This Is on Us: 7 Things for White People to Commit to Right Now to Protect Black Lives from the Police

George Floyd was murdered on May 25, 2020, and we stand in unequivocal support of the protests and uprisings that have swept the US since that day, and against the unconscionable violence of the police and US state. We can’t continue with business as usual, which includes celebrating Pride. This week, Autostraddle is suspending our regular schedule to focus on content related to this struggle, the fight against white supremacy and the fight for Black lives and Black futures. Instead, we’re publishing and re-highlighting work by and for Black queer and trans folks speaking to their experiences living under white supremacy and the carceral state, and work calling white people to material action.

no justice. no pride.


The past few weeks have been uniquely heartbreaking amidst an already unprecedentedly deadly year. In the middle of a global pandemic that’s already disproportionately impacted Black and Indigenous Americans, a series of killings of Black people by the police have wracked the nation (and world) with grief. From the death of Ahmaud Arbery to Breonna Taylor to the attempted killing of Christian Cooper and the murder in police custody of George Floyd, the loss has been literally unarticulable. Since the news of George Floyd broke, we’ve also lost Tony McDade in Tallahassee, and Regis Korchinksi-Paquet in Toronto. For the past two days, South Minneapolis has been inundated with tear gas, rubber and live rounds, gunshots and helicopters as citizens protest the killing of George Floyd at the hands of Derek Chauvin, an officer who already has a dozen complaints and multiple deaths while on duty a to his name. The Washington Post’s police shooting database shows no meaningful drop in police violence since the beginning of the pandemic, when public life effectively stopped; take a moment to imagine how much effort must be expended on targeting the very few people who are out in public for that number to have remained consistent. Already, the focus in mainstream white media and among many white social circles has become ‘the destruction of private property,’ figuring corporations as victims who deserve the protection of the state more than its citizens, and dismissing the loss of George Floyd as an inevitable tragedy that one shouldn’t overreact to. It should go without saying this is unconscionable.

It’s a sad coincidence — or maybe not — that this impossible week also contained the death of Larry Kramer, founder of ACT UP and notoriously difficult person. His obituary in the New York Times, a paper with which he had had longstanding conflict, described him as “abusive,” which was later redacted to “aggressive” and then “confrontational.” Kramer was many things, and confrontational was absolutely one of them; he built a movement around the belief that when lives are on the line, there is no choice but to take action, even (or especially) if it means you will be considered unpleasant. Lives are on the line right now; far too many Black lives have already been lost to state violence, lives of people deeply loved that could never be replaced or made up for by ten thousand Target branches. As of our last reader-facing survey done in 2019, over 80% of those who took it self-identified as white; to those people, this violence is being done in your name, and mine. It’s our responsibility, then, not just to renounce it but to take on the responsibility of ending it.

The pandemic has many of us feeling, in some ways accurately, that we’re helpless, or that there’s nothing we can do. The good news is, there is; there always has been. To that end, I’d like to use this day and this space to ask you, a white person reading this, to make a public and material commitment to what you’ll do to work to end state violence and the endless targeting of Black people by the police apparatus. Whoever you are, regardless of your resources, ability or current knowledge, there are absolutely things you can be doing to help build a different world, and if you’ve never been asked to do so before, I’m asking now. We’ve compiled resources and guideposts for where to get started, and there are so many people doing this work and who have been for generations; you will never be alone in working for this future. When you’ve read through them, I’d ask you to make a statement in your community, on your social media, on this website, wherever you have a role and a voice, to share what you’re committing to work on — and if you can, directly ask at least one other person in your life to join you. There is so much that we can’t do and can’t heal right now; this is one thing we can. Here’s how.

1. Donate directly to local MN initiatives and groups doing the work

In Minneapolis, there are several established groups on the ground who are already working to bail protestors out of jail, treat people injured by the police, support George Floyd’s surviving family, and defund the police and redistribute those resources to serve the community. Giving what you can do them and calling on wealthy people in your life to do the same makes a huge difference – you can also set a monthly recurring donation to give sustainably and longterm, and not just in crisis.

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+ Minnesota Freedom Fund bail fund

+ North Star street medic collective

+ Reclaim the Block grassroots community organizing

+ Black Visions Collective, Black-led community-centered transformative justice

+ Confirmed fund for George Floyd’s family

There will also be financial needs in the days to come — already people are being reported missing from the Minneapolis protests; some people will need longterm medical care from their injuries, and likely many people will be impacted by COVID in the coming days as well; if you can continue to give, directly to individuals if possible, you’ll be helping sustain a grieving community.

