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Where to Begin in a World Aflame? At the Beginning.

It would be easy for me to post a pretty graphic about the importance of being a good ally and go about business as usual.  But I can’t. Not today.  There is no Instagram slide that could ever be enough for today.

***

Confronting racism meant confronting myself  and my actions first.

How many times did I stand in a group of people — at a fundraiser, at a political event, at a dinner party — squirming uncomfortably, listening as a fellow guest said something vaguely or overtly racist?

How many times did I glance furtively at the other attendees, taking comfort in a shared eyeroll or a speedy change of topic or a reason to exit the conversation quietly?

How many times was I blinded by my own casual prejudices and didn’t even notice the bigotry to start with?

Too many.

How many times did I stand up?

How many times did I say what my conscience was yelling at me?

Not enough.

I chose my comfort.  I chose job security.  I chose not to be labeled as “that girl” or called a “RINO.”  I chose not to embarrass the other person — the older one, from a different time, who was just ignorant, part of a culture that was dying off.  I chose all the reasons that let me stay silent and unnoticed.

I chose wrong.

***

My silence created a safe space for racism to flourish.  And flourish it has.

We live in a nation where skin color grants me privileges I did not earn, and bestows upon people of color daily injustices they spend a lifetime trying to overcome.  Where white Americans are celebrated for just being willing to talk about racism, and Americans of color never get a break from a fight for their very lives, a fight that they learned from their ancestors and will likely pass on to their children.

It shouldn’t take a sea of flaming Tiki torches or the murders of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, James Byrd and Atatiana Jefferson to get us to realize that we’re not doing enough to be anti-racist.

I’ve been actively trying to be a better ally since Philando Castile was killed.  I realized that day that what I felt in my heart and the conversations I was having with friends and family weren’t enough. I could no longer ignore the fact that I was failing to stand up when it was difficult, when it mattered, and that my silence had consequences.

I haven’t talked much about this topic on the blog/social media because:  1) I’m still learning how to publicly discuss race without sounding like I’m asking for a prize just for doing what I should have been doing the whole time; and 2) There are people doing incredible work on racial justice (some of whom read this blog) and I don’t feel like I deserve a platform when they’re teaching a masterclass and I’m in still in kindergarten, navigating what a deeper commitment to the anti-racist cause means as a white Republican.

But it felt very wrong to just post a pretty batik caftan with a sponsored link today and then throw up a racial equity quote on my Instagram like that was doing the work.  I can talk about fashion tomorrow and every day after, but today needed to be for this.

So how do we start joining communities of color in the fight?

We use our “outside voices” more.

We recognize that racism isn’t just about hatred in the heart; it’s systemic injustice that must be dismantled.

We teach ourselves and our children to be better allies using the plethora of resources that exist.

We put our money to work in anti-racist causes like Equal Justice Initiative and Public Allies.

We join organizations like the NAACP so we can stay involved and aware even when the headlines turn elsewhere.

We say to people of color: I see you. I’m sorry for the times that I have failed.  I’m committed to putting in the work — even when I don’t know where to start, even when it’s uncomfortable, even when I make mistakes, even when it feels like the fight goes on forever.  And I’m going to be more visible and vocal, because you don’t get to choose not to be.

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    64 comments

  1. Kim says:

    Bravo Abra

    June 1, 2020/Reply
  2. Lee says:

    Thank you for posting this today & for speaking about issues that are important. Its refreshing to see a Republican speak out (I’m noting this b/c many of my more conservative “friends” are not acknowledging what’s really going on & instead prefer to yap about “rioting.”), and it gives me a faint glimmer of hope. Maybe more people, both conservatives & liberals, are starting to really understand what’s happening here & how we must actively work to make change. And thank you for not trying to say a few words & then go back to selling something. It certainly says a lot about your character. I’ve already seen some other bloggers this morning who made a few meaningless comments about how they are “learning” & then filled up their space trying to sell clothes. Again, thank you for this.

    June 1, 2020/Reply
  3. Kirstin says:

    Thank you for this. We white people need to sit with our discomfort and listen for a while. And then do as we are asked.

