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#BlackLivesMatter – How to Be an Accomplice

You’ve likely heard it said, as have I, that it’s not enough to proclaim to be anti-racist, you have to DO stuff that supports such a proclamation. Otherwise, it’s rather meaningless to make any proclamation at all. You know, that whole actions speak louder than words thing.

You have to speak up. You have to take a stand. You have to be an ally. You have to help bring about change that is needed even when it’s easier to sit back, keep quiet and let others do the hard work.

You might want to read, I Will Be an Ally for my Friends with Metastatic Breast Cancer. Always.

Having empathy is necessary and a good place to start, but no, it’s not enough.

You have to be an accomplice.

But how?

#BlackLivesMatter How to be an accomplice #advocacy #socialchange #injustice #disparity #healthcare #breastcancer

Advocacy is often an uncomfortable role. You put yourself out there. You write stuff. You say stuff. You take risks. You do stuff you perhaps wouldn’t normally do. You support others who are doing the same and even more uncomfortable stuff than you are doing.

You know you’ll say and do the wrong things at times, but you keep at it. You keep trying because the reason you’re advocating is so much bigger than you.

Being an advocate in Pink Ribbon Fantasy Land was hard at first. It took me a while to find my footing, to find my voice. Pushing back on the rah-rah sort of advocacy that’d been going on for decades made me uncomfortable at first. It no longer does. Well, not as much or as often anyway.

I am comfortable in my own advocacy skin, so to speak.

There is so much noise in the world right now. Call me cynical, but I wonder how many white people are protesting because they are more about show than the substance. They want to say, look at me. I am one of the good ones.

Then again, who am I to judge anyone’s motives? Shouldn’t we all want to be “one of the good ones”?

Of course.

Calling myself an advocate in the Black Lives Matter movement makes me uncomfortable. Even writing and publishing this post made me uncomfortable. Why I’m not entirely sure. I’m changing lanes or something. But I’m really not. Breast cancer, healthcare, disparity, politics and yes, even racism, they are all intertwined.

Still, I don’t feel “qualified” because I’m not black. And yet I am qualified. So are you. We all are because we’re all human beings.

This blog is my platform. I want to do more. Exactly what, I’m not even sure. But I am a good listener. I’m an educator at heart, and I can start by educating myself. I’m embarrassed to admit I knew little about Juneteenth and the massacre that took place in the Greenwood district of Tulsa, Oklahoma in 1921. I don’t recall learning about either in history classes.

Not talking about segments of our history because those parts make us uncomfortable is not okay.

Ten years ago, I didn’t know much of anything about advocating in Breast Cancer Land and no, I’m not comparing the two realms of advocacy; I’m comparing the learning part. My learning part anyway.

I’m hoping to learn as I go along in this advocacy realm too.

I’m pretty sure it’s gonna take all of us to bring about the change that’s been coming but at the same time, not coming for generations now.

Why does meaningful, much-needed change often take so long to happen anyway?

Well, that is a topic for another day.

One thing I know for certain is that disparity and yes, racism exists in Cancer Land too. Black women (and men) are diagnosed at later stages more often than white women. More black women die from breast cancer than white women. Black women make up only 6% of breast cancer related clinical trials. Access to healthcare is not equal. A lot of things are not equal.

There is a lot of disparity, inequity or whatever you want to call it across the board.

I was born and grew up in the Midwest. I still live there. I was raised in a small town that didn’t have any black people at all living there. There were Hispanics and yes, I remember disparaging comments made about them.

I remember the Civil Rights Movement. I vaguely remember George Wallace being on TV saying Lord knows what. I remember listening to Walter Cronkite talk about desegregation, busing, and various other stuff that was hard to make sense of as a child. I never understood why white kids didn’t want black kids in their schools. There was a lot I did not understand. There still is.

I never had to worry about a lot of stuff because I happened to be born white. White privilege is real, and there’s no need to get defensive about that fact. There is so much I do not understand because my experience is not the same as anyone’s of course, but it is definitely not the same as that of a person of color.