2. Financially support initiatives in your area

Your area likely has something similar to the Minnesota Freedom Fund, a bail fund that helps pay people’s bail and free them as soon as possible so they aren’t caged in jail awaiting trial endlessly during a pandemic. Cash bail, the system whereby people charged with a crime must pay for their freedom or remain caged even before they’re convicted, is responsible for a huge amount of violence and trauma within the system of mass incarceration; Kaleif Browder’s story, in which he spent three years at Rikers without ever being convicted after being arrested at 16 and who later died by suicide, is an example of the violence the system causes. Use the National Bail Fund Network to find a bail fund in your area and get involved in supporting it today; bail funds literally save lives.

3. Support incarcerated people directly

In addition to the murder victims of police violence, mass incarceration harms the millions of people in the US currently in prison. To actively support and be in community with LGBT incarcerated people, look into organizations like LGBT Books to Prisoners, Black and Pink, and the Transgender Gender-Variant & Intersex Justice Project — all work to distribute resources, care and community connection to individual incarcerated people directly. You can support these institutions financially; you can also donate AND look into whether it’s possible to get involved with their work locally. Think about ways you can build relationships with the incarcerated people in your area as members of your community, and understand further how you can be in material solidarity with them.

4. Support those in your community who are targets for state violence and incarceration

Many marginalized communities are at extremely heightened risk of police violence, like sex workers, Indigenous people, disabled people, immigrants, and trans people — of course the risk is even greater when someone lives at multiple intersections of marginalization, especially for Black people within these groups. People are put at greatest risk of police contact when they’re lacking key resources; when someone’s well-resourced, they’re less likely to need to come into contact with police, and are safer. In what ways are the targeted people in your community uniquely at risk? In what ways can you use your unique privilege and social currency to shift change in those areas? Are the homeless shelters in your area gender-segregated with anti-trans policies, such that trans people seeking shelter are forced onto the street? Are there policing initiatives in your state to arrest people without masks, which will end up targeting poor people who need to go to work and don’t have access to PPE? Can you make calls, or distribute masks and gloves? Communities who have the resources they need don’t need to rely on police; what can you do to better resource yours? What organizations and grassroots projects led by members of impacted communities are already doing the work that you can support without trying to be a savior or reinvent the wheel?

5. Talk to white people in your life about decarceration and alternatives to police and jails

Many of our white friends & family are in a place of being upset by police violence, but not being sure what can be done about it — or to the extent they can imagine anything being done, it is only after the fact: body cams to prove force was excessive, pressing charges to convict someone of a death. These measures wouldn’t have kept George Floyd alive; they’re reactive, not constructive. It’s time to start talking to your loved ones about other potential futures; they won’t be able to support another way of doing things until they know it exists, and you can be the reason they do. There are a ton of resources you can draw on to start having conversations with people in your life about what it would look like not to just reform the police, but to build a different system; here are a few of them:

+ Critical Resistance Abolition Toolkit

+ An Introduction to Police Abolition

+ Building a Police-Free Future: Frequently Asked Questions

+ Policy Report: Investments in Public Safety Beyond Policing

+ Research Report: Public Investment in Community-Driven Safety Initiatives

+ Is Prison Necessary?

And some news stories:

+ The Pandemic Is the Right Time to Defund the Police

+ Defunding Police—How Antiracist Organizers Got Seattle to Listen

+ New York’s newest protesters are right: it’s time to defund police

+ The Case for Prison Abolition: Ruth Wilson Gilmore on COVID-19, Racial Capitalism & Decarceration

6. Get involved in defunding your local police and community initiatives that deserve the resources

One action many in Minneapolis are taking is calling the office Mayor James Frey about an upcoming special budget meeting, and calling on him to use it to withdraw funding from the police and redistribute it to the community; grassroots org Reclaim the Block is working to “move money from the police department into other areas of the city’s budget that truly promote community health and safety.” Even if you don’t have a similar org in your city (you might! Look into it!) you can get involved in the local politics of your community, which is where ultimately life-or-death budget decisions are made. Many Black activists have spent years going to town halls, city council meetings, and special budget sessions that are open to the public, fighting against the millions of dollars that could go to schools or healthcare instead being given to the police to buy military-grade weapons; imagine what an impact you can have doing the same thing as a white person in business casual clothing, using your social currency and respectability to the same end. Who makes the decisions about money and resources in your local government? What are their values? What information is publicly available, and what rooms can you get into? Especially if you focus on the hyperlocal – your town, your city, your county – these meetings are often open to the public and sparsely attended, meaning your voice can have a huge impact, and send a strong message to people whose jobs are determined by elections that you’re watching them. If you want less (or no) money for police departments and more money for affordable housing, community safety, or education, take accountability for making it happen. Remember that this work has been going on for a long time, and there are likely already people on the ground in your area making it happen; you don’t need to take it all on yourself or be a master organizer on day one, and you shouldn’t! Find out who is doing the work and show up to find out how you can put your privilege and your power to work.

