How to Support the Black Community

In response to the death of George Floyd and other people of color, millions worldwide have taken an active stand against racism—participating in protests, funding national initiatives, and speaking out on social media. But, when the streets go quiet and social media is no longer flooded with posts about police brutality and systemic injustices, what’s next?

We talked with six individuals from the IU community—alumni, professors, students, and staff—and asked them to weigh in on the most effective ways to support the Black community. Here’s what they have to say.


Engage in difficult conversations

Rashawn Ray is a professor of sociology at the University of Maryland, College Park. Courtesy photo.

Rashawn Ray, MA’05, PhD’10, advocates for “explicitly stating that systemic and interpersonal racism are wrong” in the presence of your friends, family, and colleagues. “Our dinner tables and friendship networks are often highly segregated by race. Racial equity advocates speak up and speak out about systemic racism when minority group members are not present. These are the times when people can make the biggest impact,” he explains.

To prepare for difficult conversations, Ray recommends watching the documentary 13th, and reading these titles:

  • Black Wealth/White Wealth, by Melvin Oliver and Thomas Shapiro
  • Condemnation of Blackness, by Khalil Gibran Muhammad, a former IU professor
  • When Affirmative Action was White, by Ira Katznelson

Support Black-owned businesses

Robin Jackson is a doctoral candidate in the School of Education at IUPUI. Courtesy photo.

Investing in Black businesses supports closing the racial wealth gap—the stark divide between how much capital white and Black people control. In 2016, a Survey of Consumer Finances by the Federal Reserve found that the median net worth of a white household is $171,000, while Black households average a mere $17,600.

Fast Company’s Lauren Steele compiled a list of 10 apps and directories to help you find and support Black-owned businesses in your area.

As for those in and around Indianapolis, check out Indy Black Owned—a directory co-created by Robin Jackson, BA’11, MA,’14.

“The ‘gap’ that exists was intentionally created, perpetuated by white supremacist ideology that works to keep society stratified—in this case, via capitalism,” Jackson says. “Long term, it has resulted in disinvested communities who are often blamed for their situations, as if disenfranchisement would ever be an active choice. The best way Black folks have been able to thrive in a meaningful way has been to both produce and consume our own products and services—circulating the Black dollar.”


Create diversity in the workplace

Evelyn Gordon has been the director of human resources at IU East since September 2016. Courtesy photo.

A 2015 study by McKinsey & Company, a management consulting firm, found that racially diverse teams outperform their competitors by 35 percent. So why aren’t companies more diligent about hiring minorities? “Something very fundamental about bias is that every human being has it,” says Evelyn Gordon, director of human resources at IU East. “It’s not enough for us to say, ‘I don’t see color,’ or ‘I treat everybody the same.’ That’s impossible. You have to address your personal, and by extension, your organization’s bias in a very intentional way.”

The first step is to “standardize” the way you hire, says Gordon. This means asking every candidate the same questions and using the same criteria to evaluate each person’s qualifications. “At IU, we focus on competencies—the soft skills that lead to success. We determine what competencies we’re looking for in a particular position, and then we form our questions around those competencies.” This allows a person’s skill set to determine if someone is a “good fit,” rather than their personality. “At the end of the day, we’re more likely to be drawn to people who are like us, to someone [we can see ourselves] going to lunch with,” Gordon explains. “But that’s not enough to tell whether a person would actually be successful in that role.”

Gordon goes on to stress that diversity doesn’t end at the hiring process. “It’s a very important place to start, but you really should think about how you plan to integrate this person into your workplace culture,” she says. “We can change [hiring] processes, but until we commit to doing the inner work of dismantling our anti-Blackness and to the work of anti-racism, it’s simply not going to be effective.”


Raise anti-racist children

Brandy James, a professor at IUPUI, is a doctoral student at Ball State University. She is set to complete her degree in 2020. Courtesy photo.

Children learn about racial differences as early as preschool age. And while there is no formula, Brandy James, assistant professor and program coordinator of the Early Childhood Education program at IUPUI, says raising anti-racist people has to be a coordinated effort between parents and teachers. “Educators can assist in creating anti-racist curriculum and find ways to be inclusive of all cultural backgrounds in the classroom. Meanwhile, families should find early education programs that are diverse in cultural, linguistic, and ethnic backgrounds,” she says.

Challenging racism and empowering children to do the same can also be an active effort at home, says James, who encourages parents to provide their kids with diverse toys and incorporate race-centric books into story time.


Participate in Black organizations

Maqubè Reese is the assistant director of the Kelley Office of Diversity Initiatives. Courtesy photo.

This work can be done in a variety of ways—participating in protests, creating activist art, or donating money and supplies to nonprofits such as the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund.

For those looking to step into an activist role, consider joining your local chapter of the NAACP or Black Lives Matter, among others.

“We don’t only accept Black people,” Maqubè Reese, BS’14, MSW’20, an active member of Bloomington’s NAACP chapter says. “What’s going on in our world right now isn’t just a Black issue, it’s a human issue.”


Call local lawmakers—and vote

A graduate student, Donovan Watts is studying how cases of police violence toward African Americans impact political behavior and political participation among African American millennials. Courtesy photo.

Communicating with those in power and voting are two effective ways to create change within your community. “The more phone calls and emails that legislators get, the more they know that their constituents care about the issue at hand,” says Donovan Watts, a grad student in IU Bloomington’s Department of Political Science. Adopting the mindset that “politics is local,” Watts recommends communicating with your local City Council before moving up the political ladder.

Unsure who your federal and state elected officials are? Check out Rock the Vote’s database. As for what to say in an email or phone call to legislators, the National Education Association and the American Psychological Association have helpful guides.

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Written By
IUAA Staff