Wendy Kalman
There are many ways to see and understand

Social justice in the time of COVID-19

Demonstrators protest Saturday, June 6, 2020, in Washington, over the death of George Floyd, a black man who was in police custody in Minneapolis. Floyd died after being restrained by Minneapolis police officers. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
Demonstrators protest on June 6, 2020, in Washington, over the death of George Floyd, a Black man who was killed while in police custody in Minneapolis. (AP/Alex Brandon)

Note: Please scroll down to the comments where there are additional ways to actively show the Black community support from the safety of your home. Feel free to add your own!

In the United States, protests against racism and injustice are taking place daily. In Israel, Tel Aviv saw thousands gather to protest against annexation. Photos of mask-wearing protesters bearing signs gather in large crowds. In suburban US, protesters are often spaced further apart on the sides of the road holding signs for passersby to see. And while I agree with their sentiments, my fear of what COVID-19 can do prevents me from joining them.

I live in a red state which continues to loosen restrictions while playing games with the numbers being reported. We are beginning to see the impact of opening the state for essential haircuts, tattoos and bowling, let alone the impacts of Mother’s Day visiting and Memorial Day outings. Numbers are not pretty. According to today’s data, the county I live in has the second highest death rate in the state. Given how asymptomatic and pre-symptomatic people are out there spreading the virus and how we can’t know how badly it will affect people who are infected (this story about how people are taking much longer to wake up after being on ventilators is scary as hell), I am not taking a chance.

But I cannot ignore the call for change.

There are many good resources for ways to learn how to be better allies, how to dismantle racism, how to educate our children and more. This list of articles, books, movies and more is one place to start. One book not on the list which I can’t recommend enough is The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America. It paints a picture of how Black people were discriminated against at every level of government, by banks, by realtors, by insurers, by neighborhood covenants. The end result – segregation – is one that  has continued to reverberate over the generations. It is felt in the discrepancies in schools, environmental safety, municipal services and in the absence of opportunity for the accumulation of wealth that homeownership allows.

Supporting Black-owned businesses is another way to help. Whether you are looking to buy dinner or clothes, goods or services, check out Support Black Owned and Official Black Wall Street, two website directories. And there are geography-based compilations too. Buy from any on this list of over 50 Black-owned restaurants in Atlanta or 125 mostly New York-based businesses in a number of categories. This CNN article also mentions a number of apps for finding Black-owned businesses and how others like Yelp and UberEats will help people identify them as well.

There are an abundance of organizations to donate to too. Here are 25 which support emerging Black artist and other creatives. There is also this list of ten organizations which work on ensuring that Black lives matter; it includes the NAACP’s Legal Defense Fund, to which I have donated. Locally, the Georgia Black United Fund works with its member groups, all of whom would appreciate donations.

While the case for reparations has not yet moved the government, there are reparations groups where monies can go directly to individuals. The one I joined just a few days ago was started by an artist and has grown over time. By allowing members to create opportunities to fulfill requests and to initiate offerings, it focuses on addressing income inequality and community building today and in the future.

What else can we do while staying safe from COVID-19?

In addition to learning how to become better allies, choosing to do business with Black-owned companies, donating to funds by and for the Black community and helping people directly, we can also sign relevant petitions, such as those petitions featured by Color of Change, the “nation’s largest online racial justice organization.” You can also find your federal, state, county and local representatives and reach out to them about the changes you want to see and the laws you want passed.

Lastly, look at those organizations, educational institutions, and companies you belong to or interact with. Check out their websites. What do you see? Are their boards of directors a sea of white faces? These resources explain why that is problematic. What about their senior management? Do those who make decisions about product lines and marketing reflect only a white point of view? If they are educational, do their faculty include Black and Brown teachers and administrators? Next, check out their Inclusion and Diversity pages. If they speak about recruiting, is it only on an entry level? Do they also offer programs for mentoring and actively promoting employees of color? If you are not seeing diverse faces among those who lead these organizations, contact them and let them know that you expect more.

Note: The last paragraph was added several hours after the blog went live.  

About the Author
Wendy Kalman, MPA, MA, serves as Director of Education and Advocacy Resources for Hadassah The Women's Zionist Organization of America, Inc. Previous roles include senior academic researcher for an Israel education nonprofit, knowledge manager at a large multinational as well as roles in marketing and publishing in the US and in Israel. She has presented papers at political science and communications conferences and has participated as a scholar-in-residence at an academic workshop on antisemitism. Wendy lived in Israel for over a decade and is a dual citizen, fluent in Hebrew.
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