PEOPLE’s Voices from the Fight Against Racism will amplify Black perspectives on the push for equality and justice

By Brea Baker
September 08, 2020 04:13 PM
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Sydney Holmes

At 26, Brea Baker already has eight years of experience as an activist, having worked on the local and national level. As director of programs at Inspire Justice, she and the multiracial team — including Orange Is the New Black actor Matt McGorry and JLove Calderon, co-founders and co-CEOs — "leverage storytelling for social good and connect influencers and industry leaders to politics in authentic and sustainable ways," says Baker. Below is her advice on how everyone can take steps towards anti-racism.

The fight for racial justice continues to consume our minds and hearts as we search for the answer to centuries of systemic violence as well as decades of divisive politics.

At Inspire Justice, we live and breathe the motto “personal transformation towards collective liberation,” which is to say that in order to change the world, we must first change ourselves.

As many have been reiterating, systemic racism was built painstakingly across centuries. It would be near impossible to not have our thoughts and actions in some way impacted. Here are some questions to reflect on if this is a new practice for you:

What are the implicit ways that we’ve each — white, Black, Indigenous, Asian or Pacific Islander and beyond — believed the lies of white supremacy?

For more of PEOPLE’s Voices from the Fight Against Racism, click here

What opportunities, access or safety am I afforded or barred from based on my racial identity?

How have I (if at all) leveled the historic playing field and ceded power to those historically and continuously boxed out?

Once the defensiveness subsides, we recognize that beyond any petition or protest, our daily lives can be our first battlegrounds for activism. If our goal is to create a more equitable world, how can we ensure that our microcosms of the world are more equitable?

It may feel daunting at first to bring politics into your everyday conversations and interactions, but remember that politics was already there to begin with, and you’re just naming and addressing the elephant in the room.

Here are some helpful steps to take if this is your first time committing to active anti-racism and accomplice-ship:

1. YOU: Every action you take is another chance to live your values out loud. How you spend your money, time and attention are all reflections of what you care about in the world. Shopping at Black-owned businesses, reading books by Black authors and building better relationships rooted in empathy with the people in your community are all forms of activism.

2. CHILDREN: If you are a parent or guardian, this is especially true, but we all engage with young people and should model what anti-racism looks like so that future generations don’t need to unlearn the racism they’re socialized into. From toys and books that teach children about the world to the passive remarks they pocket away, young people take cues from adults on what is and isn’t appropriate. Anti-racist children turn into conscientious adults.

3. FAMILY: We all have different relationships to our families, but chances are your family members are going to listen to you more than any stranger. How can you leverage that towards the issues you care about? Host a family screening (virtual or in-person depending on your COVID-19 situation) followed by a post-film discussion. Choose a film or documentary that matches the general interests of your loved ones (think: genre, style, language) but around a topic or perspective that they aren’t often exposed to. This is a great way to build empathy and transition into deeper conversations about justice and mutual accountability.

4. WORKPLACE: Unfortunately, millions of people across the country are out of work. But for those of us blessed to remain on the job, how are you ensuring that your workplace is truly an inclusive one? You don’t need to turn into a DE&I [Diversity, Equity and Inclusion] expert, but expressing that this is a priority for you to higher-ups will make the course for more institutional efforts like team-wide trainings, pay parity and pipelines to leadership! And even beyond that, anytime you’re in charge of a budget, referral or hiring opportunity, you’re in a position of power to bring diverse groups to the table. Is your vendor minority-owned? Have you pulled options from outside your personal networks to ensure widespread access?

5. COMMUNITY: There’s a saying in activist spaces that “we keep us safe,” which is an affirmation that community is the antidote to society’s problems. But this can only be the case when we actively participate in those communities. Voting is one form of civic engagement but so is knowing your neighbors and not being too busy for relationships. We don’t build bridges without knowing who’s on the other side, so we have to recognize that our fight for racial justice begins with remaining interconnected to one another’s humanity. We are all complex beings deserving of grace and seeking to be heard.

These are not the sexy answers. It’s not what people think revolution or transformed politics look like, but it’s the compilation of small actions that builds up over time. As the dearly departed Rep. John Lewis reminded us, “Ours is not the struggle of one day, one week, or one year. Ours is not the struggle of one judicial appointment or presidential term. Ours is the struggle of a lifetime, or maybe even many lifetimes, and each one of us in every generation must do our part."

Baker encourages readers to consider supporting these organizations:

The Movement for Black Lives, a coalition of Black-led organizations across the U.S. building a comprehensive agenda for racial justice and equity in America, including the newly released Breathe Act

The National Black Justice Coalition, a civil rights organization dedicated to empowering Black LGBTQ+ people and centering their stories in the fight for racial justice. 

Showing Up For Racial Justice, a national network organizing white people to act as part of a multi racial movement for equity and against white supremacy.