Tired of asking, “What can I do?” or “How can I be helpful?”
At times, you are asking how you can uplift marginalized voices. That is the most productive question; lead with that first. However, in most situations, the underlying request is “Tell me how to be a good person” or “Tell me how to not offend.”
When people ask these questions, I typically begin a discussion — a discussion that begins with Do your homework and fumble around a bit. Or, perhaps, Hold tightly to the idea that being an accomplice is tough work. Or, I might start with You must assume some of the risk and use your privilege strategically. Or simply Follow the lead of the marginalized voices you care deeply about. No matter how I begin, I’ll be there awhile.
So, for the sake of time — our time, my time — I have created a simple list of 25 steps to justice. And… for only $14.99, I will give you the secret on what the heck you (we) can do as privileged people to make this world better. It’s a pretty good deal, I think. After all, there are just 25 steps.
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Have you entered your credit card information yet? Okay, I trust that you have. And I know what you’re thinking: The audacity to charge for such information! Ugh!
Step 1. Think. Educate yourself.
Step 2. Listen.
Step 3. Listen more.
Step 4. Refrain from getting defensive.
Step 5. Give the oppressed space to speak their truth and voice their needs.
Step 6. Reiterate their voices by using your resources to inspire action amongst the dominant group.
Step 7. Listen again.
Step 8. Challenge and educate other dominant group members.
Step 9. Act.
Step 10. Educate yourself more.
Step 11. Take risks.
Step 12. Assume the consequences for taking the above risks.
Step 13. Fail.
Step 14. Cry if you must, but be wary of derailing the conversation to appease your tears.
Step 15. Try again.
Step 16. Fail again.
Step 17. Be creative.
Step 18. Try again.
Step 19. Fail again.
Step 20. More “non-derailing” tears.
Step 21. Try again. Develop your own boundaries.
Step 22. Achieve small win.
Step 23. Celebrate victory very quickly.
Step 24. Engage in accurate self-assessment of the process.
Step 25. Do it again.
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Cody Charles serves as an Associate Director for Academic Enrichment in the Office of Multicultural Affairs at the University of Kansas. He has a passion for topics on social justice and leadership and identifies as a justice seeker. He writes occasionally and loves talking about everything pop culture; film, reality television, and Beyoncé are some of his favorite topics. Join him for more conversation on twitter. His handle is @_codykeith_. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org if you have specific questions about his work.
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[Headline image: The photograph shows a set of stairs that are gray, orange, and black. A person is walking up the stairs; the left beige sole of the person’s brown sneaker is visible, along with the right foot, which is stepping on the stair below.]