A Year of Anti-Racism Work

Compiled by Michelle Panchuk

(Many of these tasks, including the wording, are copied directly or in part from Corinne Shutack’s Medium article listed in the resources below. They are marked with an asterisk)

Watching police violence erupt around the country this week should horrify us all.  Realizing that this violences is a response to protests against the police murders of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor should horrify us even more.  It is easy in moments like these to become overwhelmed with grief, rage, and a sense of helplessness.  But for those of us who are white, life without a constant awareness of racism will soon return.  Most of us do not worry that our child or father will be killed while playing in the yard or out for a run.  We cannot even imagine a world in which we might be shot by the police in our own homes while we sleep.  So we forget.  We lose our zeal for justice as (our) lives return to normal, and we get busy with jobs, families, and our own (real) problems.  But anti-racism work needs to be ongoing if it is to be effective.  We must be in this for the long haul, even when the issues don’t dominate our newsfeeds, and for that, we must pace ourselves, educate ourselves, work on ourselves, and take concrete action.

To that end, I have compiled the following year-long list of tasks that white people (or anyone, really) can perform to support the cause of anti-racism.  This list consists partially of tasks taken from the wonderful resource lists that others, like Corinne Shutack, have compiled and partially of my own ideas and the suggestions of friends who have read and commented on the list (especially Vikki Perry). My goal was not to recreate the wheel of racial justice work, but to present the ideas of others in a manageable week-by-week format that will help us stay engaged long-term.  The list is also skewed toward my own knowledge and intellectual interests.  It focuses more on anti-Black racism than on other equally important racial justice issues in our society.  That isn’t necessarily a weakness; it’s just a limitation that must be acknowledged.  Furthermore, not every task will be relevant or accessible for every reader, so feel free to skip tasks or substitute alternatives that work for you.  The key is not to give in to the feeling that since we cannot do everything, we might as well do nothing.  

Week 1:  Donate (anything from $2 to $2000, depending on your financial situation) to an organization that does anti-racism work in your area.

Week 2: Check out a book from your local library about structural racism in the US (or your country of residence) and start reading it (The New Jim Crow, by Michelle Alexander; Racism without Racists, by Eduardo Bonilla-Silva; Family Properties: Race, Real Estate, and the Exploitation of Black Urban America, by Beryl Satter; The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America, by Richard Rothstein; if you aren’t a reader, you could watch something like 13th or Just Mercy, or the White Like Me documentary).  

Week 3: Read that book!

Week 4:  If you are an educator, swap out one reading from a syllabus with a reading written by a woman of color in your field. Try to do this (with men and women and non-binary folx of color) with at least one article per syllabus per semester until you have diversified/decolonized your syllabi.

Week 5: Look up Black-owned businesses in your area and purchase something from one of them (WeBuyBlack, The Black Wallet, and Official Black Wall Street.)

Week 6: Do something for a friend of color to help them rest and feel safe: write them a letter about how much they mean to you, buy them coffee, send them a care package, bake them cookies.  (thanks to Alicia Crosby--@aliciatcrosby--for suggesting this on twitter and facebook accounts)

Week 7: Checkout a book (not necessarily about racism) written by a Black woman (some favorites: Octavia Butler, Toni Morrison, Alice Walker, Nnedi Okorafor)

Week 8: Enjoy your book.

Week 9: Watch a movie or tv show that centers people of color (Queen Sugar, Insecure, Dear White People, The Carmichael Show, Blackish, Grownish, Atlanta, 2 Dope Queens, Black Panther, A Wrinkle in Time, Get Out, Girls Trip, Mudbound, How to Get Away with Murder, Scandal, The Cloverfield Paradox, Sorry to Bother You, Blindspotting, BlacKkKlansman, Little, If Beale Street Could Talk, Queen and Slim, PBS’ Great Performance of Much Ado about Nothing, youtube videos of Amber Says What, and Pose are a few*).

Week 10: Call or write to state legislators, federal legislators, and your governor to decriminalize weed. No, not because black folks use weed more frequently than white folks. Because black Americans are arrested for marijuana possession far more frequently than whites.*

Week 11: Research what native lands you live on (this map) and find out about their history.

Week 12: Donate to an organization that promotes justice for Native Americans/First Nations (eg: Standing Rock Sioux Tribe).

Week 13:  Follow a new activist of color on social media (@OsopePatrisse, @opalayo, @aliciagarza, @bellhooks, @Luvvie, @mharrisperry, @VanJones68, @ava, @thenewjimcrow, @Lavernecox, @deray, @thedididelgado, @TaNehisiCoats, Ally Henny on Facebook, and Lace on Race on Facebook. Follow them with the intention of listening and learning only. Pay lesser known activists like @thedididelgado here, Ally Henny here, and Lace on Race here for their teaching, time, and work.*)

Week 14: Check out a book by and about Asian Americans.

Week 15:  Make sure you are empathetically engaged with the book you are reading.

Week 16: Contact a local public school and ask if you can pay off some school lunch debt for a family of color.

Week 17: Research your local elected officials and their track record on racial justice issues.  If it is an election year, look up the track record of the candidates on racial justice issues.

