MINNEAPOLIS — For weeks now many white people have been asking, as a white person, what do I do?
How can I be an ally in the fight for racial equity in our community, in our state, in our country AND DO SO RESPECTFUL of the space that has already been created by people of color?
How do I help - and also - not overstep?
Sarah Bellamy, of Penumbra Theatre, one of three African American stages in the whole country that performs a full season, has been in the work of racial equity her entire life.
She was kind enough to have this talk with Jana Shortal.
“I think the impulse to want to do something - that is a really good thing. I think a lot of people are waking up to some of the incredible disparities that exist in Minnesota,” Bellamy said.
She also added, go further though.
A Black Lives Matter sign in your yard, or at your business alongside a few Facebook posts and tweets supporting the movement, that's not going further.
That, Bellamy says, is bare minimum kind of stuff.
"It’s not enough to say 'I agree to that it was wrong what happened.' What are you going to do about it? I think it's important for white people to understand that there is a powerful role they can play in this moment. This is not the moment to sit back and say let me let someone else do the work, it is to lean in and say I may not know how but I want to get involved,” Bellamy said.
That leaning in she says - is taking more weight of the work of racial equity off the backs of people of color - and doing it on our own.
“Education for white people who have not done anti-racism work before means both learning and unlearning. So, you have to strip yourself of a lot of the falsehoods that you have believed in. For example, that in this country that everyone was created equal - that we have upheld that idea. We haven't. We haven't. Could we get there absolutely but it's going to take work,” Bellamy said.
So those first steps call to us to educate ourselves and then?
“This is the time for white folks to talk to other white folks. Bring five of your friends together and have a conversation about why you have never talked about this thing before. That is an incredible place to start and beautiful things will come from it - you don't have to have all the answers you just have to have some really authentic and honest questions,” Bellamy said.
And right now, if you're white and want to start right away and you live with other white people?
“It's not like you have to reach out to different people - in fact some of the most important and potent conversations for us to have right now as Americans are at the dinner table,” Bellamy said.
Another thing to keep in mind, especially if you are walking into spaces of black and brown people where the fight for equity is as old as the birth of this nation - use your ears more than your mouth.
“When white folks want to support people of color, I think that's more of a time where some really practiced and devoted listening is important. A willingness to learn and a willingness to be corrected and understand that it's coming from a space of expertise and experience that you may not have...so putting aside ego, although it's difficult, is really important,” Bellamy said.