SALISBURY — Race relations expert Tehama Lopez Bunyasi said she believes racial progress doesn’t come naturally.
In the recent Zoom talk “Committing to Antiracism,” hosted by the Scoville Memorial Library, Bunyasi shared her thoughts on achieving racial equality. About 40 people watched the nearly 90-minute discussion.
Bunyasi said supporting the Black Lives Matter movement goes much deeper than whether one voted for or against a particular candidate. Instead, she said action needs to be taken, which can be done nationally and on the local level.
“If you know what’s going on in your local community and your state, if you know what those battles are, you can partake in them and do something,” said Bunyasi, a professor at the Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter School for Peace and Conflict Resolution at George Mason University and co-author of “Stay Woke: A People's Guide to Making All Black Lives Matter.”
Bunyasi said taking action on issues one feels strongly about can produce impactful results, and referred to the recent Georgia Senate runoff election. She said regardless of whether one liked the events, “people turned out. An organization knocked on 2 million doors between November and a few days ago.”
She referred to the Black Voters Matter Georgia bus tour and outreach campaign, which had a national effect. “They take the time to talk. They go to all kinds of places and they say, ‘Your voice matters. Let’s get you registered. Now you need to turn out,’” she said.
According to Bunyasi, many white people are too “timid” when reacting to unfair treatment of Black people.
“There seems to be a lot of white people seeking permission from people of color, saying, ‘Is this OK?’ ‘Am I doing this OK?’” she said.
As a woman of color, she said she finds it “refreshing” whenever she sees white people get “pissed off” about inequality between races.
“I need white people to be angry and I need them to get organized and do so in a way that is also informed with solidarity,” she said.
Many steps can be taken to support the BLM movement, she said. Her suggestions include shopping at Black-owned stores on a regular basis and buying books for children that feature Black people.
Additionally, she encourages everyone to develop strong ties with those outside their race. “We live in a really segregated society,” she said. “The fact that there are so many people who just don’t have somebody else in another racial group who they rely on — that’s a big problem.”
According to Bunyasi, despite the progress that has been made toward racial equality, there’s still much more to go.
“We think of ourselves having broken down all these legal barriers,” she said. “But look at the neighborhoods that we live in, look at the towns we live in, look at the schools.”