Week 18: Find out what local organizations are working for structural change and join one (not to be a white savor, but to follow the lead of organizers of color): The NAACP, Black Lives Matter, etc…

Week 19: Read a book focused on working on your own implicit biases, white privilege, racialized trauma (My Grandmother’s Hands, by Resmaa Menakem, Feeling White, by Cheryl Matias, So You Wanna Talk about Race, by Ijeoma Oluo )

Week 20:  Working on yourself is hard.  Keep reading.

Week 21:  Write out some reflections from your above reading,

Week 22: If you have children, read an article about talking to your children about race and do some of the things suggested.

Week 23: Google whether your local police department currently outfits all on-duty police officers with a body-worn camera and requires that the body-worn camera be turned on immediately when officers respond to a police call. If they don’t, write to your city or town government representative and police chief to advocate for it. The racial make-up of your town doesn’t matter — This needs to be standard everywhere. Multiply your voice by soliciting others to advocate as well, writing on social media about it, writing op-eds, etc.*

Week 24: Watch this video by Kimberle Crenshaw about Intersectionality.

Week 25: Swear off a company that uses prison labor. Find a good list here.

Week 26: Read up about mandatory minimum sentences and watch videos about this on Families Against Mandatory Minimums (FAMM’s) website. FAMM’s website includes work being done at the federal level and state level. Call or write to your state legislators and governor about reducing mandatory minimum sentences for non-violent drug crimes.*

Week 27: Donate to RAICES (here).

Week 28: If you are a person of faith, read a book about the history of racism within your religious tradition or confronting racism from within your faith tradition (For Christians: The Cross and the Lynching Tree, by James Cone or Stand Your Ground: Black Bodies and the Justice of God, by Kelly Brown Douglas would be a good place to start).  If you aren’t, check out a book about how science or other non-religious system has been used to justify racism.

Week 29:  Read, read, read that book

Week 30: Research your local prosecutors. Prosecutors have a lot of power to give fair sentences or Draconian ones, influence a judge’s decision to set bail or not, etc. In the past election, a slew of fair-minded prosecutors were elected. We need more.*

Week 31: Read Ta-Nehisi Coates’ article, The Case for Reparations.*

Week 32: Watch 13th. Better yet, get a group of friends together and watch 13th.*

Week 33: Donate to groups that are working to put women of color into elected office, to get out the vote, and to restore voting rights to disenfranchised voters.*

Week 34: Read A People’s History of the United States by Howard Zinn* (buy it here to avoid Amazon).

Week 35: Read, read read

Week 36: Find one alternative source for something that you regularly order from Amazon (They advertise on -that’s to say fund- white supremacist media.*)

Week 37: Write to your city or town government representative to replace Columbus Day with Indigenous People’s Day like these cities did.*

Week 38: Donate to organized efforts to end of cash bail by donating to The Bail Project. Bail out a black mother through The National Bail Out.*

Week 39: Go to RAICES “Take Action” tab (here) and perform one of the tasks.

Week 40: If you have some sort of platform, hand the microphone over to a person of color this week.  Even if you don’t, share the perspective of a person of color on your social media account or in a class you teach.

Week 41: Write to your state legislators to end cash bail. It means that a someone who is legally innocent is put in jail because they can’t afford bail. It means that a defendant can be released pre-trial because of their wealth, not how much of a flight risk they are. It puts more people in detention (which tax payers pay for) and affects a defendants’ ability to maintain employment, access mental and physical healthcare, and be in communication with their family and friends, etc. Housing the approximately 500,000 people in jail in the US awaiting trial who cannot afford bail costs US taxpayers $9 billion a year.*

Week 42: Research a famous person of color from your town/state, and write a short paper on them. (thanks to Vikki Perry for this suggestion)

Week 43:  Invite a friend to join you in doing this weekly justice work

Week 44: Repeat Week 5.

Week 45: Check out and do some reading from the 1619 Project (thanks to Vikki Perry for this suggestion): Here 

Week 46: Watch Selma (if you’ve already seen it, get a watch group together)

Week 47: If you or a friend is an educator, buy said friend books that feature POC as protagonists and heroes, no matter the racial make-up of the class. A few good lists are here, here, here, here, here, here, and here. And/or purchase educational toys that feature POC, such as finger puppets, Black History Flashcards, etc for their classroom.*

Week 48:  Watch this video about racism in medicine.

Week 49: Watch or share this video of Neil deGrasse Tyson speaking about his experience as a black student telling people he wanted to be a scientist and astrophysicist.*

Week 50: Read something about Racial Trauma: My Grandmother’s Hands by Resmaa Menakem, Healing Racial Trauma: The Road to Resilience by Sheila Wise Rowe, Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome: America's Legacy of Enduring Injury and Healing by Joy a Degruy, Urban Trauma: A Legacy of Racism, by Maysa Akbar.

More Resources:

White Reading

White Homework

75 Things for White People to Do

Diverse Children’s Books 2020

Diverse Children’s Book 2019

Movies about civil rights
Movies that address racism
More movies and documentaries that address racism

Classical Curriculum on Race, Racism, and Slavery in the US
Scaffolded Anti-Racist Resources
Just Mercy is FREE to view in JUNE on youtube and other streaming services!
The End of Policing is FREE in e-book format right now!