It’s Day 23 of Black History Month and We Whites Are All Going to STFU and Listen.


And learn. And then click. And thus help.

logo, a blue-bordered square with stylized text "COLOF OF CHANGE""I have written many times here about Color of Change, and I have learned so much about what Black people actually need from me by reading their work, and then doing what they ask of me. Today we get to learn and to help Black people by reading, signing, and sharing (if possible), four Color of Change petitions.

But first, I want to share something that we whites (including Yours Truly) clearly need to hear, again and again and again. 

I learned something crucial in my social justice journey. It can be found in the titles of my Black History Month posts, and it’s this: wanna help? Then STFU and listen. In fact, this may be the single most important thing I’ve learned, because this must be our starting point, or else we will find ourselves on the wrong path, and very likely doing more harm than good.

A genuine motive to help others is truly good, and, I would argue, necessary as a society-wide value if we are ever going to see a better world. But see, this is where shit gets tricky, because even with the best of motives and intentions it is so easy to make “helping” all about you.*

You and I can only see the world through our own lens. That lens is profoundly shaped and honed by our DNA, environment in the womb and then outside of it, family of origin, individual experiences and exposures, the wider culture, and the innate characteristics of human brains (for better and for worse). How could it be otherwise? Thing is, though, this simple reality prohibits us from experiencing the world through the lens of another.

For example, if you are white, a perfectly reasonable solution to any number of problems you may encounter is to call the police. If you are Black, however, that “solution” is fraught with the possibility of grave harm, up to and including the deaths of innocent people and loved ones. Black people have seen this with their own eyes, felt the heartbreak in their own hearts, and lived with a constant fear of police encounters and racially motivated violence and pain that you and I will never, ever really know. Even though we can learn about it, and even empathize.**

This is why whatever “help” I  think [oppressed group X to which I do not belong] needs from me is practically guaranteed to be wrong. So, so wrong. It is beyond arrogant, patronizing, insulting, dismissive, and demeaning to think that [oppressed group X to which I do not belong] does not know what they need from me, but that I do.

But! If I am willing to STFU and listen, [oppressed group X to which I do not belong] will tell me what they need from me. It’s true! I know, right? And guess what? This information is not hidden, or secret, or hard to find. Black people have been telling whites what they need from us for four. fucking. centuries.

What will it take? Where, exactly, is the huge disconnect on our end? How can we whites help fix any of this – you know, like we say we want to?

I’m sorry I don’t have the answers. But I know who does: BLACK PEOPLE. So for whites, “helping” starts with STFU and LISTEN. It is only then that we can possibly learn what Black people need from us, and then DO THAT.

Clicking to sign a petition is hardly asking very much of us. And in return we receive the gift of learning what Black people actually need from us. Sharing a petition is not much work, either, particularly when the petition page gives you the tools to share it instantly on your own social media. I completely understand if you are not in a position to contribute financially to Color of Change – or to anyone! – but if you can spare a few bucks, please do.

So now (finally!), I will take my own good goddamn advice and STFU and listen to what Black people are asking of me, and by extension – since you are reading this post – asking of you. Ready?

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1: Tell textbook and curricula publishers to commit to teaching the whole truth!

On the right, a color headshot photo of a young Black girl looking at the open pages of a book; on left side bold text "BLACK HISTORY *IS* AMERICAN HISTORY." (emphasis on IS in original.) Underneath the bold text in smaller font, "Tell textbook and curricula publishers to commit to teaching *the whole truth!*" (emphasis on "the whole truth!*" in original.) A small Color of Change logo and stylized text "BLACK HISTORY NOW" appear at the bottom.

We are in the midst of one of the most wide-scale attacks on Black history in recent times – conservatives across the country are actively passing laws to erase Black history from the classroom. Our teachers are on the frontlines and are under attack for teaching accurate history. And all children suffer as a result. This fight is personal to us and it should be personal to anyone who claims to stand for equity in education. No textbook or curricula publisher can remain silent.