7. Learn about and actively invest in solutions that don’t involve police; work to defund existing police departments

A world without police and police violence is more than possible; the more of us who talk about it as a reality and work toward it day to day, the more inevitable and realistic it becomes. Read the above resources in #5 for yourself, too; think about what role the police play in your community now, and what could change about it. In what situations do your community members feel unsafe? What if there were resources they could call on that would help them; what would those resources need to look like? Community accountability? A mental health crisis response with professional medical training? Community members with experience and confidence intervening in domestic violence? What would it take to create these resources in your community? This work is possible, and is being done; would recommend looking into the work of Mariame Kaba, Ruth Wilson Gilmore, Mia Mingus, Shira Hassan and Dean Spade.


What commitments can you make today about what you’ll do to make a safer world for Black Americans and all of us from state violence?

Rachel is Autostraddle's Managing Editor and the editor who presides over news & politics coverage. Originally from Boston, MA, Rachel now lives in the Midwest. Topics dear to her heart include bisexuality, The X-Files and tacos. Her favorite Ciara video is probably "Ride," but if you're only going to watch one, she recommends "Like A Boy." You can follow her on twitter and instagram.

Rachel has written 1120 articles for us.

34 Comments

  1. I was with you…until I got to abolish the police. I’m a prosecutor and I primarily do domestic violence, rape, and child sexual abuse cases. We need to support and partake in community programs to de-police a lot of things. But there are some things that every society over a certain size needs police for. We need massive, nation-wide reform. A total overhaul of training and policies, especially addressing racial bias. We need to change the system. But we can’t just drop criminal justice.

    An example: I had a case where a defendant strangled his partner. He was let out on bond, and he then strangled her to death. He needed to be arrested and incarcerated. I have had defendants who are serial child rapists. They cannot be allowed out in society.

    We need a smaller, better trained, fully accountable police force in conjunction with community efforts as outlined above. One that is fully And strictly overseen by the DOJ to address civil rights abuses. One that has a total chance in what kind of forces do physical restraint is allowed.

    None of this is to downplay or take away from the abuse and murder committed by the police, especially against black Americans. They must be held accountable, individually and institutionally. But I can’t imagine a police-free system that doesn’t harm already vulnerable people.

      • Thanks for sharing your personal experience. It’s rad to hear about your advocacy for victims of domestic and sexual violence. I think we can all agree that there needs to be ways to intervene in/stop violence. However, I think an important point of de-policing/prison abolition is to imagine interventions that aren’t punitive, violent themselves, and rooted in perpetuating our history of slavery in the US. Using your own example, can you imagine alternatives to arresting the individual in question? What if instead of incarceration, there was a behavioral health/therapy-based intervention? Electronic monitoring? We could also look to other countries (such as Germany and the Netherlands) who have different philosophies around interventions into violence without/rarely using incarceration.

    • Thankfully many activists, writers, and thinkers–many of them BIPOC–have already done a lot of the imagining for us. And they are putting into practice the various processes that make it possible to move toward the abolition of police & prisons while still protecting vulnerable people from the types of violence you have described above. The work and practices of many of these writers, thinkers, and activists are conveniently linked above.

      • Yes, but the links above are about reducing reliance on the police—which I agree with. I’ve seen so much horrific physical and sexual abuse committed, mostly to victims by their own loved ones. No matter how much we reduce our reliance on police, that issue remains. What do we do with people who are unable or unwilling to change? What do we offer victims of their violence? What do we do in situations like mass shootings? These issues won’t disappear with community work. They will lessen, they will be better handled with resources geared away from violence, but they won’t be gone.

        • Full-time professional police are a relatively modern invention, by Sir Robert Peel in 1850, with London’s Metropolitan Police. Previous generations got by without them before; we can do so again, and better this time.

