GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — With all the protests across the country, and here in West Michigan, if you're wondering what you can do to help end systemic racism, here are steps you can take to make a difference.
A big part of this is taking it upon ourselves to learn and be engaged.
Charisse Mitchell, the CEO of YWCA West Central Michigan said it's not nearly enough to just admit what you don't know.
“It can be really disconcerting to hear a continued chorus of people saying I had no idea,” Mitchell said. “You have an idea. Learn. Engage. Listen. Be willing to sit with your own privilege, your own space that you're occupying, and just be comfortable with being uncomfortable. It's going to get harder, before it gets better. But if we aren't willing to lean into those conversations to challenge our stakeholders, challenge our partners, challenge ourselves, then this moment will be lost on us.”
Mitchell says how you engage really matters. We shouldn't have to ask people of color to relive trauma they’ve experienced by explaining racism.
There are tons of resources at our fingertips, and likely even in your own neighborhood.
She says awareness, understanding and maintaining momentum are first steps, but what actually moves the needle matters most.
With systemic racism, it’s not just individual behaviors, but whole structures that create barriers for people of color.
“There are so many organizations, institutions, that are undervalued, that are underfunded, under resourced, that just lack the capital, because of the systems and structures that exist,” Mitchell said. “So if we care, and we do care so much, about businesses that have been impacted by damage in the midst of a peaceful protest, how many businesses in Black and Brown communities have never had significant investment, have never had the degree of support and the rallying around developing neighborhoods, so that those businesses can thrive?”
When it comes to taking action, we also talked about leaning into your lane.
Where do you already have some expertise? Where do you already have a community? You can engage your faith leaders, do some nonprofit work, go to city commission meetings or vote. All of that matters.
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