But I am here. I am listening. Sure, there is a lot I cannot do. But there is a lot I can do.

First of all, I care. I can empathize. I can listen. I can learn. I can speak out when the need arises. I can defend. I can support those doing the heavy lifting. I can be uncomfortable. I can make mistakes. I can do better. I can encourage others to do better too. After all, even the small things you and I do make a difference.

Below are a few basic, easy things you can do if you want to be an accomplice:

1. Listen. No, I mean really listen. Care enough to listen. Listen enough to care. Then, figure out what YOU can DO.

2. Visit and explore the #BlackLivesMatter website.

3. Read, download and share the Accomplice Guide put out by my friends at For the Breast of Us.

4. Educate yourself. Reflect upon your values and examine your past actions. Make changes if needed. Start discussions with others. Lots of resources are listed here.

5. Help amplify voices of those doing the heavy lifting any way you can. For example: follow individuals and organizations supporting change to end systemic racism on social media. Share their stuff. March. Donate.

6. When you witness racism, call it out. Silence is not an option.

7. Vote for candidates who best support your values even if they’re not perfect because guess what, there are no perfect candidates.

8. Voting is not the end of your responsibility. Followup with your elected officials. Call them. Email them. Write to them. Do it when they fall short, mess up AND when they do things right.

9. Read and take the Inclusion Pledge.

I will keep adding things to this list. Share your ideas with a comment below. Thank you in advance.

I can be an ally.

I can be, no, I will be an accomplice too.

What about you?

If you like this post, why not share it?

Above featured Minneapolis photo by Fibonacci Blue via Flickr.

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How do YOU intend to be an accomplice?

Do you have an example of disparity and/or racism you’ve experienced that you’d like to share about?

What suggestions do you have to add to the above list?

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27 thoughts to “#BlackLivesMatter – How to Be an Accomplice”

  1. Wonderful post Nancy and I agree…what can I do, what will I do? Talk is cheap. Action is necessary. I am educating myself and making resources available to others. Understanding what it means to come from white privilege. Attending peaceful protests/marches. As you say, so much starts with listening, just listening with an open mind and heart, patience and compassion. As fellow Minnesotan Prince said “Compassion is an action word with no boundaries.”
    Thank you!

    1. Lisa, Action is necessary indeed. Otherwise, it’s just more or less lip service. It’s the same with any sort of advocacy. And action can be as simple as listening. Prince was definitely onto something with that statement. Truth. That’s what that was/is. Thank you for reading and taking time to share some thoughts. Hope you’re well.

  2. I am very disappointed by this.

    The information on Nancy’s Point has always been about advocacy for breast cancer and associated health issues. Advocacy I appreciate. But jumping into a political stew like #BlackLivesMatter is way outside any lane I would expect for Nancy’s Point, even if the intent is to raise awareness of and express support for breast cancer treatment in Black communities.

    This (my disappointment) is not about race in any way. It’s about the politics of a radical group masquarading as an advocate for change. And while this organization may have started with positive strides towards social change–the original ‘manifesto’ describes it as an organized movement advocating for non-violent civil disobedience in protest, it’s now been highjacked as an instrument for radical Marxist/Socialist revolution that uses Black communities. Instead of promoting positive community action and symbiosis, the funds donated to BLM since its inception in 2016 and managed by George Soro’s Open Society Foundations (over $100M), have gone toward stirring up anger and inciting violence. Instead of encouraging open dialogue and character-driven community relations and activisim, as MLK, Jr. advocated, the current iteration of BLM targets the most vulnerable, encourages race-baiting, promotes identity socialism and a narrative of them-or-us-racism, and takes advantage of good people of all races.

    I’m all for promoting the actions and information available in the “For the Breast of Us” site, it’s worth the time and effort to read and reflect on, but the messaging of BLM I can not support.