    June 1, 2020/Reply
  4. Danielle says:

    Thank you for this post. I admire you for being an example of how antiracism is not about what political party you belong to. It is about being a human, fighting for human rights. I so appreciate you, your character and this blog, and seeing the world reflected through your eyes is one of my favorite perspectives, fashion blog or no. Keep it up!

    June 1, 2020/Reply
  5. Emily says:

    Thank you.

    June 1, 2020/Reply
  6. Elise says:

    You expressed this so well. Thank you for saying something and being thoughtful with your platform.

    June 1, 2020/Reply
  7. SG says:

    You are always saying the things I’m thinking far more clearly and eloquently than I ever could. Thank you for that! That final paragraph is one I’m going to save and come back to again and again.

    June 1, 2020/Reply
  8. Rachel says:

    Thank you so much for this.

    June 1, 2020/Reply
  9. Emilee says:

    Thank you for sharing this vulnerable post. We need more of this from influencers.Please don’t be afraid to post more content like this 🙂

    June 1, 2020/Reply
  10. Elizabeth says:

    Thank you. I came (as I always do) for a quick break to clear my head and look at something fun or a different article that I may not have seen. This post is very eloquent and self-aware and brave. Thank you.

    June 1, 2020/Reply
  11. anna c says:

    Thanks for sharing your honest thoughts, Abra. We need more people who are willing to stand up for the right reasons.

    June 1, 2020/Reply
  12. Rachel says:

    Thank you for this, Abra,

    June 1, 2020/Reply
  13. Eleanor says:

    Thank you for saying this, and providing resources for education and advocacy.

    June 1, 2020/Reply
  14. TheLOOP says:

    Preach, Abra! You are absolutely right that racism is more than just killings, which are some of the worst expressions of racism. It is a whole system, especially when it silences the voices of Black and Brown people in workplaces and elsewhere. Thank you for pointing that out.

    June 1, 2020/Reply
  15. Cara says:

    Well said & thank you! We can all do more. Let’s do more.

    June 1, 2020/Reply
  16. DOREEN says:

    I SEE YOU IDENTIFIED AS A REPUBLICAN. AS A WHITE REPUBLICAN (FORMER? MAYBE) WOMAN MYSELF I HAVE TO ASK… HOW DO WE RECTIFY OUR PERSONAL COMMITMENT TO DO BETTER AND BE ANTI-RACIST WITH A PARTY THAT DOES NOT STAND UP FOR INJUSTICE TODAY? I AM STRUGGLING WITH THE FACT THAT THE REPUBLICAN PARTY IS NO LONGER A PARTY THAT I RECOGNIZE…

    June 1, 2020/Reply
    • Belle says:

      I take it person by person, because people make up the whole. Fix the people, fix the whole.

      There are issues that make it very hard — family separation for immigrants, every single one of the President’s tweets on anything about race. But I’ve found, at least where I work, there’s a lot of ignorance that can be rectified. There’s also some overt racism. With the first, I try to find new tactics to explain that anti-racism, “political correctness” aka basic respect for the dignity of others, equality in the justice system really ARE Republican values. With the second, I just call it out, and try to remember that there are Democrats and Independents who believe shitty things too, but that it’s the figure heads of my party who have casually weaponized us vs. them, and it’s my job to tell those people they’re wrong, and we’re not just having a difference of opinion.

      As for when it gets really hard and it hurts, and I yell, and I cry, and I remind myself that I need to be here, doing the work here, more than I need to be in a group of friendlier people who I don’t agree with on a lot of other issues.

      June 1, 2020/Reply
      • Kate says:

        Bravo. Well said.

        June 1, 2020/Reply
      • Amy says:

        Thank you for saying this and making this distinction. I’ve been struggling with how to rectify the two when many of my more liberal, democratic friends are screaming you can’t and all Republicans are inherently evil racists. There are good Republicans out there but perhaps we could do more as a generation to try and take back our party from the fringe who yell the loudest. (I’ve felt this for a long time but now is a great time to try harder.)

        June 5, 2020/Reply
        • Belle says:

          It’s difficult to convince people who also listen to start yelling. I’ve tried.

          June 5, 2020/Reply
  17. Susan says:

    Sorry, what is a RINO??