Many education experts foresee that the vague legislative guidelines regarding what is off-limits in schools and libraries will result in diluted content from textbook publishers and education companies. We can’t allow public officials to dumb down public school curricula simply because they are not comfortable with the truth of this country’s past. That’s why we are calling on textbook and curricula publishers to make a public commitment to including accurate history in their educational materials. 

These industry leaders should stand by their statements of increasing educational equity and ensure that the educational materials they publish include accurate history. Our children deserve an honest and inspiring education. Our democracy depends on it. Demand that these textbook and curricula publishers pick a side!

Red rectangle with white text: "SIGN THE PETITION"__________

2: Demand that major corporations implement hair policies that protect Black employees

Black & white headshot photos of four Black women with various natural and traditional Black hair styles. Text in center reads "DEAR CORPORATE AMERICA, I WILL WEAR MY CROWN MY WAY." A small Color of Change logo and stylized text "BLACK HISTORY NOW" appear at the bottom.

Natural hair discrimination is racial discrimination, and it attacks the livelihood and economic vitality of Black communities, especially Black women. A 2020 study found that Black women with natural hairstyles are less likely to get job interviews than white women or Black women with straightened hair. And a 2019 survey revealed that Black women were 1.5 times more likely to have been sent home, or know of a Black woman sent home, from the workplace because of her hair. Black women are being denied equal employment opportunities and unfairly disciplined for wearing their natural hair— potentially leading to job insecurity, loss of wages, and even extended periods of unemployment.  With their economic survival tied to their hair textures and styles, Black women are 80 percent more likely to alter their hair from a natural state to fit into workplace culture and meet expectations around “professionalism.”

But notions of professionalism are racist in origin. In the 18th century, British colonists classified afro-textured hair as “closer to sheep wool than human hair,” contributing to the systematic dehumanization of enslaved Black people and setting the precedent that afro-textured hair was “undesirable.” And in the 19th century, enslaved Black people with afro-textured hair and deeper complexions were subject to harsher,  more dangerous working conditions than those with more eurocentric features. Contemporary corporate policies and practices are no different. Some corporations use racially coded language (e.g., “matted” or “unkempt”) when referring to afro-textured hair, while others entrust low-level managers with the authority to send Black employees home for wearing locs. The result: Black women are 30 percent more likely to be made aware of a formal workplace policy and 83 percent more likely to report being judged for their appearance.

Now more than ever, major corporations must take action. As of 2022, it is still completely legal to discriminate against Black people for wearing their natural hair-– in all but 14 states. And unless industry leaders take action, Black women will continue to be judged for simply existing as themselves. Join us in demanding that these corporations update their grooming standards and appearance policies to remove any racially coded language and include explicit protection for afro-textured hair and associated protective hairstyles! #MyCrownMyWay

Red rectangle with white text: "SIGN THE PETITION"__________

3: Keep Families Connected: Demand Free Communication in NY!

Black & white, dark and somewhat blurry photo of a visiting session in a prison, showing the backs of multiple people seated in a row of white chairs, with more clarity and focus on one adult holding up a young child in the center of the photo. The chairs are all facing a wall with glass windows in which the faces of their imprisoned loved ones appear. In the lower left, bold text reads "CONNECTING FAMILIES HELPS PEOPLE *THRIVE*." (emphasis on THRIVE in original.) A small Color of Change logo appears at the bottom right.

For years prison telecom corporations have made enormous profits off of incarcerated people and their loved ones, charging up to $15 for a 15-minute phone call, raking in a whopping $1.4 billion a year.

In New York State there are currently two active bills in both the State Assembly and Senate that, if passed, would provide incarcerated people with 90 minutes of free phone communication per day.

Thankfully due to years of powerful activism, there is political will for both of these bills to be passed. However, in order for this legislation to be put into practice funding must be allocated within New York State’s budget.

In order for phone calls to be free for incarcerated people in New York State, Governor Kathy Hochul must allocate funds in the state budget for The Connecting Families Act.

Right now, the New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision, the state’s prison system, charges 60 cents per 15-minute phone call.

Communication — staying in touch with our loved ones — has always been a lifeline for each of us. During the pandemic, we have come to more fully understand how important communication and relationships are for mental and emotional health and how debilitating isolation can be.