    1. All of us agree with Black Lives Matter but the movement has been hijacked by the Black Lives Matter organization, which is a Marxist/communist group intent on overthrowing our current government — read their manifesto on their website. Very disappointed that this website is ignorant of that fact and then continues to support that organization without fully investigating it. I personally do not want my breast cancer issue lumped in with another political movement, especially one that is using the initial reason for its existence to overthrow our government and current way of life. I am not a racist, never been and am offended that this website is partaking in furthering the fallacy that America, Caucasian’s and police (black or white) are inherently racist and horrible people.
      Wise up America to where we are being led by the far left progressive (Marxist) movement…

      1. Pat, I’m sorry you are offended by my website. Perhaps it’s not for you. It’s never my intention to offend. My intention, as always, is to open up and promote open-minded dialogue. It’s important to face hard realities. It’s important to listen to what communities in need are saying they need. This is a time for critical listening. To clarify, I am not suggesting that America, Caucasians or police are inherently racist or horrible people. To say that I am suggesting such a thing is a misrepresentation of my post. My best to you. Stay well.

    2. Hey Nancy, I know this subject is near and dear to your heart and it’s so beyond obvious that our world, maybe especially our country, is long overdue for major changes. I grew up in N.J. and so many of my friends were those of color or Jewish, now I live in Montana where there is a large population of Native Americans. I’ve never once in my life felt better than anyone, and I hate to think how hard it must be to be a minority in America. I think we all have to find our own way to make the changes happen. Thanks for giving us this to think about!

      1. Donna, “I think we all have to find our own way to make the changes happen.” I love that. You sound like a very caring person. Living in Montana must be quite different than living in New Jersey. Then again, people are people. And really, isn’t that the whole point of all this? Thank you so much for reading and for adding to this discussion. x

    3. Connie, I am sorry you are disappointed. As I mentioned, issues are intertwined (they usually are), and that is why I jumped into this particular “political stew”. I didn’t find anything on the BLM website to be in any way offensive or to support what you’re suggesting the goal of BLM is. The conspiracy theory you mentioned I’m pretty sure has been debunked. I do not support violence, and any suggestion that I am promoting it or radical Marxism is just not true. I support equality and the end of disparities that are so apparent and so harmful to certain people – my fellow Americans – in countless aspects of society. I wrote this post to help shine a light specifically on the disparities that exist even regarding breast cancer outcomes and such. It is your right, of course, to support whomever and whatever organizations you choose. It’s also my right to speak my mind on my blog, and I stand by my words and the suggestions I offered to help bring much needed change. I might add, even if you disagree with a post or two (or more), I’m not sure that has to negate the positive advocacy that you said you do appreciate here. But if it does, again, that is up to you. Regardless, I wish you all the best. Thank you for reading. As always, I welcome all views and comments.

      1. Nancy, One of the hallmarks of both intellectual pursuit, and our Republic, is the power of debate to expose issues, air viewpoints, and reach informed consensus.

        This is your blog, it’s not my desire to debate you. I will, however, counter one point you raised. I am a ‘facts-based’ individual. I was trained in science and research, but spent over half of my life as an intelligence officer trained to observe and understand the motivations and actions of foreign adversaries (governments/militaries and individuals). I am not a conspiracy theorist. I have read the BLM manifesto, listened to the BLM leadership, and observed their actions. It all adheres to Marxist/Socialist doctrine with one major exception; traditional Marxist/Socialist doctrine incourages class struggle–the proletariat vs the bourgeoisie–but BLM doctrine simply substitutes that class conflict with identity politics/conflict–perceived marginalization vs perceived priviledge. Just picking out “the good parts” of BLM doesn’t negate the harm of “the bad parts” which, at the moment, good people are blind to. All lives unjustly lost deserve justice.

        1. Connie, I stand by my words. I certainly don’t disagree with your last sentence. That’s sorta the whole point of BLM and the present movement. Take care.

      1. Eileen, What would be the right venue? This blog is my platform for advocacy. Cancer is a political issue. Healthcare is a political issue. Disparity and racism are political issues. I will try to shine a light on disparity and racism that exist in Breast Cancer Land and elsewhere whenever I can. I will continue to speak out about any issue that is important to me, political hot potato or not. My best to you.

