After four years of overt presidential investments in white supremacy, misogyny, ableism, transphobia, and xenophobia, it seems we are finally up for some degree of respite. (If you need a reminder, McSweeney has a list of 967 atrocities that can be found here.) It is worth remembering the constant state of rhetorical and material violence we have all been subject to for the past four years, violence that, as COVID-19 death rates have shown, drastically and disproportionately affects communities of color, Indigenous communities, and the poor and working class.
We do not say all this to present Joe Biden as the “answer” to the structural violence Trump has made hyper-visible throughout his time in office. Trump is and has always been the symptom, not the cause, of a heightened need for white people to protect white supremacy. A Biden presidency will not end the systemic and structural cruelty that disproportionately targets the Black community, and the President and Vice President-Elect will need to be held accountable. However, now is a time to shift our energy and focus. Grassroots organizers have spent the past four years putting out Trump’s fires, which severely limited their capacity to change the environment that caused them. And an incoming Biden-Harris administration presents an opportunity for all of us to move forward and refocus on the goal of addressing the systems that allowed for such violence. The Black Lives Matter movement began under a Democratic presidency, and the fight for Black lives will continue under the Biden-Harris administration. As members of White People 4 Black Lives, we will continue to follow the leadership of Black organizers in Los Angeles, and below, we provide some suggestions as to how white people can get ready for the ongoing fight for racial justice and do the same.
Before we get there though, we will take a moment to celebrate the amazing wins for L.A. County this election, almost all of which have been led by L.A. Black organizers to whom we offer our deep gratitude!
- The Re-Imagine L.A. Coalition organized the county passing Measure J, which permanently commits a minimum of 10% of our county’s unrestricted funds toward community programs and services, and alternatives to incarceration.
- Initiate Justice’s organizing passed Prop 17, restoring voting rights to all people who have completed their jail and prison sentences.
- JusticeLA and collaborating orgs ensured the failure of Prop 20 and Prop 25, stopping the imposition of harsher criminal sentencing and the replacement of cash bail with racist algorithms which would have led to higher rates of pretrial incarceration.
- BLM LA’s Jackie Lacey Must Go Campaign has succeeded and got DA Jackie Lacey out of office after 8 years of her refusal to prosecute for the deaths of 626 LA residents at the hands of law enforcement officers. The new Los Angeles DA, George Gascon, has claimed he will reopen cases and has arranged to meet with families of those who have been killed by law enforcement. BLM-LA will continue to lead work to hold the D.A. accountable.
- DSA-LA and Team Nithya’s organizing has led to Nithya Raman, who ran on a progressive, care-first oriented platform, being voted in as the new LA City Council representative in CD4.
All of these wins are the result of years of organizing, hard work, and community building. They are proof positive that when we organize in community, we have the power to transform our city, our county, and our state for the better, which will ultimately have a positive impact reaching far beyond the local level.
It’s also important to acknowledge the South’s rich and longstanding tradition of Black grassroots organizers, as well as Black people organizing in other regions of the country, and how instrumental their efforts were in delivering the White House to Joe Biden as well as other national wins:
- Stacey Abrams and her organizations, Fair Fight and the New Georgia Project, successfully led the fight to flip Georgia blue.
- Black Voters Matter has been engaged in community outreach in the south, and across the country, long before the election.
- Milwaukee, Wisconsin: Metcalfe Park Community Bridges and Black Leaders Organizing for Communities: these intensive organizing efforts were driven by Black women after witnessing the devastating results of voter suppression in 2016. These groups were in the trenches during Covid, going door to door, and arranging online meetups.
- And countless other Black-led groups and political action committees: the Electoral Justice Project, Higher Heights for America, and Raising Our Sisters’ Electability, to name only a few.
Now, for some action items moving forward in a post-Trump world:
- Protect the validity of this win. Joe Biden and Kamala Harris won this election with a mandate. Still, we will need to be vigilant and speak out against state-sanctioned abuses, including pro-Trump actions that turn violent. Check out our 2020 post-election response page for ways to plug in. SURJ National also has a list of post-election calls to action, including ways to get involved in ballot curing in Georgia.
- Resist the urge to slip back into complacency. A change in leadership doesn’t mean a change in a government that was designed to uphold white supremacy. Over 70 million Americans voted for another four years of Trump, more than the number of Americans who voted for him in 2016. Engage with white friends and family and hold them accountable, especially the ones who got activated over the summer during the uprisings.
- Get involved in local politics. This is where change happens, and you can take the lead from Black and POC-led organizations such as Black Lives Matter Los Angeles to engage in their multi-racial calls to action. Call your local politicians and offices. Write letters. Phone bank. Call city council meetings. Make it very clear that elected officials work for us, the people, and that they know what our priorities are. If you live in Los Angeles, consider signing up for JusticeLA’s action alerts, which will plug you directly into weekly local actions
- Join a group! White People 4 Black Lives is just one of many organizations you can get involved in to fight for causes you care about — and doing this work with a group is so much easier (and more effective) than trying to go it alone. Guidance and support are not only helpful but necessary. You can register here for one of our upcoming White People 4 Black Lives orientations, or find your local chapter of Showing Up for Racial Justice here.
Though we still have to keep up the fight, we also want to celebrate the end of a blatantly racist, violent administration that impacted our most vulnerable fellow Americans. And we are committed to continuing to do the hard work of dismantling white supremacy here in Los Angeles County and beyond.
For further reading/watching:
This video from the Movement 4 Black Lives
This statement from Black Lives Matter
This piece was written as a collaborative effort by members of White People 4 Black Lives. WP4BL is a white anti-racist collective and activist project of the Alliance of White Anti-Racists Everywhere (AWARE-LA) and operates within a national network of white anti-racists called Showing Up for Racial Justice. WP4BL is rooted in acting in solidarity with Black Lives Matter: Los Angeles. Visit www.awarela.org and follow us @wp4bl.