5 Ways to Embody Anti-Racism & The 8th Principle for MLK Day and Every Day

I’ve noticed that sometimes when we talk about the 8th Principle, the whole idea of decolonizing our minds or actively challenging systems of oppression in ourselves and our institutions can seem super daunting. The way we have all been raised in white supremacy culture is a truly daunting issue, but it’s important to remember that no one person or group is expected to address it all –  though we do all have a part to play.

Some of us are meant to be at protests, working to influence policy, and doing community organizing. Those are big, important, forward-facing things – but they aren’t enough on their own. The big, dramatic actions need to be backed up and bolstered by the small, everyday moments that become our habits and our cultural norms. 

Just like some of us are meant to be on the front lines of policy change, some of us are meant to be in classrooms, either teaching others or being taught. For me, a huge part of my journey with anti-oppression is teaching because this is my career, and just as important are those of us who will be the one to finally tell that one person in our life that they’re being racist and to shut up.

So please never underestimate the power of being the person who plucked up the courage to tell so-and-so at book club that they’re using an offensive term or to stop and observe or film police officers interacting with people of the global majority. There are dozens of ways we can choose to play our part every day, and some of them take little more than awareness. 

It can feel like slow work at times, no matter where we are on our journey, but every one of us and every one of our intentional actions towards a better future matters. In that spirit, I’ve compiled a list of 5 ways we can embody the 8th Principle for MLK Day and every day.

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  1. Choose your battles
    1. Now this means something a little different depending on who you are. For people who embody a marginalized identity, I mean protect your energy whenever possible. I mean protect your peace and when you can, dismiss anything you can that threatens it without guilt. 
    2. And in situations where you have privilege, I invite you to fight one more battle than you normally would. Interrupt a tasteless joke or take on a problematic Facebook comment one more time than you normally would, and recognize that having the option of choosing not to is a privilege.
  1. Prioritize rest
    1. WSC does not want any of us to rest. Because you know what we do when we have ample time for rest and relaxation? We talk, we dream, we create, and we realize that our lives are meant to be so much more than working, paying bills, and squeezing our entire existence into evenings and weekends. Radically reclaiming rest is a powerful way to resist the dominant culture while literally doing nothing at all.
  1. Notice your language
    1. Have you ever heard someone say “oh, that’s in the good part of town,” or “oh that’s so dark.” What does it mean for something to be in the good part of town? What does it mean for something to be dark? Do we really mean that something is dark, or do we mean scary, ominous, or emotionally heavy? Do we really mean that it’s the good part of town, or is that just a coded way to say the white part of town? Where else might we use language that, even inadvertently, perpetuates the ideas that white is good and black is bad?

https://neaedjustice.org/social-justice-issues/racial-justice/coded-language/

  1. Reflect on Beloved Community
    1. The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. strove for what he called the beloved community – a community in which everyone is cared for, absent of poverty, hunger, and hate. Like our principles, the beloved community is an aspiration that we have not yet arrived  at, but must take consistent, direct action to work towards every single day. Even if our part in the work is not huge or hugely visible, it is critical – because we are all a critical part of the beloved community and the interdependent web of existence. 

I’m looking forward to learning more about how we can embody this work as we continue our 8th Principle explorations together.

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