    June 1, 2020/Reply
    • anna c says:

      Republican In Name Only.

      June 1, 2020/Reply
      • Erin says:

        Regarding RINO…if speaking out against racism, prejudice, or other blatant bias means that you can’t be a true Republican, then that says all you need to know about the values of that political party.

        This isn’t a dig on Abra. I’m just floored that she has feared a scenario where a Republican calls out another Republican for using racist language or actions and is essentially told “Well, then you’re not one of us”. WT actual F.

        June 1, 2020/Reply
        • Belle says:

          No, I agree. And that’s the exact response I’ve used.

          June 1, 2020/Reply
  18. MX says:

    YES. Thank you for this important and thoughtful post.

    June 1, 2020/Reply
  19. J says:

    Thank you for this post. You said it better than I ever could. I’m striving to be better so that I can also teach my children to be better. I want to show them that yes, even if I make a mistake, I will learn from it and so can you.

    June 1, 2020/Reply
  20. Mary says:

    I have a honest question that sounds insincere and sarcastic (and will probably get me shouted at) but that I am genuinely hoping for some insight. As a white middle class liberal west coast woman working in a technical field (so, not political), I know I could be a better ally and improve understanding of these issues. And there is clearly something deeply wrong with our country and with the status quo when these killings keep happening, with society’s tacit okay. And I totally get and support the need for civil demonstrations around systematic racism. But… after a peaceful protest turned into a riot, the local mall in my parents’ suburban PNW town was looted and partially destroyed last night, mostly (according to news reports) by gangs. There was rioting in my city yesterday, with a number of small, locally owned shops and immigrant-operated restaurants burned to the ground and the court house defaced.

    How do I square a sense of civil injustice and understanding with anger at what seems like wanton destruction and opportunistic crime?

    June 1, 2020/Reply
    • Madison says:

      By contextualizing that destruction https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2020/06/american-nightmare/612457/

      June 1, 2020/Reply
    • Jane says:

      The answer to your question is both complex and very simple. I will attempt to answer it, but I think former President Obama’s post today summed it up for me. It does not have to be one or the other. You can disagree with the damage and remain committed to righting the historic violence and destruction that white people have inflicted on people of color. Also keep in mind that most of the protests are peaceful, and there are a select few white people and people of color inflicting property damage. I think that news and politics today attempt to reduce things into soundbites, or us against them, but these issues have many layers. Commit yourself to educating yourself on the nuances and don’t get distracted by the messaging. Stay focused on the humanity of your fellow Americans and how you would feel if this were happening to you. Don’t make excuses to get out of committing yourself to showing up in the way that I think you know you need to.

      June 1, 2020/Reply
    • Katherine says:

      I think you simply have the priorities reversed here. You say ‘of course it’s horrible that another black man was murdered by police, but destroying property has got to stop’. Try thinking ‘of course it’s horrible that property is being destroyed, but police killing black men has got to stop’.

      June 1, 2020/Reply
    • TheLOOP says:

      What Katherine said. Being more worried about lives being lost than about businesses being lost (immigrant-owned or otherwise) is a place to start. The reason why so many white people are outraged and traumatized about businesses being destroyed (even if not their own)? Because they can easily imagine it actually happening to them but they cannot imagine that they would ever experience something like being choked by a cop. I am not saying this to make you feel bad, just saying that if you are white, it is harder to empathize with Black people than with business owners, but that’s precisely why you must try.

      June 1, 2020/Reply
  21. Monica T says:

    Thank you for this, and for some suggestions for real things we can do to try to make a difference.

    June 1, 2020/Reply
  22. e says:

    Thank you for doing this, Abra. My boss keeps asking “what are you willing to lose?” I think that’s the right guiding question right now. I think this post speaks to it for you, and I appreciate you sharing that with us.

    June 1, 2020/Reply
  23. sierra delta says:

    I feel numb. My brain is overwhelmed and my emotions are all over the place. I’m fighting to control my anger with how people and their actions are being stereotyped by our “leaders” in a transparent and cynical continuation of the us versus them narrative. I’m trying to remember that we are, for the most part, a country of rational and compassionate people. I can’t find the right words, and I’m struggling to find the right actions to acknowledge the raw pain I see all around me. Thank you, Abra, for being compassionate and practical, eloquent and heartfelt, reasoned and realistic.