  3. Wow. Nancy! You stirred up a hornet’s nest this time. I was not at all offended by your BLM post, in fact, I was glad to see it. To the person who wrote about “my” breast cancer issue, wake up. The breast cancer ISSUE affects ALL women, whether they have breast cancer, just know someone who does/ did, or they fear getting a diagnosis at some point in their lives. Women of any and ALL colors, creeds,etc..
    We are or should be one in the cancer “fight”, and in the fight for equality and justice. I do not and will not believe that Nancy has any intention of spreading Marxist points of view. You are way too sensitive, and easily triggered. To sit back and not speak up in the face of injustice is cowardice, and I know Nancy, and every woman who fought or fights cancer is brave. We have to be brave…..Bravo, Nancy!

    1. Lynda, I’m glad you were not offended and that you are, in fact, supportive of this post’s messages. I appreciate you taking time to let me know that. Thank you so much for reading and also for articulating your thoughts and views with such clarity.

  4. I liked your post and I thoroughly understand being an Ally. I have to admit that the use of the word Accomplice threw me off for a minute. I worked at a small college in the office of Multicultural Programs and am well aware of Black Lives Matters, etc. Here’s my thing: I personally cannott handle ALL of it. And if that makes me people upset with me, so be it. I choose to advocate for breast cancer and mental illness. I am passionate about those two things and try to be aware and educated about other issues. But there are so many issues that my unfortunately small brain and my mental health cannot handle it all. And frankly, working with social justice issues did not do my health any good. So I chose. IF someone wants to do it all, I applaud them. Listening and advocating in any of the social justice arenas is a wonderful thing to do. But, please, be passionate about what it is you want to advocate for (or be an accomplice for.

    1. Linda, I’m glad you liked it. I borrowed the word “accomplice’ from my friends at For the Breast of Us as I love the title of their guide. Your primary job as a person with stage 4 bc is to take care of yourself, and you know what your personal boundaries are as far as how much you can do. I know you care about social issues too and try to stay informed. I don’t think anyone can do it all. I sure can’t. But the things I put in my list are really pretty easy and can make a difference. It’s wonderful you are also an advocate for mental health. Thank you for reading and taking time to share some thoughts.

  5. Dear Nancy,
    Thank you once again for writing yet another provacative post and I fully support your view.
    Empathy, a real good place to start. That is why I stop by here now and then. Thank you Nancy.
    We all desire empathy. But we all don’t know how to provide it. I was starting to see more and more
    of it due to this darn pandemic. I thought for sure that as a world of people, all kinds of people,
    we might actually evolve into more empathetic beings and were trying to watch out for each other.
    It is a helluva a way to learn this lesson, but sometimes, sadly, that is what it takes.
    But in times like these, we need leadership that provides empathy, unity and support for all,
    with a clear and honest plan of action for all the people, so we can all work together to survive.
    That still hasn’t happened.
    Yet, look at all the different color people who took to the streets.
    Wearing their masks and carrying their children and signs.
    Every person feeling like a leader, feeling like they had some kind of control.
    Feeling like they belonged to the human race,
    no matter what color they were
    no matter where they came from
    no matter how much money they made
    no matter who they voted for
    no matter what sex they were…
    they were there to say something important,
    with a clear and honest call for action,
    with one very loud voice,
    they had had enough…..
    It was just too bad that certain individuals took advantage of the events and
    caused destruction. It is now too bad that certain individuals are looking for
    more trouble by sowing lies and conspiracy theories that continue to cause
    damage and spread untrue fearmongering with disinformation on social media.
    It is kind of funny how you can get 10 people to read the same thing,
    watch the same thing or look at the same website
    and get so many very different opinions or views.
    Actually, it can also be kinda scary….
    But, hopefully….the tide is turning and real change has begun.
    I will do my best to be a part of that change.

    1. Tarzangela, Your comment is so insightful. Empathy is certainly at the heart of what’s needed, as is the case with any cause a person advocates for. I love how you described the different people who came (and still come) together with an honest call for action. As is always the case, there will be a some individuals who take advantage of events and situations. There are always ulterior motives at play. We can’t let ourselves be distracted with all that. I think the tide is turning regarding these social injustice issues and as you said, real change has begun. Just hope it doesn’t take too long. We all have to do our best to be part of positive change. Thank you for reading and sharing your valuable insights. Hope you’re well.