Yet for many families with incarcerated loved ones, the high cost of phone calls has been a major barrier to staying in touch, especially as in-person visits to prisons and jails were abruptly suspended at the beginning of the pandemic. This made it nearly impossible for many families to stay connected and was particularly challenging for Black and Idengenious communities, who continued to bear the brunt of both the pandemic and mass incarceration.

Amid the dual crises of a public health pandemic and subsequent economic devastation, it is even more critical, now more than ever, that we make communication free for incarcerated people across New York State.

That’s why we’re making our demands clear: Every family deserves to stay connected. It’s crucial that we call on New York Governor Kathy Hochul to secure funding for The Connecting Families Act, and make communication free for incarcerated people and their loved ones.

We’re fighting for legislation that would end the extraction of wealth from Black and Brown families, and we need your help to both make sure this critical legislation is signed into law and backed by funding from the New York state budget. Sign the petition to hold NY Governor Kathy Hochul accountable, and to demand free communication for all incarcerated New Yorkers.

Red rectangle with white text: "SIGN THE PETITION"__________

4: Keep Families Connected: Demand Free Communication in NY!

Black & white, darkened and somewhat blurry photo of a visiting session in a prison, showing the backs of multiple people seated in a row of white chairs, with more clarity and focus on one adult holding up a young child in the center of the photo. The chairs are all facing a wall with glass windows in which the faces of their imprisoned loved ones appear. In the lower left, bold text reads "CONNECTING FAMILIES HELPS PEOPLE *THRIVE*." (emphasis on THRIVE in original.) A small Color of Change logo appear at the bottom right.

For years prison telecom corporations have made enormous profits off of incarcerated people and their loved ones, charging up to $15 for a 15-minute phone call, raking in a whopping $1.4 billion a year.

In New York State there are currently two active bills in both the State Assembly and Senate that, if passed, would provide incarcerated people with 90 minutes of free phone communication per day.

Thankfully due to years of powerful activism, there is political will for both of these bills to be passed. However, in order for this legislation to be put into practice funding must be allocated within New York State’s budget.

In order for phone calls to be free for incarcerated people in New York State, Governor Kathy Hochul must allocate funds in the state budget for The Connecting Families Act.

Right now, the New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision, the state’s prison system, charges 60 cents per 15-minute phone call.

Communication — staying in touch with our loved ones — has always been a lifeline for each of us. During the pandemic, we have come to more fully understand how important communication and relationships are for mental and emotional health and how debilitating isolation can be.

Yet for many families with incarcerated loved ones, the high cost of phone calls has been a major barrier to staying in touch, especially as in-person visits to prisons and jails were abruptly suspended at the beginning of the pandemic. This made it nearly impossible for many families to stay connected and was particularly challenging for Black and Idengenious communities, who continued to bear the brunt of both the pandemic and mass incarceration.

Amid the dual crises of a public health pandemic and subsequent economic devastation, it is even more critical, now more than ever, that we make communication free for incarcerated people across New York State.

That’s why we’re making our demands clear: Every family deserves to stay connected. It’s crucial that we call on New York Governor Kathy Hochul to secure funding for The Connecting Families Act, and make communication free for incarcerated people and their loved ones.

We’re fighting for legislation that would end the extraction of wealth from Black and Brown families, and we need your help to both make sure this critical legislation is signed into law and backed by funding from the New York state budget. Sign the petition to hold NY Governor Kathy Hochul accountable, and to demand free communication for all incarcerated New Yorkers.

Red rectangle with white text: "SIGN THE PETITION"__________

4: Free Kendrick Now!

Color headshot photo, darkened, of Kendrick Fulton with text in upper left quadrant "FREE KENDRICK NOW" and a small Color of Change logo at the bottom right.

Kendrick Fulton is being sent to county jail! Why? Because he lost his housing.

Kendrick has spent the past two years at home after being released from federal prison on home confinement. He’s been reconnecting with his children, excelling at work where he even got a promotion, going to church, and being a valuable member of his community. Kendrick even got to spend Christmas with his mother for the first time in almost two decades.