    June 1, 2020/Reply
  24. Amelia says:

    A huge and heartfelt thank you, Abra.

    June 1, 2020/Reply
  25. Jordan Valdes says:

    Thank you for this post, I have been reading your blog for years, and you have inspired me in many ways as a woman who grew up professionally in Washington. This post was timely, appropriate, comforting and mostly sensitive. I say mostly because it started with a remark – As white people, confronting racism often means confronting ourselves first – that felt alienating to a Hispanic woman. I’m sure there are others like me who aren’t white but still feel part of your community. I’m sure it was unintended, but it stood out, and I thought you should know. Thanks for reading.

    June 1, 2020/Reply
    • TheLOOP says:

      Nah, she’s doing the Good Lord’s work over on that side. We need her to continue changing hearts and minds one at a time 🙂

      June 1, 2020/Reply
      • TheLOOP says:

        Drat, I was trying to reply to Jane’s comment below about Abra switching to the Dems.

        June 2, 2020/Reply
    • Belle says:

      You’re right. I was trying to direct my comments to white women, because we typically aren’t as literate about the anti-racist movement as women of color. But I can make that change if that wasn’t coming across.

      June 1, 2020/Reply
      • OverThehill says:

        Given that in my lifetime the Democratic Party was still the party of Strom Thurmond doesn’t stop me from being a committed Dem. I’m a pro-life Democrat, am I expected to leave because mine is the party of the choice movement? I remember a time when the Republican Party was about more than divisive rhetoric and maybe people like Abra can make that true again.

        June 2, 2020/Reply
        • BigBossLady says:

          When, pray tell, was the Republican party not the party of divisive rhetoric post-Dixiecrat Revolution?

          June 2, 2020/Reply
          • Belle says:

            I like having a comment section where people feel free to speak their minds, whether it’s about nylons at work or deeper issues. And over the years, I’ve been engaged in debate by people for various reasons. I’ve been criticized and chided (sometimes very rightly). I’ve even been trolled to the point of tears by people who just pop in to say hurtful things that they know I will read and publish. But you are a bit of an anomaly.

            You’re clearly smart and educated and passionate about your beliefs. But you are the only commenter who clearly reads regularly, but the only time you enter the discussion is to either 1) ask me not to talk about anything but fashion, or 2) to engage in the very political debates that you’ve said you don’t want to see here. And, I’m not trying to silence you (because I am genuinely interested in the answer), why do you participate in and lengthen discussions you’ve said don’t belong here and you don’t want to see?

            June 3, 2020/Reply
            • BigBossLady says:

              I don’t ask you to talk about politics, but when you do, I don’t like that you whitewash the racism of the Republican Party. It’s not just a few bad apples, it’s a bad barrel. So I interject.

              June 3, 2020/Reply
              • Belle says:

                I think you assume that because I believe that my party can be fixed from within, I don’t understand how big of a challenge that it is or how deep the racism runs. Imagine what it’s like to tell a GOP elected official that their words and actions are racist when you work for that person? And the reason I keep doing it is because when other Republicans step up to back me up, I know we can push this forward. I don’t expect you to not point out the racism, but if you just want to write off half of America as unable to be educated, unable to be changed, and forever lost, I don’t know what good you think your interjecting is doing.

                June 3, 2020/Reply
                • BigBossLady says:

                  I don’t write off half the country, but I do notice when ppl decide to join and continue within a party of white supremacy. And it is a party of white supremacy, Trump is just a more obvious version of what has happened previously and what is happening in other venues. What I worry about is that focusing on loud folks like Trump allows the racism of ppl like McConnell, who is a typical Republican, to hide underneath. It can change, the parties flipped before in US history. But I’d have a pretty strong conversation with myself if people of color are in the OTHER party from where I sit…

                  June 3, 2020
                • OverThehill says:

                  Let it go, Abra. You’re not going to get an inch. Don’t waste time trying to find common ground with someone who speaks in absolutes about who belongs in which party based on her own perspective.

