What Do We Do Now: An Open Thread on May 29, 2020

This week has been so heavy, filled with continued violence against Black people, protests, mourning, and pain. What do we do now?

Yesterday, Carmen wrote and curated Also.Also.Also: We Can’t F*cking Breathe and I hope you’ll read every piece she linked to:

“With the murder of Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, and Tony McDade by the police and the threatened lynching of Christian Cooper weighing heavily on my mind (and still never forget Ahmaud Arbery), in lieu of our “traditional” twice-a-week link roundup, here are some really smart reading about blackness, mourning, state violence, and rebellion that have gotten me through.”

Rachel wrote a call to action for white people, with 7 tangible steps white people can take right now to help end state violence agains Black people, and if you are a white person I hope you’ll read it and internalize it and take the actions she laid out:

“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.”

And today, Xoài wrote Asian Communities Must Desert the American Empire and Protect Black Lives, a personal and resource-filled call to action for Asian people, filled with links and resources that are important for everyone who wants to protect Black lives to read and learn from:

“Situations of police brutality can leave people feeling powerless, but a choice lies in our hands. When we do nothing, like Tou Thao, we become accomplices to the death of Black communities. Instead, we can contribute to a rich legacy of freedom fighters, those who believed in a world where all people thrive.”

Police brutality and violence against Black people is something that is always present in America – this country was built on it – and the people who are insisting that America is currently broken are ignoring the fact that America is working in the exact way the people who founded this country always wanted it to work.

But we need things to change. We needed things to change hundreds of years ago, but we cannot wait a second longer.

With that in mind, today’s Friday Open Thread is a place where we can talk, grieve, rage, discuss what we are doing locally to survive and to help, and support each other in efforts of direct action. (I also want to say, as a white person, that if you are also a white person please make sure you do not speak over any Black people in this thread – the Black members of our community are experiencing this in a different way than we are, and part of our job in standing in solidarity and community with them is to witness and to listen and to follow their lead.)

There is so much to feel. There is so much to be done. What are you doing, today, tomorrow, the next day, and the next?

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Vanessa is a writer, a teacher, and the community editor at Autostraddle. Very hot, very fun, very weird. Find her on twitter and instagram.

Vanessa has written 404 articles for us.


  1. I don’t even know what to do now other than support the communities affected. It’s taxing on the brain to see news about this, the pandemic & the asshole in chief trying to start beef with internet companies(thankfully the laws aren’t on his side). At the same time, I also worry because in the late 90s-early 00s LAPD had the Rampart scandal, which had white supremacists who were officers. It’s still in the back of my mind as West Asian/Mizrahi Jew. On the other hand, I have some hope that these protests & burning of the police station(hopefully no r*pe kits were burnt) opens a conversation on how policing doesn’t work & at the very least see police reform. One of the things I am doing is watching/reading non-news stuff, like cool LBTQ people who cycle & hike, & food related stuff(watching cooking videos & eating food).

    Oh one thing we can do is get people like Rich Mitch(what conservatives against Mitch McConnel are calling him cause he went from middle working class to one of the richest politicians) & other politicians out of office who are stopping progress.

    Some flowers to maybe brighten the up day?

    Stay safe everyone!

  2. I’ve been spending this week alternating between reading the news, discussing the issues with my kids and colleagues, and trying to get some exercise and rest. My youngest is getting his first paycheck this week, so I’ll be setting him up with a teen bank account this weekend and introducing him and his brother to some of the organizations in recent posts so that they can contribute as well.

    Yesterday was a tough one, so I ended up stopping the kids mid school day to watch Lovebirds and have an ice cream. Their schools haven’t really been addressing recent events during remote learning. I wasn’t able to take a break from my work day, but it felt nice to give them a chance to enjoy something for an hour or so.

  3. I was finally feeling like I had my feet under me in pandemic-world. I work in a preschool and was furloughed for a while because of lack of kids, but I’m back and finally hit my groove and then a bunch of shit just happened. It’s total cognitive dissonance to go from teaching about washing hands and how to dance like a bulldozer to reading the news and coverage and trying to figure out how to help when I can’t support financially or with my physical presence. I’ve been thinking a lot about how to teach and talk about race as a white teacher in a majority-white (at least 85% by my rough guess) school in a smaller-majority-but-still-majority midwest city. It’s draining and hard for me, so I can’t even fathom how draining and heartwrenching it is for the black community

    for a moment of cuteness, one of my kids told me today that her mommy is her best friend but that i can also be her best friend, which is basically saying i’m the coolest ever

  4. This week I’ve been working on two different academic articles about Eleno/a de Céspedes, a surgeon (and soldier, and tailor, and many other jobs) of mixed race who was born into slavery in 16th-century Spain and who was brought before the Inquisition about a year after marrying María del Caño. The accusations were bigamy, disrespect for matrimony, and using a diabolical pact to trick witnesses into thinking Céspedes was a man, in order to illicitly marry a woman. One of the articles also puts the case in conversation with xicanisma and other queer women of color feminist theory. Writing these pieces in the context of the current news—both about the pandemic’s disparate effects on communities of color, prisons, etc. and about this week’s spate of anti-black violence—has given rise to especially poignant thoughts about surviving, thriving, and the complicity with violence and oppression that sometimes accompanies our efforts to do so. Céspedes, who at one point was arrested under suspicions of being a moorish bandit, fought for the crown during the Guerra/Rebelión de las Alpujarras, a rebellion by moriscos (converted Muslims or their descendants) in the face of increasing repression.

