working for change is dangerous for people of color, they should be paid

This past weekend, Shay Stewart-Bouley (aka “Black Girl In Maine“) was co-facilitating a discussion about cross-racial communication with her colleague and friend, Debbie Irving. A white man arrived at the event with the intention of stirring things up, believing his point would not be well-received. You can read more about the event, and what happened, here, and about Shay’s response here. The fact is, every time Shay speaks out about racism, she is putting herself in harm’s way. This is not an exaggeration. It’s not just uncomfortable work, it’s dangerous. She gets death threats regularly.

When I saw some news coverage of this hostile man’s disruption at what was meant to be an honest dialogue about improving communication, I was furious. I wrote a letter to the editor (you can read that here) because the piece, as Shay said, shares all kinds of thoughts the hostile white man had and the reporter didn’t even interview Shay to get her take on it. She is the one who was put in a position where she didn’t feel safe (based on life experience she had reason to know the man might snap at any time), but the reporter did not tell the story from her point of view.

I’m writing this post to remind my white readers, my white friends and peers, that there’s a lot we can do to make our country a better place to live for people of color. One simple thing we can do is to contribute financially to the work done by people of color like Shay (and the writers she pays) who not only share their ideas, their life experiences, but they also risk their physical and mental health if they openly work against racism.

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