                  June 3, 2020
  26. Jane says:

    Thank you for this post. I learned a few things from the resources you posted and am starting to form concrete steps to recommend implementing at work, like the affinity caucuses. We’d love to have you over in the Democratic Party, but I understand if you want to stay and do the work in your own party. I know that there are lots of folks in both parties who want the same things for their kids, their country, and themselves, and are willing to stay curious and introspective.

    June 1, 2020/Reply
  27. Lori says:

    As a Black woman I applaud your courage for writing this post. I have followed your blog for quite some time and although I never truly wondered about your personal life more than you shared I was surprised that you are a Republican and honestly it was refreshing. It may sound odd but it is refreshing to know that the Republican party still has diversity in thinking. I am so proud of you as a courageous woman.

    June 1, 2020/Reply
  28. Rachel says:

    thank you.

    June 1, 2020/Reply
  29. Erin says:

    Genuine question, what tenets of the Republican Party do you value so deeply that they keep your affiliation? Especially in the face of the ones you listed that you would seek to change. What do you see as the future of the party given the actions and positional trends of elected officials (not just Trump) in the last few years?

    I’m asking as a former registered Republican who realized in 2016 the policies the party agenda was looking to advance simply weren’t aligned with what I believed in anymore.

    June 2, 2020/Reply
    • Belle says:

      I’m deeply committed to smaller, limited government, federalism, and more libertarian views on the Constitution. My party has never been a perfect fit for me — most people’s affiliation isn’t. But I’ve chosen to stay more out of a belief that I have a right to be here and be heard, and that I won’t be pushed out because political expediency has lifted agendas that I don’t support — and that I don’t believe are in keeping with the values espoused in Ripon — to the front. I stay specifically because the party has taken a turn that I don’t like, and I can’t fight to change that if I’m not here.

      June 2, 2020/Reply
    • BigBossLady says:

      This is hard to accept, given that racism has been a key component of the Republican party as long as you have been alive. So you are telling us that tolerating the racism trumps leaving the Party, or never joining it in the first place.

      June 2, 2020/Reply
  30. Kk says:

    Hey Abra- this post must have been tough for you to write, and thank you for writing it.
    I’m seeing you dance around the facts here, with phrases like “racial justice” but I’d really love to see you be explicit and mention your respect for Black lives- black people who are, at this moment, our most pressing concern as they’ve been systemically deprived of housing, education, healthcare, government/police protection, and many other rights.
    In order to acknowledge this and move forward with meaningful change, we have to say it, explicitly. I’m frustrated that I’m seeing a lot of platitudes and “love for all” instead of saying the words ‘Black Lives Matter’ – even if it’s uncomfortable.
    If the intentions of the founding fathers is important to you- I would say that believing and naming the problem- the systemic violence against black people and their right to protest – it isn’t giving up your conservative ideology- I would argue that it’s not political but rather baked into the foundation of this country. Anything other than the following would be a betrayal to our core foundational values:

    We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, –That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.

    June 2, 2020/Reply
    • kk says:

      The thing is though, I dont believe that the ideals of the founding fathers are the only thing we should focus on. I believe the best part of this country is that it’s built on a foundation of continued change and protest- that we, the people, have the ability to change it to best serve it’s citizens.

      The founding fathers didn’t believe in the rights of women, black and indigenous people, gay people, or many others. They started this country on a basis of male christian white supremacists slaveowners on stolen native lands- it’s ok to admit that that’s not how we think anymore, and to move our focus beyond their limited views.

      June 2, 2020/Reply
    • Belle says:

      My intention was not to dance around anything. I have no trouble saying the phrase Black Lives Matter. I know that our current, most important fight is primarily about police brutality against the black community and a change to systemic racism against black people, but I work in a state where the fights for racial justice more often involve Indigenous people. So I wasn’t trying to be vague, I was trying to be inclusive of a larger struggle, and I’m sorry if it seemed like I wasn’t addressing the most pressing problem at hand.

