What Did You Learn/Unlearn? On Allyship & Anti-Racism

Book Cover of How to Be an Antiracist by Ibram X. KendiIt’s been a few days since #BlackOutTuesday (and the conversations around that movement itself, an Instagram video by Brittany Packnett Cunningham discusses this, which Alyssia linked in her post Ode to Joy – check out the post & the video! There are a number of recommended reads that are, as the title of the post suggests, expressions of joy in the lives of Black characters in novels. Because to only publish & read about Black trauma is also an issue, which Alyssia discusses more in her post much more eloquently than I could cover here), and seeing as basically everyone on my Instagram feed posted black squares of solidarity, I’d like to start this post off with a prompt so we can all share & learn from one another: What did you learn or unlearn on #BlackOutTuesday?




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It’s now Wednesday and there are a couple questions that we need to answers to: You blacked out your screen and said that it was time to listen, but what did you learn or unlearn? Who caught your attention? Who or what did you donate to? Who did you follow? Who did you email, contract, or hire? Have you identified people to share your skills, resources, and clients with? How are you including and centering more black voices? And for those brands and even public figures that have never mentioned anything before, more questions are why now? What changed? What will you talk about tomorrow? Or the next week? Or the week after? Was this a trend for you? Or perhaps, an inconvenience? (*Tag the brands, or public figures that you want to see answer these questions.) A huge shoutout to brands that were ‘doing the work’ – centering black voices, diversifying their boards, leadership, and offices, before it became a trend. And who will continue to do so. And remember, sharing a black square during times of upheaval is not your “PR window of opportunity to jump on the bandwagon.” (- @munroebergdorf ) It’s reeks of being performative. Act now. And when this is all ‘over’ and the smoke has cleared, act better.

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For my part, #BlackOutTuesday brought performative/optical allyship to the fore. I saw a number of posts and videos about how this movement was perhaps not the best of ways to support Black Lives Matter, especially as people were using the hashtag #blacklivesmatter and flooding out all the useful information that has been being shared & posted throughout the week on the hashtag with… literally empty blocks devoid of information. I saw a lot of good intentions, of people muting themselves so that we could hear Black voices, but I think many of us saw the reality of what actually ended up happening: we saw a sea of black squares with no useful information in sight. It ended up silencing every community and drowning out the very voices people were trying to let be heard more. Vox covers what happened pretty well and talks about how low-effort performative acts such as this that let people signal their solidarity without actually contributing to anything can be harmful to the very movements they are trying to signal their support for. If you’re confused, it might be helpful to check out this short post for 10 Steps to Non-Optical Allyship (for some reason WordPress does not want to embed this post, so I’ve linked it instead).

If you posted a black square, I’m not telling you to take it down (though if you used the hashtag #blacklivesmatter on it, you may want to consider deleting the post so it doesn’t clog up searches for actual information and updates), or saying that you’re a bad person. You’re not going to be going on this anti-racism journey and making it out without committing a single blunder (least of all because there’s no single “right” way to go about it – there are so many different ways to participate). None of us are. And you know what’s great about anti-racism? You don’t have to have completed purging yourself of internalized racism before you start doing the work! No one’s asking you to be perfect: you’re being asked to show up and do the work, and continue doing the work.

Just a note that this is going to be a very image-heavy post, with many links to Instagram posts & videos alongside links to other resources from the web (articles & compilations), because you have the time to swipe through a few slides on an Instagram post. WordPress is being a bit glitchy so if the instagram post doesn’t show embedded, please click on the link. Do the work and show up in ways that make a difference, because you’ve probably all seen this quote by Desmond Tutu being shared far and wide, “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor”. Similarly, Elie Wiesel: “Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented”. Patrice C. Washington’s video on Instagram is one that I think really illustrates the point and drives it home.

If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor. (Desmond Tutu)

Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented. (Elie Wiesel)

So posting a black square and performing the act of solidarity by silencing yourself (do you see the irony here) is NOT ENOUGH.*

Below the cut, you will find:

