black headline, and the vicarious trauma that will ensue for my people. I am tired of writing these messages, and trying to carefully hold the balance of honesty, invitation, and conviction. I am tired.

I have said it before, and I’ll say it again: Black Lives Matter. Though we are hurting and tired, Service Never Sleeps is answering the call of our responsibility as an organization to equip allies through our continued training and truth-telling. We hope that you will answer the call to action in response.

In perseverance,

Whitney Parnell

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