PROTECT YOUR ENERGY
Canned responses for when calling in Black is not enough
Assembled & Managed by Martina & Kali Ilunga
Assembled & Managed by Martina & Kali Ilunga
.During weeks like the one we're having, returning to work and showing up in your relationships with non-Black coworkers and friends is emotionally taxing.
We created this doc in the spirit of Toni Morrison, who said that racism distracts us from the work. The most important thing for all Black people to do right now is to protect our energy, and pour into ourselves and our communities. Not educating folks who don't get it.
We encourage you to know racial gaslighting when you see it, and to leave exhausting messages on read for as long as needed - even if that's forever!
When you must to respond, let these canned responses do that work for you. Protect your energy, then use it towards the movement.
Some ground rules:
Table of Contents
These links are used throughout the responses below:
Mental Health resources
These resources were assembled by Alex.
Response to generic check-in messages
Thank you. I thought you’d appreciate these, and that you have friends who would, too.
Anti Racism Resources for White People
Social Change: Everyone Has a Role to Play
Research-Based Solutions to Stop Police Violence
Response to statements like, “I hope you had a great weekend!”
Thank you, I didn’t. I hope you had a reflective weekend.
Response to the questions, “What can I do?/How can I help?”
I appreciate your desire for action. I hope that you sustain this desire after the protests end, and encourage your family and friends to as well.
The internet is rich with organizations and causes that you can plug into. Here are two shared with me that are good places to start:
Learn about anti-racism: https://bit.ly/2zUssiG
Dismantle racism: https://bit.ly/2Xmw2Lo
Support research-based solutions to stop police violence: https://bit.ly/2MjjazF
Response to requests to better understand “the Black” experience, or to understand what’s going on
I appreciate your desire to learn, and I’m sure you have good intentions. However, you’re asking me to do emotional labor during an already emotionally charged time, when you could research on your own. The best way to understand Black folks’ experience and what’s going on, is to understand systemic racism and how it permeates American society and culture.
This is a good starting place: https://bit.ly/2zUssiG
And this doc has steps you can take today to begin to dismantle it: https://bit.ly/2Xmw2Lo
Response to comments critiquing the protests or riots/looting
When you say, “it’s horrible that police killed a Black person, but destroying property must stop,” you prioritize the wrong part.
Try saying, “it’s horrible that property is being destroyed, but killing Black people has to stop.”
Since you’re concerned about the effects of police brutality, here are resources you might appreciate:
Research-based solutions to stop police violence: https://bit.ly/2MjjazF
Concrete actions you can take to dismantle racism in your daily life: https://bit.ly/2Xmw2Lo
Response to comments about reverse racism, white/non-Black pain, All Lives Matter
Note: We highly suggest ignoring, and even blocking, people who make comments that warrant the response below. They don't deserve an explanation, and your efforts will likely go in vain. Your energy is much better spent pouring into yourself, your family, and the movement.
There’s not a thing you mentioned that Black people don’t experience or can’t relate to. [List whatever grievances they’ve expressed]. Those are things we have experienced and continue to experience - and unlike you - for generations. I wish it was a new feeling for us. Your reaction to experiencing those things is partly because you’ve never had to before. As we work to address and correct the effects of decades of absolute white power that existed in every industry, in every company, with every job (and continues to flex it’s muscle in those places), yes - you will feel like you have lost something. What you’ve lost is a world where white power meant you would always be superior. When you’ve had absolute power, having to give it up in exchange for true equity and equality will feel like oppression. But it’s not.
While you may have been nice to me - which is basically what you should do - the system and environment historically has not been. And if you do not acknowledge that, you are perpetuating it.
If you’re genuine about wanting reconciliation, do the work to find out what it’s like to feel what you are feeling, for 100s of years. Ask what you can do to help people who’ve never had a slice of what you think is normal, to have one forever alongside you (being protected and served by the police, not being overlooked for a job, not being the subject of offensive media, being able to access quality healthcare, housing, education, loans).
This is a good starting place to learn: https://bit.ly/2zUssiG
And this doc has great, actionable steps you can take today to begin to dismantle it: https://bit.ly/2Xmw2Lo
Lastly, know when people are grieving. My post was me mourning, and asking people who are mourning with us to keep hopeful. Your comment was about how you feel wronged, and did little to empathize with the millions of people who are mourning at this moment. In light of that - respectfully, don’t comment on this anymore. I hope you are doing well. Perhaps we can continue this conversation at another moment.
Note: These scenarios and responses have been submitted by members of the community. Complete this form to contribute to the list. Only scenarios with responses already drafted will be added.
Requesting time off/Out of office notifier
Submitted by @ralphyoung_
Given the recent and searing events that have gripped our nation over the last week and the precipitous effects it has had on my ability to both be productive and fully present for my team(s), I've decided to take this [day of week/range of dates] off and allow myself some time to catch my breath.