  1. Titles on Anti-racism that VPL owns, whether that’s a physical book (see our Curbside Pickup service), an e-book or e-audiobook, or a movie. Our staff have created Bibliocommons lists that I will link to below for all age groups: children, teens, and adults.
    • Alyssia has also posted a great discussion on how we need to focus not just on Black people’s trauma, but also pay attention to Black life and all that the joys and pains it comes with, so as not to define Black people by their personal/individual and intergenerational trauma.
  2. Anti-racism 101s. Most of these come from Instagram, which means that they are snappy and to the point, so if you don’t have enough time to go through an entire list of resources and full books, these can give you a good place to start. (I guess the irony is that the compilation that is this post is also a long list to filter through.)
    • I’ll also be linking to guides & resources aimed at non-black POCs, because so much out there is aimed at white (and white-adjacent) people that it can feel like you’re not being seen or spoken to (YOU ARE.).
  3. Canadian Resources/Info/Links because it’s not just a States problem
  4. Reading and Watching Recommendations out in the world that may or may not be owned by VPL. These are going to be lists from outside sources, and I’m including them in part because we don’t have everything on the lists, but also because there are Netflix films on them that VPL doesn’t offer access to, that you might be able to watch on your own dime.

It’s going to be a long post because of all the embedded Instagram posts, but I’ll be labeling each category/heading clearly in larger text so you can scroll to what you want to find more easily. (Or just use ctrl+F.) Let’s get to it.

*I understand (or rather hope) that work went on behind that black square that didn’t get posted about, so if you’re donating to organizations or educating yourself before speaking out, and just didn’t want to virtue signal (but then why the black square with no links to further resources), then that’s great. And you know what else those black squares probably told you? How white your feeds are. Get onto fixing that.

Before we get to what may seem an overwhelming amount of resources to sift through, let me start with this: it may be a lot, and you may feel overwhelmed and wonder where to start. Just choose something to focus on and get started there. Because becoming immobilized by the sheer number of options is to choose to be silent.


For Adults: Black Lives Matter

For Teens: Anti-Racism Reads

For Children: Black Lives Matter

Also check out more of our FYL blog posts on the topic of racism under this tag: racism.


There’s this great Google Doc resource compiled by Sarah Sophie Flicker and Alyssa Klein (May 2020, so it’s up-to-date!): Anti-racism Resources. It’s specifically targeted at white people, but even if you’re not white, this is a great place to start and there are enough links in this compilation to keep you busy for a while.  The headings include: resources for white parents to raise anti-racist children; articles/books/podcasts/movies to consume (each a separate heading); organizations to follow on social media; and further links to more anti-racism resources to check out. Told you it’d keep you busy.

These two are links Alyssia shared that I’ll repeat here: An Ongoing List of Ways to Join the Anti-Racist Fight (AnOther magazine) and White Allyship 101: Resources to Get to Work (Dismantle Collective).

You’ve probably seen the white supremacy pyramid being shared, with examples of subtle/socially acceptable racist actions at the bottom to overt/socially unacceptable ones at the top (and because it’s there in the graphic, I’m just going to link to this article on Harper’s Bazaar by Rachel Elizabeth Cargle on why saying “All Lives Matter” is not helpful and derails the conversation. This post also explains it quite succinctly.). Here’s another visual to break down it down in a different way, because racism is a complex beast:


Ever heard of Racial Gaslighting? It might sound like “It was just a joke, calm down”, or “Why is it always about race”, or “Are you sure that’s what happened?”. Sound familiar? Catch yourself and call it out when you hear it.

And here are some other ways to take action if you are unable to attend physical protests (especially seeing as how we still need to maintain physical distancing): How to Help the Movement If You Can’t Attend Any Protests (@samefacescollective) and Virtual Protesting 101 (@sa.liine). Along with these, one of which I think really needs some good long thinking about as well because it’s rampant: stop appropriating Black culture. (White Negroes is a great title to start with this!) Here’s Justice Solidarity Take Action: 5 Ways to Take Action (@shiftingtheculture)


Confused about #defundthepolice? It’s not (necessarily) about doing away with the police force entirely, though not everyone agrees on what exactly the concrete end goal is. The middle ground would be a redistribution of funding in order to put the funds where they are needed for social services that police are called for, where they’re not trained or qualified for that task. See this Vox article for a discussion of this demand and the different positions, and this Bustle article for a breakdown as well. Here are some graphics illustrating what alternatives to current policing might look like that might get the point across (whether it is entirely realistic or feasible is another issue, but I think this will help communicate the message).

Framing matters!

