Political Issues

A New Year Never Meant a New America—Here’s How To Continue the Work of Political Change

Kells McPhillips

Photo: Samuel Corum / Stringer; Graphics: Well+Good Creative
Each year, on January 1, an estimated 50 percent of Americans declare their New Year’s resolutions. The idea is that the flip of a calendar wipes the slate clean—but, here in America, history cannot (and should not) be erased. On Wednesday, as a pro-Trump riot broke out at the U.S. Capitol in response to the Congress’s confirmation of President-elect Joe Biden’s victory, 2021 made its message clear: Above all else, white and white-passing Americans need to resolve themselves to come to terms with their own privilege.

Since the murder of George Floyd in May 2020, racial justice conversations and call-outs have been gaining traction on a national stage. And yesterday, the siege at Capitol Hill put a fine point on the difference between living in a Black body and a white body in the United States.  “Everyone thought Kamala Harris and Joe Biden’s win would make the beginning of 2021 easier than what 2020 had been,” says Michelle Saahene, activist, coach, and co-founder of From Privilege to Progress, an organization dedicated to desegregating the public conversation about race. “Only one week into 2021, rioters and white supremacists stormed the capitol and another young Black man was shot less than a mile from where George Floyd was murdered. His name was Dollal Idd.”

“To stay realistic, we have to treat the new year as just another date. The work must always continue, consistently.” —Michelle Saahene, co-founder of From Privilege to Progress

To go into 2021 pretending that America’s troubles are behind us would be to disgrace the lives of Idd and all the other Black lives taken when white lives would have been spared. That’s why Saahene is calling for action for the next 365 days. “You can set up alerts in your browser to suggest new articles that contain words like ‘anti-racism,’ ‘white privilege,’ and ‘social justice’ to help yourself stay up to date and continue learning… Write down the things you are learning. Writing makes you retain information better,” says Saahene. “One way to do that is simply to join anti-racist classes that prompt you to journal, like those created by Monique Melton.”

Be it May or October or January, white allies should feel equally committed to anti-racist action. But for the sake of clarity, let’s say we’re starting now. On January 7. First resolution: learn about your own biases and watch videos about allyship. Second resolution: come to terms with racial justice as a healing justice. Third resolution: donate your money and time. 2021 isn’t “new” by default; it’s only new if we actively break the patterns of the past. “To stay realistic, we have to treat the new year as just another date. The work must always continue, consistently,” says Saahene.

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