In a world where you can be anything, be kind
I set out to write this article a few good times over the past 3 weeks. I promised myself I’ll write one article a week, every week and publish it on a Sunday. For no reason, though marketing-wise it will probably be easier to be seen on a Sunday than any other day of the week, but this is a story for another time.
I first wanted to write it because I’ve been struggling with my mental health for the past 2 months, and there is a lot of stigma and general let’s say meanness around it. The week I wanted to publish it was themed Kindness as part of Mental Health Awareness Month. It is a word filled with power for me, power to do good, power to make others happy, to make yourself happy, power to contribute to this world and make it a tiny bit better. Research done by Sonja Lyubomirsky and published(at least partially) in the book ‘The How of Happiness‘ shows that random acts of kindness make us happy. It is shown in her research constantly that kindness towards others especially is something that drives happiness, and that constant and consequent acts of kindness drive happiness, even in the unhappier group. It also showcases that if one chooses a day to be kind and does say 5 acts of kindness in that day, his or her whole demeanour changes and the general happiness scale shows he or she is happier overall. Acts of kindness make our soul full, is something that my mum used to say when I was a kid, and whenever I think of acts of kindness, my soul is filled at least with happiness if with nothing else.
Mural courtesy of Evelyn Henson
I decided to talk about kindness in today’s article, not just because it makes us happy, but because it can make us better people. When we put ourselves in someone else’s shoes we understand them better, and we can relate to his or her struggles and help better if support is needed. I chose kindness, because throughout the past few weeks, the world has been in a very unkind state, especially towards people of colour. Unkind is a very weak word, but bear with me here. I sit here on my white privilege throne and think ‘what can I do now’? Besides sharing all the images, donating to all the causes my small poor pocket allows and just watching everything and absorbing as much information as I can. I sit here constantly wishing this world was a kinder place, but it doesn’t come with kindness already ‘learnt’ in society. We cultivate the kindness, by being kind to others and to ourselves, we don’t naturally come as kind, we learn to be kind. For some people it comes easier, but for others is a constant learning process. I love helping people, in this world, there is nothing that truly makes me happier than being able to support and be helpful to people around me, from small acts to bigger acts, it’s something that brings me immense happiness. So this article will be dedicated to helping, to doing something to change this systematically wrong act, to appease this sentiment that we live in a horribly dark world, filled with inequality alone, and that there is nothing we can do about it. Change comes from each one of us, and it’s up to us to have the right education about all the issues present in this world, because this world will only change if we each pitch in.
Image found on shutterbean.com
I have analysed myself from the prism of a white privileged young woman, that has so much more than most, and I realised that, yes, I am aware of a lot of issues, and no I don’t think I do enough to combat them. I hope this piece of writing can do at least a tiny bit to change this perspective. As a woman we are systematically put down, but if the colour of my skin changes there are so many more reasons why a woman would be put down. And from my position of privilege, I can do something about it. I urge everyone to have an analysis, of what they do, what they say, how they act, what they share that could harm someone else. I was lucky enough to be able to donate to the causes I care about, but for all the large companies that have the opportunity to do more, they should do more. And not because I say so, because collectively, people who are more privileged can push other privileged people to follow suit. So as much as I’m sure my article might just be a tiny piece in a vast void of information, I can’t stay and be neutral, and not use that mass of privilege I’m lucky to have to do something good.
Image courtesy of StuffGraceMade
I’ve seen this quote from Desmond Tutu shared a lot on social media these past few days: ‘If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor’. And I relate, I think more often than not I choose to be neutral, to, God-forbid not hurt someone’s feelings or illicit an unintended online brawl between all the different sides of a problem. But how can we be neutral just because we have it better than others? How can we consider that the position we are in isn’t hurting or harming someone else? How can we think that being vocal in situations of injustice doesn’t change a thing? It always does, even if it’s just the mentality of your next-door neighbour, or of someone in your family. Asking those hard questions and not remaining neutral in any injustice situations changes things little by little. It brings people the courage to pursue the fight against that injustice, so that it doesn’t happen again. What is currently happening in the US is a systematic neutrality I, as a white cisgender woman am often a culprit of. I don’t want to hurt this person’s feelings, oh God, what if I posted that thing and then some snowflake on my Facebook will feel attacked by a woman speaking her mind? Or even worse, what if people don’t agree with me and then they stop liking me? Well honestly, we shouldn’t even be friends on Facebook or otherwise if you don’t see what happened(and is constantly happening in the US and across the world with people of colour) as a very very massive problem of our society. We shouldn’t talk if me posting or sharing stories of injustice bothers you, and you feel the need to hurt my feelings for ‘daring to share these’. I see so many people feeling attacked by this injustice, even though they are part of a privileged group. The fact that the world is talking in anger of yet another black man or woman killed by police brutality should bother you, and it should push you to make a change, to talk about it, and understand the issue better, to be present and not neutral. These situations don’t call for neutrality for the sake of neutrality, they call for action, for anger, for tears and for rebellious and courageous acts that will change something and that will push this world to a better place. That something is the word of order here, it can be someone’s mindset, someone’s apathy, someone’s neutrality or someone’s way of seeing the world, it can be anything as long as it[s a positive change. We don’t change by closing our eyes at the things that bother us, they’ll keep bothering us in a week, month or year’s time, they will still be there. From any position of privilege we find ourselves in, we have the power to use that privilege for good. And now it’s a time as good as ever to push for that change. Now we need to use that anger for making good, those tears for all of us to not shed others, those rebellious and courageous acts that we can do the way we consider fit to help.
