Pick a place to stand. This is probably the most important step because it dictates so many of the other movements you will make on this journey. You can choose to stand at the center of the movement, connected to specific case details and proceedings, and keeping up on current events and developments as they happen.
You can stand left or right of center; and those are typically characterized by traits often associated with right or left (conservative or liberal). And your stance is not very important itself; your beliefs and values belong to you. The most important piece is picking a place that you want to stand in. Picking your place helps you maintain a better perspective as you make your way through the reactions (some of which will be backlash) to the movement.
Creating lasting social change is too much for one person to take on by themselves. So do your part. Knowing what you have to offer, as well as your limitations, will also help you relate better to other Black people as the movement is happening.
Remember to take breaks. The struggle will still be there next week. Your mental faculties, if not properly tended to, might not be. Rest. Put the phone down. Read a good book or take a nap. You determine when break time is, and it is up to you to take your breaks. This movement encapsulates so much of what Black life has been about in the United States, but the movement is not and should not be your life. Always take care of yourself first.
Cultivate patience for others, especially your non-Black friends. I know it gets old. You’ve been hip to this racism stuff much longer than they have. Yet, for one reason or another, many of them are only just now waking up to the fact that this really ugly thing from the past is still a problem 400 years later. Their realizations and revelations will come in their due time. You cannot rush them to that point, even though it’s tempting to want to.
But they are not bad people for being ignorant simply due to having no training. It’s similar to a student who drops in on a class during the last week of the semester. They’re not going to be at a level where you can assess their underwater basket weaving mastery as well as you could someone who has been in the class for the whole 12 weeks.
But the ones who are truly invested in the fight will catch up and own their responsibility in doing so.
Keep racial issues separate. There’s the issue of Blacks vs systemic racism, but within the Black community, many Black men and women take issue with each other, and that is something separate. This very real, separate problem has the power to derail the entire movement, which would mean all of the marching, protesting, lobbying, letters written to lawmakers, young children being hit by tear gas, impassioned commentaries from influential people…all of those become wasted energy.
We cannot have that.
Deal with non-Blacks on systemic racism. Don’t expect non-Black folks to understand the internal problems. Most of them can’t, and it deters from the overall momentum that has taken a long time to create. This is not me absolving us of our issues; we simply need to keep business matters clear and separate for the purpose of accomplishing the end goal (which, in my eyes, this is legislative change).
You are not the teacher. Yes, we need non-Black people to learn some things. However, it is their responsibility to educate themselves. I do not advise shutting down curiosity; when people feel they cannot be curious about a subject, the rejection fuels their ignorance. Curiosity is the birthplace of education.
We want people to be curious and inspired right now. And you can point them in the right direction, clarify a few basic things if you are asked, but you are not the “Professor of Blackness.” That title is too much for one person to bear, and you likely hold other, more significant titles. You can lead, you can write, you can speak, you can share your story, but when all that is over, never lose sight of all that you are.
You’re still a woman; perhaps even a mom, sister, or wife.
Dark-skinned Black women are often chosen as the mascots for struggle, justice, and protest, but as Sojourner Truth pointed out (170 years ago) we are women, too. We wear dresses and perfume and braid our hair, too; we are not just warriors to place on the front lines.