Kendrick was getting ready to move to Dallas for a new job opportunity. He had put in a request for the transfer Monday, but his interim housing fell through. And because the Bureau of Prisons doesn’t allow people with more than a year left on their sentence to stay in a halfway house, Kendrick is being sent to JAIL while awaiting approval for his move.

This is not a humane solution. Kendrick has loved ones who are willing to take him in until his transfer is approved. They are begging now to keep him out of jail.

The Bureau of Prisons has the power to allow Kendrick to continue his life, and secure new housing, but instead, they have chosen to throw him back in a cage.

Take action, sign the petition! Tell the Bureau of Prisons to KEEP KENDRICK HOME!

Red rectangle with white text: "SIGN THE PETITION"__________

Thank you, my people, for S-ing TFU and listening.

__________
*I’ve learned that this is true in any situation, even (especially?) on the interpersonal level. “Help” that you didn’t ask for and don’t need or want IS NOT HELP. “Helping” is a deceptively easy cover for abusing, harming and bullying under cover of “But I’m just trying to heeeeellllllppp yoooouuuu!” Oh and then its later iteration, spoken to other whites “I’ve tried to help them, but they don’t want to help themselves.” (Grrrr.) If someone is trying to force their own version of “help” on you, they are not doing something for you, they are doing something to you, without your consent.

**I once heard a white acquaintance say to a Black friend, who had just finished recounting a scary situation in which she found herself while she was locked out of her apartment, “Why didn’t you just call the police?” Surrounded by white people, my Black friend said nothing, but I did.

“Are you kidding? She can’t ‘just call the police.’ She’s Black. What is it you think would happen if the police showed up to her building of mostly white tenants, in a mostly white neighborhood, in the middle of the night, in the middle of a confrontation between her and a white person?”

My friend nodded – I think, pretty sure I was still just staring at the acquaintance – and then others in our small mostly white circle chimed in to agree. (I don’t know if the acquaintance got it or not. Also, I tend to curse like a trucker, especially when I’m pissed off, so the above quote is almost certainly not 100% accurate.)

P.S. I am not looking for a cookie for telling another white person about the threat of police violence to Black people. Because JFC! Unless she had been living under a rock and not, say, in one of the most racially and culturally diverse cities in the world, she already knew this. The only thing I may have taught her is to STFU about ‘just calling the police’ to Black people. FUCK.

__________
Day 1 of Black History Month 2022 (Lori Teresa Yearwood) is here.
Day 2 (Mallence Bart-Williams) is here.
Day 3 (Emmett Till) is here.
Day 4 (A Tale of Two Citizens) is here.
Day 5 (Trayvon Martin) is here.
Day 6 (Franchesca Ramsey) is here.
Day 7 (National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day and the Black Aids Institute) is here.
Day 8 (extreme racial disparities in marijuana arrests) is here.
Day 9 (Summer of Soul/1969 Harlem Cultural Festival) is here.
Day 10 (current and historic racist domestic terrorism, Steve Phillips/Democracy in Color) is here.
Day 11 (Gee’s Bend Quilters) is here.
Day 12 (egregious anti-Black (& anti LGBTQ+) behavior at a NY State high school is here.
Day 13 (Erin Jackson, 1st Black woman to win Olympic gold medal in speedskating) is here.
Day 14 (Stevie Wonder’s Innervisions) is here.
Day 15 (racial inequities in spiking vehicle death rates during the pandemic compound and are compounded by other racial inequities, and The New York Times buries the lede) is here.
Day 16 (criminalizing protest/Color of Change) is here.
Day 17 (Flo Kennedy) is here.
Day 18 (3 news stories on the same day regarding police killings of Black people) is here.
Day 19 (Andrew Joseph III/qualified immunity) is here.
Day 20 (Dr. Catherine L. Pugh/”There Is No Such Thing As A White Ally”) is here.
Day 21 (Black cowboys, Black rodeo and photographer Justin Hardiman) is here.
Day 22 (National Black Doll Museum of History & Culture fundraiser) is here.

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