    • Thank you for your work against domestic violence, rape, and sexual abuse, and for work with community programs to de-police a lot of things. I can only imagine the energy it takes to keep at that over and over and over day in and day out (I spent some volunteer time in anti-DV work and now do other things).

      I am looking forward to reading Fumbling Towards Repair, by women of color who do community based accountability work, and from what I’ve heard listening to Miriam Kabe talk, it is messy & hard work – so thanks for raising the hardest stuff here. https://www.akpress.org/fumbling-towards-repair.html

      What if we put less attention on ‘abolition’ as a point of contention here, and more on say, items 1-4 in this list?
      I am not going to wait for a system that will heal all, or even most, cruelties and violence (this has never existed a far as I know) – before supporting women of colors’ urgent calls for redirecting funds & energy to alternatives to police and incarceration, and to community-led accountability. That accountability may be messy & hard and even fail often, but I would much rather empower people of color to have more moments away from grieving their own shot down by police so they can build those skills and alternatives, experiment and sometimes fail, on their own terms. Doing that – speaking here of my local situation – requires removing military equipment and ever-increasing salaries (that come at the expense of me and other people in my city) from our white-led state funded police force that refuses even the slightest accountability for its own members. It requires getting Black moms out of jails, who are there for lack of $20, for protesting abuse from their white employers, for feeding their kids. It requires funding emergency services so people have a number to call besides the police when someone has a seizure or a mental health crisis. In what I read here you may be able to engage in some of these urgently needed conversations and materially support black-led justice efforts, and they may sync well with your work, well before you can “imagine a world without police.”

      • Absolutely this.

        Whether or not you believe that police forces have a place in society, there’s no question that their current reach and power and funding goes far beyond anything reasonable. Calls to defund them, and shift resources into the hands of the communities being victimized by them, are urgently needed.

        • I’m with you on, like, 90% of this. I’ve struggled with feeling deeply ambivalent about my work. I try to do good from within a flawed and biased system, but i worry that good is impossible under the circumstances. Another prosecutor who is struggling with the same found this organization, which seems legit, and is working towards most of these goals in a sustainable and community-oriented way: https://www.joincampaignzero.org/

          • Thank you @hermione_danger for looking into how to work from where you are & connecting with Campaign Zero. It has been one part of very slow but forward moving work where I am locally (in concert with BLM-based pressure on police and local gov for police accountability). We need all of us working with the people we can reach, with whatever influence we have, wherever we are in our incredibly broken society & systems. Where I am locally, we’re working to elect a prosecutor who will make better decisions and be accountable to the community. So hope you can hear my very sincere thank you across the internet – thank you for every hard decision you have made and every time you have put yourself on the line for others, and for going deeper, and finding new steps you can take.

  2. Thanks for this and the relates articles. Sometimes I need the Vapid Fluff type distractions, and sometimes it’s impossible to read any of those things without seeing something acknowledging and addressing things like police murdering black men and women and white women perpetuating racist violence.

    I will donate to Reclaim the Block. I will also keep learning and reading, having these conversations with my white family, friends, and colleagues. And focus on listening and supporting family, friends, and colleagues of color.

    Please continue to post this type of content. I really appreciate it, and it means a lot.

  3. One of my commitments is to read My Grandmother’s Hands: Racialized Trauma and the Pathway to Mending Our Hearts and Bodies by Resmaa Menakem. This will help me continue to grapple with and heal the legacy of intergenerational racism held in my white body. This will lessen the chance that I will unintentionally act out my trauma, shame, and panic on Black people and enable me to do other anti-racist work from a place of true solidarity and showing up fully.

  4. Thank you for posting this! I’ve been wondering about what a more equitable and fair justice system without police might look like, and I’m glad to see people have already been hard at work developing alternative solutions. I’m not really in a place, either financially or in terms of mental health, where I can do much directly, but I’ll definitely keep this all in mind for when that changes.

    (Honestly, I think the biggest obstacle at this point is that a lot of these solutions rely on a stronger sense of community and social cohesion–and for that to work, there’s going to need to be a huge effort to de-radicalize large swathes of America (mostly white, Christian, and conservative) so they stop thinking that literally everyone else in the country is out to get them and their stuff.)

    • Thank you for pointing this out Tessa! I think you’re spot on about the need to de-radicalize large swathes of [white, Christian, conservative] America to stop thinking everyone is out to get them and their stuff. This was such a huge part of my upbringing in Christian evangelicalism (“We are at war!” “Christianity is under attack!” were popular messages.) Though I’m no longer a part of the church, I want to think more on how I can lend my voice to efforts to radicalize the church (and talk to my family members who are in various levels of churchgoing but still deeply invested in white/America/Christian/capitalist value systems.)

