Mutual Aid (Part 2): Trust Black People

In Mutual Aid (Part 1): A Message of Love, I (a white person) started a conversation about mutual aid by reflecting on Enzi Tanner’s work in the Twin Cities. Today, I (a white person) want to write more broadly about mutual aid as a white member of transgender communities–while also acknowledging that most of what I know about this topic comes from listening to Black and Brown trans and queer organizers.

(Read The Race Game to understand why I’m talking so much about whiteness.)

Informal Mutual Aid 

In the conversation with my white suburban friend (mentioned yesterday), I, a white person, shared a little about what I have been doing based in pre-existing relationships that I have.

To my mind, it makes good sense to start by giving funds to Black folk who I (a white person) already know who may be struggling. We (especially white folks) don’t need to wait for someone asking for help. We (especially white folks) do not need to announce what we are doing on social media. We can just be generous and ask our friends to use the funds however they think it will be helpful. 

As so many have said recently, “This is a great time to trust Black folk.” For white folk like me, this trusting of Black friends and colleagues can be an anti-racist practice. Give the gift. Let it go. Get out of the way. Trust your people.

As a white non-binary person, I am prioritizing non-binary Black folk because even as a white person, I see how Black non-binary identities are being overlooked again and again–from the ever-present “brothers and sisters” stuff (PLEASE add in “siblings” for those of us who are not male or female) to the many conversations about Black lives which are just as binary. So, I know non-binary Black folk may be feeling left out of the conversation even more than binary-identified Black trans folk. I want to help them feel some love and support.

While there’s nothing really wrong with distributing cash to random Black people given the society we live in, we also don’t have to pour money into total unknowns.  Giving to people you already know and care is usually a good investment

Asking for Help

We can also ask folk who are organizing in our communities (or who align with our values) where we might direct our funds. We can check social media to see how people are connected in community. We can ask for recommendations from the people we do know and respect. It’s always useful to connect with people who know more than me (a white person)!

Even if you are a white person who does not have personal relationships with people who are working on justice issues, it does not take a lot to find folk on social media who are talking about related topics. Use your favorite search engine. Be intentional about trying to make new connections, if you do not already have an established network. 

That said, we (white folk) need to be bringing something useful to the conversation. If we are just white folk going to Black friends and asking, “What should I do?” then we are actually being an extra burden, particularly in this time. Indeed, I have heard from many Black colleagues who are really exhausted this week from white friends reaching out in this way.

That kind of an ask for emotional labor is really different than going to a Black friend or colleague and saying, “Here’s $100. Please use it in whatever way you think it can help.” 

As grown-ass white people, we need to be ready to contribute to the cause and the community in love and gratitude, not as a gatekeeper or overseer who is totally caught up in deciding who is “deserving” or “trustworthy.” 

When we (especially white folk) ask for help from a Black friend or colleague in this time of Holy Disruption, we (white folk) need to be ready to tip them. Pay them something. It’s a gesture. Show your (white) love and support in a tangible way. 

Black folk have a lot they are navigating in their families, in their communities, in their jobs. If white folk are using Black emotional labor, Black expertise, Black hard won insight, then white folk need to offer something in return to those Black folk.

Relationship, Discernment, Solidarity

As a (white) trans, multi-religious organizer, I am not comfortable working closely with folk who are known to be homophobic or transphobic or who have toxic religious ideas. That’s part of my filter for how I make choices about how to share what I have. 

You may have your own priorities. With decentralized organizing, you really get to look for the people who align with your values and you don’t have to settle, so to speak, for the dominant political flavor of the day. 

Building relationships and sorting through options may seem like a lot of work. Decision fatigue is a real challenge! And, some of us are introverts! There are also more traditional organizations that may be well prepared to receive transactional support. If you just want to be a donor from a distance, then own that and proceed accordingly.

For instance, there are also great lists of bail funds, which is another kind of mutual aid.

But these discernment questions are also the kinds of questions that Black friends and colleagues are making every day. The consequences of a bad decision can be even more significant for them. If we, as white folk, are having a hard time figuring out how to support Black lives, then imagine how hard it must be for actual Black people to figure out where to find support in this time.

Where will I be cared for? Who do I trust? What is most strategic? 

So, perhaps we can think of our (white) process navigating options as another kind of solidarity. Showing up in this pandemic doesn’t even have to mean leaving your house. Of course, we should not expect to be welcomed like a hero just for showing up, but finding appropriate spaces to bring our support can open up new relationships. 

The Faith in Action network connects regional multi-faith groups working on related issues around the country. Their local groups are also good places to connect with local activist resources and priorities.

Decentralizing Change

The movement in Minneapolis did not happen out of the blue, starting in May of 2020. Beginning in the aftermath of Trayvon Martin’s death (2012) and Mike Brown’s death (2014), many have looked for a “Martin” or a “Malcolm” to lead the way. 

But, this is a new day. Enzi’s project (described yesterday) came together because people knew each other. Relationships that preceded the immediate crisis were more easily activated.

I am 48 years old, so it really struck me in the Teen Vogue report from Minneapolis when Devohn (27) said:

I’m really proud of the Black and Brown youth that have been out there letting their rage be known. They saw Jamar Clark and Philando Castile and so many others be killed by the cops and the cop get away free. They grew up seeing that. But now they’re fed up in a way that is different than those times.

Young people are leading. They are developing new tactics, because they have seen that polite conversation has not been bringing necessary change.

To be blunt, it is strategic to avoid having singular leaders. Prominent individuals become targets–whether to be discredited or manipulated or targeted for violence. We all know the history. They came for Martin. They came for Malcolm. As J Mase III said recently, now there are “thousands of Black leaders in the streets organizing, protesting, moving resources.” 

Black folk are not waiting for someone else to “take the lead” with needs assessments, focus groups, strategic plans, or even pretty rhetoric. We do not have to wait for impersonal institutions or objective social workers. We do not have to wait for young people to get fancy degrees before we listen to them. Relationships are central to organizing in this decentralized way, instead of waiting for a groundswell of credibility behind select individuals.

The Movement for Black Lives is working in local neighborhoods and communities to meet obvious needs directly. In that sense, mutual aid and community care are a kind of systemic change. There is much to be said about bypassing the “system” when that “system” really isn’t serving the people. This, too, is how we build a future together. 

Read more: Mutual Aid (Part 1): A Message of Love

Some Mutual Aid Options

Twin Cities Black Trans Mutual Aid: Cash App at $EnziTanner or on Venmo as enzi-tanner. Add a note that says something like “Black mutual aid.”

There’s Still Hope supports transgender people experiencing houselessness in the Charlotte, NC area,. The Rev Debra Hopkins is a Black transgender woman who is developing this innovative model that provides safe housing for transgender people without putting them in a same-sex shelter system.

The Minister Bobbie Jean Baker Memorial Fund supports the leadership of Black transgender women.

Iyanna Dior Survivor Fund through Black Trans Women Inc is supporting the transgender woman who was assaulted in Minneapolis recently.

Black Trans Community Response Grants through Black Trans Advocacy Coalition emphasizes support for Black Trans folk in the Southern states.

Please contact office@transfaith.info if you want to suggest additional mutual aid projects.

Related Articles from OtherWise Christian

Mx Chris Paige is a white, OtherWise-identified author, publisher, organizer, currently serves as Operations Director for Transfaith, and is deeply grateful for the Black, Brown, and Indigenous (BIPOC) trans and queer folk who have shaped so much of who they have grown to be.

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