Image courtesy of Fuzzedupbear
I’m quite a silently angry person when there are issues of injustice, but this time I wanted to share that silence in this article, it might help your friend who is struggling to voice their anger, or that other friend who is terrified and wants an out from this world, or that person whose mental health is constantly harmed by everything that is bad in this world. It might just help you know better next time, or know where to donate and how you can help from the comfort of your own couch now. Lockdown is still on in many parts of this world, and maybe your act of courage can be sharing a message online. It can be educating yourself to know more for next time anything this horrific happens, it may show you where to find the tools you need if you are the subject of racial injustice. It is not the moment to hide behind that privilege, but to use it for good.
Artwork by Danielle Coke
I am clearly angry, sharing constantly what can be done and helped, in the hopes that it reaches more and more people, that next year we see justice being done, that we are no longer angry and speechless that in the 21st century this can happen to a person of colour on the streets. I share because this is my small act of kindness for today, it is my way of saying, enough is enough and doing something about it. I will leave some links at the bottom of this article, and I urge you to click on every one of them, to see what is happening and where you can help. For you to also be kinder and for these injustices to stop happening in this world. For this world to be a better place and a place where nobody is scared to walk on the street because of their skin colour. For no child to ever lose a parent because our biases as white people have more than hurt a nation. For nobody to die because we haven’t done our due diligence to understand our differences, because differences are what make us who we are, what make this world an amazing treasure trove of wonderful things.
Print made by Cleo Wade
I started this article on kindness, as it makes us better humans, when people are overall happier, they are better, and if this is the only thing you can do today, be kind, as no act of kindness, no matter how small is ever wasted.
Things you can do:
Why I’m no longer talking to white people about race by Reni Eddo-Lodge – try and not buy the book if you can find it in your local library(if it’s open) or if you can borrow it from a friend and use the money you’d spend on it to donate(links below, also mentioned by the author here) Match your donations here, it’s a good book to have on your book shelf.
The Underground Railway by Colson Whitehead
Black Feminist Thought by Patricia Hill Collins
Eloquent Rage: A Black Feminist Discovers Her Superpower by Dr. Brittney Cooper
Heavy: An American Memoir by Kiese Laymon
How To Be An Antiracist by Dr. Ibram X. Kendi
Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson
Raising Our Hands by Jenna Arnold
Redefining Realness by Janet
So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo
The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison
The Fire Next Time by James Baldwin
The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander
The Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson
Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston
This Bridge Called My Back: Writings by Radical Women of Color by Cherríe Moraga
I’m sure there are so many books we can all read to educate ourselves, please send me any other suggestions you have found good for you, I can keep on adding.
Antiracism Center: Twitter
I’m sure there are many others you can recommend so please hmu, and I’ll keep adding them on this article.
Floyd Family GoFundMe Page here
You can also donate to the below:
The petition here
13th (Ava DuVernay) — Netflix
American Son (Kenny Leon) — Netflix
Black Power Mixtape: 1967-1975 — Available to rent
Clemency (Chinonye Chukwu) — Available to rent
Dear White People (Justin Simien) — Netflix
Fruitvale Station (Ryan Coogler) — Available to rent
I Am Not Your Negro (James Baldwin doc) — Available to rent or on Kanopy
If Beale Street Could Talk (Barry Jenkins) — Hulu
Just Mercy (Destin Daniel Cretton) — Available to rent
King In The Wilderness — HBO
See You Yesterday (Stefon Bristol) — Netflix
Selma (Ava DuVernay) — Available to rent
The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution — Available to rent
The Hate U Give (George Tillman Jr.) — Hulu with Cinemax
When They See Us (Ava DuVernay) — Netflix
If you know any other movies I should add here, as per the other categories here, please let me know, and I can amend the article.
Nobody can get anywhere if they are not supported, so support your local and international business owned by people of colour, you can find some here, and here, and here. If you have any friends who have a wonderful business, send me their website/Instagram/Facebook page, will keep on adding here.
Also, read this really good article and apply all that you learn in it here. These are very US focused, but look if there is a local chapter to you, or something similar to support any communities that are systematically going through injustices.
Continue to research and educate yourself, I’m not here saying, I’m perfect and I know everything, I actually don’t, I am sure I will say and do the wrong thing(at least once), because nobody gets it right the first time, sometimes not even the second, third or fourth time, but we should try and be as close as possible to ‘right’ every time we try. We need to do the work to make up for the times we were wrong too, so let’s get it on.