      June 2, 2020/Reply
  31. Cheryl says:

    Racism is not the color of our skins. Racism is our behavior. We cannot change our skin color nor our ethnicity, but we ALL have control over our behavior, no matter our skin colors, genders, religions, economic circumstances or educations. Different laws and elected officials of diverse ethnic backgrounds do not ‘cure’ racism, we do every day with our choices of our behavior.
    Police arresting alleged perpetrators and using excessive force must be held legally accountable for their abhorrent behavior, also as those people excercising violence, destruction and theft as an outlet for their anger should not claim ‘victimization’ when met with the counterviolence as a means to control their abhorrent behavior. Government’s first duty is to the protection of its citizens and maintenance of law and order.
    It was refreshing to hear Minneapolis’s mayor reject political correctness as a guide for making policy. Political correctness can be used to avoid problems and deny us the exercise of respectful behavior as we explore the necessary discussions needed to resolve issues.
    America’s racism won’t be cured until each of us, including newly arrived immigrants, can take responsibility for the consequences of our own behaviors as a contributing factor to the quality of our public life.

    June 2, 2020/Reply
    • Sally says:

      I think saying “we all have control of our behavior” is missing the point: we do NOT all get the same treatment for our behavior, the reason for the protests is that people who did not do anything wrong are getting abused and killed, and people who are abusing and killing others are getting away with it, are continuing to get paid, with no consequences. When people in power abuse that power, that is worse than people with no power trying to wrest some away. When people get outraged over people stealing $100 worth of crap from a Walmart, but not over corporations stealing millions of dollars in bail out funds intended for small businesses, something is seriously wrong.

      June 2, 2020/Reply
    • Cheryl says:

      Something IS seriously wrong when we do not take positive actions for remedying our outrages over egregious abuses of power perpetrated by people or businesses who have the influences to tip the balances for their own self-interest at the expense of others.
      Violence is usually met with violence. My understanding of the facts is that 4 police officers were involved in the arrest and subsequent death of George Floyd. One officer protested to the officer whose knee was on Floyd’s neck about his use of violence; the other two stayed silent. What was going on in the dynamics of these 4 officers? Was the abusive officer the dominant or senior officer? Was he accustomed to bullying his peers as well?
      This department has a history of sensitivity-training, yet its leadership consistently turned a blind eye to historical reports of excessive force in arrests. What does it take for the department leadership to remedy its

      June 2, 2020/Reply
      • Cheryl says:

        its failure to lead?
        What does it take for a people showing disregard for the responsibility of personal choices to remedy our failure to provide safety for its citizens?
        Stealing $100 of stuff from Walmart is not the point–the wanton destruction and violence which consequences can lead to more loss of life in the futile efforts to control aforesaid violence is the exercise in futility. Neither Just laying down and ‘taking it’ as the response to abuse does not address the problems.
        But what we do, is ultimately what we are.

        June 2, 2020/Reply
  32. Ral says:

    Thank you. As someone who has faced racism for most of my life, I really appreciate you. Thank you for listening. Thank you for doing things to make a difference. And thank you for encouraging others to do the same.

    June 2, 2020/Reply
  33. Kim says:

    Thank you.

    June 3, 2020/Reply
  34. Kate says:

    I didn’t comment on this post at the time I read it, but wanted to just add that I really appreciated you writing it, and your dedication to solving problems from the inside out. Its easy to draw a line in the sand and label others as the enemy. Your goal is most noble, and I’ll always support your choices to stay true to what you believe and write what you like here.

    June 4, 2020/Reply
  35. Chrissy says:

    Hi Abra, I am a POC and appreciate your message here about being an ally. I wanted to bring to light that in the last section where you write “we use, recognize, teach,” etc., it implies that all your readers are white. It excludes the readers like me who are POC. I certainly know you mean well and thought I would point out unconscious bias and assumptions in language.

    I also think as an “influencer,” you do hold some “power” and could consciously make efforts to diversify the photos you use. I realize that you’re posting pictures from the websites and aren’t the one taking the photos. That said, a quick scan of recent posts show mostly or all white and thin models. I think an anti-racist action that you could do with this blog is avoid perpetuating a unconscious white-dominant or white-as-ideal culture.

    June 12, 2020/Reply
    • Belle says:

      I apologize for that. I didn’t mean to imply all of my readers are white, I know that’s not the case, more that I was talking primarily to the white readers. But I will work on tackling that bias, because you’re right, it’s a problem.

      June 12, 2020/Reply