Recommitting to Anti-Racism
Written by: the Editors of goop
Published on: January 31, 2023
Ask Black liberation educator Monique Melton about what she does and, before she mentions the thousands of people she’s coached in anti-racism, she’ll start by telling you she’s a whole person. She’s married to her high school sweetheart, she has two beautiful children, loves fashion, lives in Spain, dreams big. And then: that she created a global community of people committed to creating change and beating back oppression in their own communities. We asked her about her work and how we can all take meaningful steps toward a freer, more equitable world.
If you’re reading this on January 31, Melton’s 21-day Pursue Black Liberation Challenge kicks off tomorrow. It’s a way to develop an anti-racism practice that you can sustain long-term. And you’ll come out the other side feeling empowered to do something real. You can sign up at the link below. (If you’re here at a later date, you can start the challenge whenever—you’ll just move through it individually instead of with a cohort.)
A Q&A with Monique Melton
It starts with Black liberation for me: I am doing work to identify the ways that anti-Blackness, White supremacy, and other systems of oppression affect my life—not only the harm that they cause me but also the ways that I participate in and uphold different systems of oppression. It looks like healing and reclaiming my own humanity: creating a confidence practice, a rest practice, a joy practice. And it also looks like how I show up in my relationships and engage in my community.
It also shows up in the work that I do as the founder of the Shine Bright School, which is a global community for people committing to the work from the inside out for liberation. We have a number of learning experiences, opportunities, and resources for folks to learn about various topics centering around anti-racism and Black liberation.
For those who are just getting started with the work and want to learn anti-racism at a basic level, there’s Anti-Racism 101. From there, we cover everything oppression and racism touch, like perfectionism, diet culture, feminism, boundaries, confidence, and relationships. We cover anti-racist parenting. We also do anti-racism within the workplace, helping folks commit to it as a daily practice within their corporate environments.
We take an inside-out approach. We have a framework where we encourage people to do the work within themselves, within their relationships, and within their systems and communities.
Our courses range in length, from self-paced classes that you can listen to in just one sitting to learning experiences that go over a year. It really depends on what people want to learn, their level of interest, and their commitment to dig deep.
A lot of times when it comes to conversations about racism and systems of oppression, people are reactive and guilt-driven. It’s like, Okay, there was this mass shooting, let’s make a phone call. And then it’s nothing. Or I’m gonna go throw money at this thing one time, and then nothing more.
Being a self-motivated learner means that your motivation isn’t coming from things happening and you reacting, but instead from an inner commitment. And so it’s: I’m motivated by liberation. That’s something that guides me daily. I don’t have to wait for something really bad to happen to then react. I have motivation that’s coming from my desire for us to live freely and fully in our humanity. And then that’s your fuel.
If Black death is what motivates you to do this work, then what’s going to sustain it? More Black death. That’s deeply dehumanizing. Instead, liberation should be our motivation. Joy should be our motivation. Love should be our motivation. That’s sustainable, that’s aligned with our humanity, and that’s what can pull us through when it’s really hard.
We tell people to start with what you have. So let’s say that you’re really good at administrative tasks or you’re really connected in your community—you know a lot of people or you’re really good at spreading the word. Can you find organizations that already exist that can use your skills and talent? And can you volunteer your skills and talents to those organizations? It really starts with a simple search on the internet for organizations led by whatever group you want to support. So maybe it’s Indigenous folks, Black folks—whatever the group is, you search “organizations led by fill-in-the-blank” and your zip code or your community.
Social media is not all anything: It’s not all bad, and it’s not all good. But what happens with activism on social media is that people use social media only for consumption. And a lot of times people feel as though consuming information and being enlightened is the work.
I equate it to a recipe: If I read a recipe on how to make sourdough bread, but I only read the recipe, I certainly couldn’t expect to have bread in the next hour. Without buying the ingredients, following the steps, and finishing the recipe, you can’t enjoy the bread. A lot of times folks miss those steps and think, Oh, I followed Black people, I’m doing the work. I’m reading, I’m learning. That’s the work. No, it’s the preparation toward the work. Learning is a critical aspect of the work, but the application is what is actually going to be felt. And I think social media sometimes blurs that line for folks.
There’s a really great book by Feminista Jones, Reclaiming Our Space. Jones does a powerful and nuanced job explaining the impact of social media. I would encourage folks who want to dig more into that conversation to explore her book.
In 2020, there were a lot of people who were seeking out information about anti-racism—unlike anything I had seen in my lifetime. But soon after that, we just saw such a stark decline of interest and engagement. I call it the pseudo-White-awakening of 2020. Because when it’s reactive and hard-core, you fizzle out.
I created the 21-day Pursue Black Liberation Challenge as something practical, accessible, and sustainable that people can do at their own pace to help them build anti-racism as a daily practice. It builds something that can actually be felt in the Black community. As I say all the time: If this work isn’t felt by us, then it’s not for us.
The challenge is broken up into sections where folks can learn about different ways to engage in Black liberation. The emphasis is on your local community. A lot of times, people don’t realize that there are things right around the corner from you to engage in and support and learn more about. Even if it’s just learning the history of your community in order to have better awareness and connection.
We give people different prompts to explore each day. Some prompts could just be a few moments. But you can go as long as you like—some people say they’ve spent hours on just one thing. But that’s the cool thing about it: You’ve got your own pace.
We also have community check-ins where we invite folks to come at a certain time and we discuss challenges, progress, and insights they’re gaining through this process.
One of the things about this work is that it can often feel really theoretical or too big. You can feel like, Well, what can I do? I’m just one person. Like, is it going to make a difference? And we find the challenge helps people feel really equipped to say, Wait a minute, there are things that I could do literally every day where I am and with what I have to impact change, and I’m going to do them.
You can do the challenge anytime—it’s available on our site for folks to enroll anytime. But in February, in honor of Black History Month, and then in June, in honor of Juneteenth, we say, “Hey, everybody and their mama, let’s do this together.”
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