@jezzchung has some great prompts in her posts that will be uncomfortable for you to think about, but are well worth taking the time to consider (5th page):

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I didn’t grow up in a racially conscious household. My mom grew up in a tiny dirt village outside of Seoul and learned to speak English while she was teaching me. There was no space for history lessons. My ongoing understanding of our racial dynamics comes from active learning through intentional media consumption, communal conversations, and deeeeep reflective work. I say deeeeeep because it requires a complete unlearning of what I’ve been taught at home, what I learned from institutional educators, and what I picked up from mainstream media. I’m moved by the responses to my last 2 posts because it shows how much we care. How we’re collectively committed to changing ourselves so we can change the systems we live in. There’s no singular way to show up. What matters is that we do the work, but the work looks different depending on our emotional capacity, physical abilities, and personal situations. Sharing a few different ways to invest your energy, in case one resonates more than another. Tag any additional resources you wanna amplify. #georgefloyd #justiceforgeorgefloyd #breonnataylor #justiceforbreonnataylor #ahmaudarbery #justiceforahmaudarbery #asiansforblacklives #allyship #yellowperilsupportsblackpower #blacklivesmatter #asians4blacklives #apahm

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Non-Black POC?

Here are 20+ Allyship Actions for Asians to Show Up for the Black Community Right Now on Medium.

Here are a couple of general how-tos for approaching the topic and what kind of attitude or tone to use for having a conversation (rather than a lecture), starting with Calling In v.s. Calling Out to this more general guide:


And here’s a compilation that you can consider as an add-on to the general Anti-racism Resources Google Doc above:


Think this is a States problem? Think again.

Here’s an article from CTV News.

See the references to where this user got the statistics in the description of this post. Here’s one of them from Amnesty International Canada: Not Just in the US. Here’s the Global News article: The RCMP was created to control Indigenous people. Can that relationship be reset? And the last one from Pivot Legal: 17 Years of Police Violence in Canada. To make it easier for you to take a closer look for yourself.

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edit: IF YOU ARE GOING TO SHARE please please please also share links to donate to bail funds and BLM!! This movement needs information but it also needs FUNDING. Also, I’ve seen a lot of people asking me for my sources, I’ve stated them in the description and several times in the comments, I don’t know what else to say at this point. These are numbers that I found doing my research, not just things I made up or my “feelings” as I’ve seen many people saying. Thank you to everyone having important discussions in the comments, i’ve learned a lot going through them. I encourage people to keep voicing their opinions and I am trying to read arguments I don’t agree with to hear other people’s sides however if I see comments that are blatantly racist I will be flagging them. If you see a racist comment that I haven’t gotten seen and flagged I ask you to do the same since that is not constructive criticism, it is just hate. Thanks again for sharing and helping spread the BLM movement’s message! . . . . I’ve been seeing this phrase a lot in posts about recent events and I find it so disheartening. The systematic oppression of people of colour is an international issue, not a uniquely American problem. Racism and prejudice does not stop at the border! Black lives matter, worldwide. . . . Sources: Amnesty International Canada, the Global News article “The RCMP was created to control Indigenous people, can the relationship be reset?”, and the Pivot Legal Society study “17 years of police violence in canada” . . . #blacklivesmatter #blm #acab #justiceforgeorgefloyd #canada #police #defundthepolice #typography

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In the second slide, you can find some mental health resources for Toronto for Black, 2SLGBTQ+ and other marginalized communities. There are more than just the ones listed on the slide, including The Healing Collective and The Most Nurtured, among others.

A lot of the resources I’ve been seeing list American groups & organizations, so it’s great to see some Canadian lists! WordPress keeps sporadically un-embedding these, so here’s the link to the Canadian Black & Anti-Racist Groups You Can Support Right Now.

Support Black-owned businesses! Check out @blackowned.to to discover Black-owned businesses in Toronto. ALSO. If you haven’t heard about them, take a look at A Different Booklist. And speaking of reading, here are 4 titles that speak to anti-Black racism in Canada, of which you can access using your VPL card: Policing Black Lives by Robyn Maynard; and The Skin We’re In by Desmond Cole. While we’re at it, put yourself on hold for (there will be more titles in the last heading where you’ll be able to find our VPL Bibliocommons lists):


A reading list from Lithub on Racism, White Supremacy, and Police Violence in America.

Check out the 1619 Project on the New York Times Magazine. (You can access NYT for free for 72 hours at a time, just renew your access code after the 72 hours ad infinitum, through VPL using your library card.)

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Link in our bio #theshowmustbepauseduk

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Probably the most important thing to keep in mind, before we get to the titles we have available at VPL:


About Karen

Karen (she/hers) is a Culinary Literacies Specialist at the Vaughan Metropolitan Centre library. When not in the kitchen, she can be found knitting, reading, and repeating.  |  Meet the team