“Nothing in the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.” -Martin Luther King Jr. 1963
MLK Day is a day of reflecting on what actions I have or haven’t taken during the year to push back against racism. When have I continued to live with learned sincere ignorance? When have I been stupid? When has my silence been viewed as agreement with racism?
Sometimes it feels overwhelming. Especially these days when White Supremacists are noted as “good people” and after eight years of seeing memes denigrating people of color across social media.
Change takes time and my belief is that many “little” things add up when combined with the efforts of many.
What’s a tiny part I can play in creating change that is in my skill set? Well, years ago when I started out as an illustrator I noticed how many illustrations didn’t reflect the population of my country. The illustrations only showed pasty white people like me. So I decided to start placing people of color in as many of my illustrations as possible. Sometimes art directors would subtly push back, sometimes they pushed back more directly. But gradually more of them called me for jobs because my illustrations were more integrated. I know it’s a simple thing but simple things add up. I believe that visual images hold power. And when you create enough positive imagery it can make a difference. No matter how small.
What other things can I do in my daily life outside being an artist?
- I can encourage people of color to run for local/state/national office. I can donate to their campaigns.
- I can speak up when I see subtle discrimination within my life: white teachers who are unduly harsh to children of color for minor infractions that white children easily skip away from.
- I can note when local planning commissions that enable white flight via tax credits within my city/county.
- I can support my local university’s effort to bring fresh produce to food deserts in area.
- I can gently and firmly call out racism when people disparage people of color in my midst and think that I’ll agree with them vocally or with my cowed silence. Nope. Bystanders are what got us into this mess. Bystanders speaking up and showing up will go a long ways towards bringing equality and shining a light on racism in our midst.
- I can get involved with local groups fighting racism and working on issues like education, healthcare, diversity, sustainability, etc.
Every day is a chance to unlearn racism and to learn about ways to make this world a better place.