White People, Step It Up

Posted on May 8, 2020 | Tamara Lucas Copeland, Daughters of the Dream

The following piece was originally published by Weissberg Foundation trustee Tamara Lucas Copeland at Daughters of the Dream. It is being cross-posted here with her permission.

Picture this. The coronavirus is over. Scientists have given the “all clear”. One million white people have gathered on the Mall in Washington, DC with signs that read “Black Lives Matter” “I am marching for Armaud Arbrey” “I march for Trayvon Martin” “I march for the thousands of black men and women imprisoned who simply can’t pay bail to get out” “I march for clean water in Flint” “I march for quality grocery stores in black and brown neighborhoods.” “I march for the black people who white leaders don’t listen to.”

Can you see it? Can you see one million white people marching for black lives, for black bodies?

I appreciate all my white friends who have posted their outrage on social media about the killing of Armaud Arbrey. I value your allyship and your sense of humanity. I also value your public statements. Many think the thoughts, but then don’t write the words where one of their friends, or family, or colleagues might see them. “You know,” they say, “I have to pick the right moment.”

White people, as Nikole Hannah-Jones wrote in her 1619 essay, “Our democracy’s founding ideals were false when they were written. Black Americans have fought to make them true.” I’m not saying that white people didn’t participate in the Montgomery Bus Boycott or Selma or the March on Washington or in countless other protests to make America’s promise true. You have. But, I need you to step it up. America needs you to step it up.

Now, don’t get me wrong. Black people’s voices have been, and continue to be, powerful in enabling our own liberation, 400 years ago, 200 years ago and today. But to paraphrase racial justice advocate, Dr. Robin DiAngelo, “Could women have gotten the vote without the leadership of men? No.” Black people can march, and will march, until the soles of our feet are raw. We will protest until our voices are strained to a whisper, but white people, we need you to step it up.

In large measure, your people run Congress … your people lead states … your people run business, the Fortune 500 companies … your people control the media. You run America. Raise your voices. Step it up.

Tamara Lucas Copeland is the former president of the Washington Regional Association of Grantmakers (WRAG). Tamara’s leadership with WRAG’s groundbreaking work, Putting Racism on the Table, has received widespread recognition for enabling the philanthropic community to understand issues around race so they might work for racial equity. She has extensive experience in nonprofit management and on children’s policy having led Voices for America’s Children, the National Health & Education Consortium, and the Infant Mortality Initiative of Southern Governors’ Association and Southern Legislative Conference and having been Congressman Bobby Scott’s (D-VA) Legislative Director. Tamara currently sits on the boards of The Democracy Collaborative and the Weissberg Foundation.

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