Guest Post: Anthony Wilson on White People and Appreciating Black Lives

Anthony Wilson is the founder of the Renaissance Global Liberation Academy. Anthony was a teacher, recruiter for Teach for America, and school turnaround consultant at Mass Insight Education, where we worked together. Today on the blog he shares some thoughts about how White people can engage with Black lives on a more authentic level.

We need more White folks to be advocates in the movement for Black lives. Unfortunately, it’s not enough for White people to show up at the most politically opportune times. Here are some thoughts for how white folks can be more engaged in the Black community on a day to day basis. White folks can:

1. Visit Black churches. Sunday morning at 10AM is still the most segregated hour of American life, and it would be wonderful for White folks to, just once in a while, break from their normal worship tradition to attend services at Black church.

2. Invest in Black businesses and communities with their dollars. While income gaps have started to close over time, the wealth gap between white and black Americans is the result of generations of housing discrimination. White folks can support Black empowerment through spending their money at Black businesses, and parking their savings in Black banks.

3. Read critical pieces from authors like James Baldwin, Toni Morrison, and W.E.B. DuBois. The internet makes it incredibly easy to access a huge range of opinions, but our reading lists remain remarkably segregated by race.

4. Watch seminal Black movies and television programs like Harlem Nights, Martin, Shottas, and Menace II Society. White folks have been pretty adept at consuming hip-hop music, but Black media is more extensive than a few record labels.

5. Learn about double-dutch, spades, the candy lady. Black culture includes myriad games and traditions. Even our recreational time is segregated.

6. Try ox tails and gumbo. You might even consider using more hot sauce than you’re used to applying.

7. Listen to Nas's and School Boy Q’s latest albums. White folks consume a lot of Black music, but sometimes they do not internalize the messages that lurk just below the surface.

8. Sit in on some community organizing meetings and schools. Families and community members express their desires on a day-to-day basis, but White folks aren’t always there to hear the perspectives of folks of color.

I see a potential blind spot in allyship, wherein allies understand the intellectual principle that “Black lives matter”, but they might not know the cultural influences on that life, especially in the case of Black individuals with less socioeconomic power. Just as Blacks have been submerged in an American culture in which they find no protective space, and have learned its functions and identity, I think it is critical for allies to engage authentically with Black systems, and to consume Black food, media and voices, particularly ones not in rage, but in laughter, thought, and passion. The failure to do this protects allies against believing that to be Black is only to struggle. To see how humanity exists at what they may perceive as the bottom would allow allies to really understand what they’re fighting for, regardless if that thinking has brought them to allyship in the first place.