    In short, my engagement with this week’s news has been primarily intellectual (because of social distancing and because I have a deadline coming up soon!). I would like to do more.

  5. **Potentially upsetting things ahead read at your own risk**

    I feel grateful that I’ve been partially numbed out since April preexisting trauma makes specific c.o.d in murders…upsetting is a trite understatement.
    It’s been nearly 15 years and wearing a necktie that’s not clip on still makes me nervous. Like yes logically I know it was a very specific situation unlikely-ish to occur again but why give someone a tool better than just their bare hands to kill me with?

  6. (I’m not totally clear if this was intended primarily as a space for other voices, so apologies if I’m overstepping.)

    May 25th happened to be my birthday, so I donated my birthday money to a bail relief fund and encouraged others in my social media circle to do the same. I’ve also been contemplating what it means to be buying a house on colonized land, and what I can do to support indigenous orgs.

    It’s straightforward enough to talk about this kind of thing here, or in my curated spaces where most of the people I’m in contact with are already on the same page. What I’m really struggling with is how to make people care if they don’t already care, at least enough to do anything material about it. How to have necessary conversations without automatically sending people into defensive shut-down mode. Because we need a lot of those people on board before revolutionary change can happen.

    • Happy Birthday, C!
      Yes, I do agree. But I’m also wondering how I can address my own racism better, how I can stand up better in the day to day.
      I’m a political liberal, living among people who would term themselves likewise, but to be honest, I sometimes feel like we’re the worst bunch.

      • Yes to all of these. (And Happy belated bday Chandra! 💖)

        Something that has helped me over the past year is the Me & White Supremacy workbook (I commented with a link over on the “7 Things White People Can Do” article, so apologies if you already saw this there.)

        The exercises and questions in the workbook have challenged me to push past my assumptions about how I was doing liberal whiteness “correctly” and has helped me radically reframe my thinking on what it means to be a “good” white person. It also, as you mention Chandra, has lots of insight on conversations/interactions with [white] people who don’t already care:


  7. I’m feeling similarly overwhelmed and helpless. I took the suggestion a few weeks ago and donated part of my stinulus check to a gofundme for Black trans women and another to someone gathering resources to keep a group of multiplly marginalized folks from becoming homeless. It just seems like my individual actions are an infinitecimally small drop in the ocean which is the white supremicist, capitalistcis heteronormative patriarchal empire! I’ve also been writing post cards with other activists trying to get out the vote (especially by mail). I’m disappointed because I’d much rather be out pounding the pavement knocking on doors. I’m an extrovert quite literally dying of social starvation on my worst days.

  8. I’m feeling really overwhelmed, every time I look at the news I end up crying. The tactics the US police are using against protesters and press are straight out of the “how to be a dictator” handbook I’m sure would be on Trumps bedside if he could read. I’m scared that the protests will lead to more COVID outbreaks (but I absolutely understand why people choose to protest despite this). My anxiety is also telling me to worry about the second American civil war, so, yeah, good times.

    I hope you get to see the pictures of the international protests in sympathy with you. The one in Amsterdam today (it’s a national holliday) had thousands of people. (Against the enforced social distancing rules, but the mayor did not break it up.)

    I’m also trying to figure out what I can do. I remember my parents continued their boycot against Shell for decades, due to their involvement in the South African apartheid regime.

    Is it time to boycot the US? Boycot US companies that do not take a stand? Maybe if we would impact the rich financially, publically shame them, we could have more assholes in power doing the right thing. And hopefully give you (the US people as a whole) the momentum to elect fewer assholes. How would one organize such a thing? I have no clue where to start, my autistic brain is not doing any planning, my social anxiety is not helping me to go online and ask people to join me.

    Anyway: to all of you in the US I want to send you lot’s of love & strength, and wish you justice & peace. I’m hoping this is the time things will *finally* start to change.

    For pictures of Amsterdam: https://nos.nl/collectie/13842/artikel/2335843-volle-dam-bij-racismeprotest-geen-anderhalvemeterboetes-uitgedeeld

    PS: I’m tired, sorry for spelling. Also I tried to not make this about me, but I think my feelings needed some venting, so, yeah, sorry.

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