  6. Dear Nancy,
    It was nearly three years ago that I was sitting in a chemo unit with a needle in arm as the nurse quizzed me about the usual: Have you been out of the country? Have you fallen? We all know the drill. I was seated with my research papers before me, spread out on the little lap table. The nurse, looked down at my papers and remarked at how hard it must be to read the documents. “That must be some really old papers.” Before I could answer she swooped up one of the letters and said, “Wow! I can hardly read this. It’s in long hand!”
    “It’s from 1869,” I told her in annoyance and shock, “it’s my Great uncle’s papers from the Civil War.
    I reached up and took the document from her hand, “My uncle was a soldier in that war.”
    “I love that history! My husband and I visited the Avenue of the Monuments in Richmond, and it was so beautiful. It’s stunning.”
    “My uncle was a Union soldier. He was 17 years old when he ran away from the plantation…”
    “I don’t know why they are trying to destroy our history,” she interrupted.
    “I don’t think anyone is trying to destroy your history!”
    “Oh yes, they are! Everywhere you look they’re trying to destroy our history!”
    “Those monuments can be housed in a museum.”
    “A museum?! A museum?! Are you kidding me?! That’s our history and it does not belong in a museum!”
    “Yes, they do!”
    “No, they don’t!”
    “Who ever heard of the loser of anything getting the glory?! The Confederacy lost the war! There should not be any statues honoring them. They fought against the United States! That’s a crime!”
    “Those poor boys fought and died for their beliefs and they should be honored! And nobody wants to honor them! It’s just crazy what’s going on in our country right now! We can’t even say the “N” word.”
    “The “N” word?! The “N” word?! What are you even talking about? I thought we were talking about Confederate monuments!”
    “Well, it’s all one big, ball of wax!”
    “No! It’s not one big ball of wax! How did you make that leap?! What are on earth are you trying to say?!
    I am not exactly sure how we ended the conversation. I do know that three years later her voice, her sentiments and her face that had turned beet red by then, have stayed with me and cause my head to ache in regret about the things I wished I’d said to her.
    I walked out of that appointment with limbs and a heart heavier than when I’d entered. I made it through the fog that was my thoughts and sat in my car to write what I remembered. I was shaking. Why hadn’t I just given her a piece of my mind? Why did I not call for security?! Why didn’t any of the other nurses come to my aid. I believe there was only one other in the suite that day, but I knew she heard us. She had to. The anti-nurse was loud and grew louder with each utterance of defense.
    If you ask me why I didn’t just report her to her superior, I will know that you are not black. I am. I am discernably black and I knew better. I still had a couple months more of chemo and then radiation to go. Co-workers protect one another. There would be no repercussion except for me.
    I write this because I’d like those of you who do not know to know that there is not one category of life in this country that is not touched by race. Not one. From housing, to banking, to shopping, to health care to education, to the environment, to birding, to music…you name it, race is there and it’s legacy is a negative for black people.
    I applaud you, Nancy, for stepping up in your own life which is this forum. I am 66 years old and helped to integrate a Catholic All girls school in my small, Louisiana town in the late 60s. I marvel at far we have come. I sit in disgust and disbelief at far this country still has to go.
    ***Apologies for writing a second time.

    1. Rosalind, Thank you for sharing that chemo experience with such detail. Really eye-opening. You’re so right about racism impacting every aspect of life for black people. I don’t know how to fix things, but I am listening. I applaud YOU for speaking your truth. Second comments are always welcome. 🙂

  7. This is my first time reading this website. It was recommended to me by a survivor friend now that my mom has been diagnosed with stage 1 breast cancer. I gotta say, I’m impressed. It takes a lot of courage to make this post, at this time, knowing the backlash you’ll get. As Black woman, I just want to say THANK YOU. Sending loving and healing vibes. 🙂

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