Dear Issue readers,
First and most important: Black lives matter. The Issue stands wholeheartedly with this message and this movement. We vow to do all that we can to uplift Black voices and provide a space for discussion and education. We vow to continue our anti-racism efforts, and recognize that this journey starts by looking within. To our Black friends and readers, we stand with you. We see you. We love you. The paragraphs below are not really for you, though we certainly welcome you to read and discuss with us if you’d like. This message is a call to our white friends. Time to wake up and listen up.
After George Floyd’s murder, The Issue took a detour from our usual calendar. We shared content exclusively created by contributors and other creators of color. We retweeted articles, shared resources, and reminded our followers to pay attention to those voices. We are socially aware, politically engaged, and try to be sensitive and anti-racist -- but we are white.
We are white and being white means that we are and have always been a part of this system of oppression that keeps our friends and neighbors and coworkers down even as it lifts us up. Being white means that no matter how much we might try to do good, to educate, and to uplift unheard voices, we still harbor racist tendencies, still take part in a racist system, and still do not do enough to further equality and justice in our society.
Our “Muted” week was a reminder to our readers that Black voices are important, and that those of us who are white need to take a back seat and listen. But it was also a moment for the all-white staff at The Issue to rethink our mission and our work.
We founded The Issue with a singular goal: to share the important stories that we don’t talk about enough. These are, by definition, stories of trauma and oppression, and though our goal was - we believe - noble and well-intentioned, the Issues that we have curated over the last nine months have been centered on a largely-white narrative. Less than 30% of our essays were written by authors of color (and even fewer by Black authors). On our social media channels, we can do better to share more artwork and graphics by artists of color, and provide more resources and information targeting the unique experiences of the Black community.
None of this is to say that the stories that we’ve shared have been less valuable or less true. They are all completely valuable, and valued, and important. The trauma is still real and valid. But we must start acknowledging that other trauma is different, and often greater.
About 23% of sexual assault victims go to the police - a staggeringly low figure. Of Black women who experience sexual assault, only six percent report to the police. (You can read more details and history about Black women and sexual violence here.)
Of the many (too, too many) transgender people murdered in the United States last year, 91% of them were Black trans women. (HRC has more statistics, and the National Center for Transgender Equality has further information and resources.)
On average, about 43% of Americans with mental illness receive treatment each year. In the Black community, only 30% of those with mental illness are treated. Black patients are also less likely to be believed and are more often misdiagnosed by mental health professionals and other doctors. (Read more from NAMI.)
Police killed 1,098 people in 2019. Black people are three times as likely to be killed as white people. Police brutality shows absolutely no correlation to the crime rate in a given area. (Mapping Police Violence provides a good summary of some of these statistics.)
There is a common cliche referring to children “not born racist,” referring to the idea that we are only taught racism as we grow, and that if we had it our way, we’d likely grow up happy little lovers of equality and the world would be at peace. And then there is the other, more realistic perspective that it does not matter whether we are born without racism, because we are born into a racist system.
We are born, even those of us with well-intentioned, not outwardly-racist white parents, into a world that tells us from the start that we deserve more than our Black friends and neighbors. And no, the system is not “broken”; it was constructed with great purpose and intent, through centuries and across countless governments and changes, until it became - or rather, remained - what it is today.
George Floyd was special but not unusual. He was a wake up call that should not have been. We’ve had the privilege to wait this many centuries, and so now, we beg you: do not go back to where you were before George Floyd. We have watched so many of you listen and educate and work to be better. We beg you to continue that work.
You have the privilege to stop, if you’d like. Please don’t. Lean into the guilt you’re feeling. The shame. The anger. We know. We've been feeling it, too. But what you’ve experienced these last few weeks is nothing compared to lifetimes of oppression. You’ll be fine.
Racism is not just hate. It is also privilege and easy access, paired with ignorance and apathy. It is having all that you have without uplifting those that do not.
Racism is white people with platforms - be they celebrities, politicians, business owners, community leaders, or family members - not using their spaces to amplify Black voices. Racism is settling for optical allyship, (a practice that only serves the “ally” - read more here) instead of understanding what real allyship means, and acting on it.
Racism is not being intentional with where you shop, what you read, what you watch, and who you follow. It is centering narratives of social justice around yourself and other white people, and it is the ability to become enraged by a horrific murder, and then forget about it the next week.
We cannot forget about George Floyd. We cannot forget about Emmett Till and Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery and Trayvon Martin and Tony McDade and Riah Milton and Rem’mie Fells and too many dozens of others.
We’re planning to do our part at The Issue. We will work with greater focus and intention to uplift Black and other POC voices in our essays, RANTS, and artwork. We have increased the representation in the art, graphics, and resources shared on our social media from about 25% to 75% created by people of color. We will not publish any new Issues without including (at the very least) relevant resources and information specifically addressing the manifestation of that week’s topic in Black and other POC communities.
And finally, we pledge to no longer avoid the issues that we fear to be too “political.” If it’s important, we will always talk about it, no matter how sticky, how awkward, how much it might scare white people away. Black lives matter.
We ask you to join us, and encourage you to do a few things:
And a few tips to guide you along the way:
As we move forward together, we hope you will reach out with any questions or suggestions. Being anti-racist is not about being perfect; it’s about trying to be better, starting with ourselves. Go on and put your white privilege on the line. We will make big changes if we all make small changes.
Black lives matter.
The Issue Newsletter