  5. I appreciate this list. It definitely helped me challenge myself to imagine ways of taking action beyond what I typically do.

    I am committing to donating the money I am saving this month on transportation; to talking to friends and family about this and encouraging them to donate, even the extended family members whose values tend to differ from my own; to finding and connecting with one new local organization that focuses on these issues; to continuing the inner work of unlearning the racism I’ve been taught; to educating myself about alternatives to policing and prisons.

    • I also donated to an org in my city (don’t want to disclose the details for privacy reasons). And I shared this post and my donation info with my immediate family and in my big “local friends” animal crossing group. I also shared the article in an online community I’m part of.

      Thanks again for the encouragement and support.

  6. I want to lift up an invaluable resource, The Me & White Supremacy Workbook, that has helped me radically reshape my thinking on my white identity, actions, and how I (consciously or not) uphold white supremacy. I highly recommend any white person work through this workbook, and get other white friends to do it with you! You can purchase the workbook here:

    https://www.meandwhitesupremacybook.com/

    I am donating to Black & Pink, and am committing to donating to ongoing needs, such as medical costs, via ppl’s GoFundMe’s as these needs continue in the coming days and months.

  7. Thank you so much for compiling this list and organizing a frankly overwhelming amount of information into something approachable! I have been struggling with the feeling of wanting to contribute but being totally lost on how to do so, especially with mental, medical, and financial realities in my life. Most of what I have seen so far has been about donations and physically protesting, neither of which are a possibility for me.

    I am committing to sharing and communicating resources on mutual aid, prison and police abolition/reform, and local organizing to my mom, my coworkers, my partner, and my friends. I am also going to look into the resources on this list for myself, and look into how I can speak up in my community to urge the defunding of police and the building of alternative ways of doing things.

    I also had a question to pose here: for those of us who have distanced ourselves from family and other (white) community members for our own peace of mind and safety, is it our responsibility to reach out just for the sake of attempting to educate them? Is that actually a useful way to spend my time and energy?

    I’ve been having similar questions about social media, as well. If I don’t really use it much for my own sanity, is it my responsibility to engage with it for the sake of spreading information and educating? My tentative thought is that it would really feel more performative than anything, which doesn’t seem helpful.

    I was wondering how others in similar positions are handling these dilemmas?

    • I am not on social media at all. If you have moderately active accounts, I do think it’s helpful to make visible that you support BLM, to normalize it, but you can do that in your bio or background image, and not have to keep updating things. As far as convos go – I have gotten most traction from long (like years long), gentle, hard conversations with a few people I have real relationships with. I also get farther with ‘I’ language and stories than overt persuasion & anger. If you are white and something like https://www.meandwhitesupremacybook.com/ that Linnea posted is accessible to you, finding 2 white friends to do it WITH you as an online activity that could be effective. Offering emotional support to people who are doing a lot of organizing work is also something I do and that I think is effective.

      The most effective work I’ve done is also in a group – I think it’s really hard to get traction as an individual. Options for doing that vary a looot by geography/community so offering the following with a big grain of salt – Depending on where you are, there may be a chapter with Showing Up For Racial Justice https://www.showingupforracialjustice.org/chapters-and-affiliates.html. – Their national calls to individuals do often center on donations & marches, but 1) their resources like https://www.showingupforracialjustice.org/white-supremacy-culture-characteristics.html have been illuminating/empowering for me and 2) if there’s a SURJ chapter you can connect with locally, there may be a greater variety of ways to get involved, like data entry, admin-ing an email list, coordinating distributing yard signs, facilitating online conversations, etc etc. I did data entry for a local campaign for city council candidate focused on affordable housing and supporting BLM demands, and that was really nice for me to do on my couch by myself on my schedule. I found it through local relationships, and being vocal that I support BLM.

      • Another thing – finding out if there are local efforts to pressure local gov & police may lead to things like “Turn on the livestream of the city council meeting from your computer to up the number of ppl the city council feels accountable to.”

        • also – making a simple “Black Lives Matter” sign and putting it in your window. I did this yesterday. Some one else in our city did an installation in their yard with names of black people who have been killed by police in recent memory.

  8. I am committing to lead/access existing resources to lead a series of antiracism anti white supremacy trainings for my majority white religious group. I commit to sending at least 5% of my income for the next year to Black-lead prison abolition groups, as a start toward reparations.

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