I cannot continue to effectively function in my role as [job function or leadership role] here if I do not place a priority on my mental health at this time. I hope those who can use their privilege and voice to spark constructive conversations around the issues of systemic racism and violence do so and continue to do so, even as it appears that justice may be beginning to take shape for George Floyd. The road ahead is long but it's a journey we must all complete together.
Response to a message, like "I wanted to check to see how you're doing?"
Tired, in every sense of the matter. That’s all I’ve got in response to your question but know that I (we, the community) truly appreciate your allyship. Continue to do the work, continue to take action.
Response to calendar invites/meeting requests to "check-in in light of all that's going on"
I appreciate you reaching out. At this time, I am not in a position to have a discussion about "all that's going on" and prefer to grieve privately. Thank you for understanding.
Response to requests to participate in an ice-breaker
That doesn’t feel authentic to me at this time, and so I will be abstaining and wanted to verbalize this in the event that others on this call did not want to feel alone in declining to engage in this way.
Response to requests to attend a celebratory gathering or happy hour with co-workers
I’m not in the mood for that at this time and will not be joining. I think you may want to check in directly with other black staff about desires and be agreeable to canceling or rescheduling pending the response.
Response to attending a required virtual meeting at work
Hey! I’m not going to be on camera today and my verbal participation will likely not be at 100 percent. I will use the chat if that feels right. If necessary for me, I may exit this meeting early.
Response to comments defending the police/explain why defending police offends you
Asking me to clarify which post/comment started this is asking me to do emotional labor at an emotionally charged time. While you have been nothing but kind to me, know that the system and environment historically has not been. And if you do not acknowledge that, you are perpetuating it.
If you’re genuine about wanting reconciliation, do the work to find out what it’s like to feel what I am feeling. Ask what you can do to help people who’ve never felt they were being served and protected by the police.
Learn about the history of how the police in the south came about: https://bit.ly/2AGnKFR
In general, this is a good starting place to learn the Black experience and anti-racism: https://bit.ly/2zUssiG
And this doc has great, actionable steps you can take today to begin to dismantle racism: https://bit.ly/2Xmw2Lo
For my own peace, please understand that I can't continue this conversation right now. I hope you are doing well. Perhaps we can continue this conversation at another moment.
Response to data trying to prove "All Lives Matter"/disprove Black Lives Matter
Submitted by John-Marcus Phillips
If I feel threatened and you don't I'm not sure why I must be disallowed from advocating for my own life OR why I must wait for your life circumstances to be statistically similar to my own before my advocating for my own right to life is warranted or valid. Again, this is philosophical, not empirical.
Fundamentally, we as as Americans should not need to qualify our the value of our lives any context. There's a very popular document that grants all of us this "inalienable right"... Particularly, this right should not need to be qualified in the context of police brutality. Why? Because police brutality should not be a fear for ANYONE, irrespective of race. Again, this is philosophical, not empirical.
However, if entry to the philosophical discussion around the right to live through a brutal encounter with police can only be had in the context of data, then I proffer the unnecessary data that you requested:
National Academy of Science reports that Black women and men and American Indian and Alaska Native women and men are significantly more likely than white women and men to be killed by police: https://bit.ly/3fp1Kho
To balance the scales, Yale law reports that Black and Hispanics are more than 50% more likely to experience some form of force in interactions with police, though they find no racial bias in officer-involved shootings: https://bit.ly/3dZUF6C
The Bureau of Justice reports that among all police-initiated encounters, Blacks and Hispanics are more likely than whites to experience the threat or use of physical force: https://bit.ly/2YBsG6N
To round things out, the National Institute of Health actually finds opposite results which indicate fatality rates being 2.8 times higher among blacks than whites in officer involved encounters: https://bit.ly/2UJD8b6
Must I still further justify my own life with statistical data before I'm allowed to say that it matters?
Response to virtue signaling
Although I understand the intent and logic behind your statement, I would have much preferred to be asked before you used my name without my permission.
1) In a highly stressful period where we're reminded of the many ways white people rob Black people of life and choice, it's unfair of you to do that.
2) Another way to read your statement is that you're virtue signaling to distinguish yourself from racist white people and then listing out your Black references.
3) You mention that you wish to stand in solidarity with Black but in order to do that effectively, it's important to ask me what I need first. I actually don't need statements of solidarity, I would much prefer white people work with each other to interrogate their own relationship to racism and white supremacy.
4) Amplifying Black voices, in my opinion, is sharing a post or a tweet that offers insight into our thinking and draws attention directly to a Black voices not just praise for you making a statement.
5) It's really important for Black people to have choice and agency in how our names are used because we could be doxed.
Coincidentally, Psychology Today published an article about virtue signaling.
About the authors:
Martina & Kali Ilunga are a married pair of entrepreneurs in Brooklyn.
Copyright © Martina Abrahams 2020. All Rights Reserved