The Swamp logo

Why I've Donated All My Vocal Tips to BLM (And Why You Should Too)

by Kathryn Milewski 5 months ago in activism

Because all lives won't matter until Black lives do.

I write this story having learned my father, a New Jersey ex-cop, and my uncle (both white, straight men in their 50's), used the n-word in casual conversation a few days ago. One man said it with an a at the end, the other with a hard r. I'm not quite sure of the context of the conversation. All I know is it had something to do with a joke my uncle told. For some warped reason, it was meant to be funny.

My brother overheard the men and walked out of the room in disgust. My mother was in and out of the room, having known the act was wrong but partially excusing it because "there was alcohol involved." I called her the other day asking why she didn't speak up when she knew how horrible it is, especially for white people, to use that word...

"Well, it's not like they were actually doing it in front of Black people," she said.

"Was it right for the kids in my school to call me names when I wasn't in the room?" I countered.

"Well, no..."

"So then how is it okay for them to say that word?"

"But Katy," she said, "It's not like your father would do it publicly. He's tight-lipped. It's not like he's gonna lose his job over it one day."

"Still doesn't make it right," I said.

"But it's not like your father is racist! He just went through diversity training!" she said, "Why do these young Black rappers get away with saying that word but it's wrong for everyone else to say it?"

I sighed, bracing myself for another ugly conversation.

I wasn't aware of how conservative my white suburban upbringing was until escaping it. The Central Jersey neighborhood where my brother and I grew up is full of cop families. Today, it's covered in Blue Lives Matter flags. In the 2020 election, the county where I'm from was a red patch in a sea of surrounding blue squares.

My red NJ county in the 2020 election.

As a young child, I used to admire police officers because, well, my daddy was one. And because my daddy taught me to treat others with respect and protected me from harm, I figured all cops were heroes. If my plans to become a scientist or actor didn't work out, perhaps I'd join the force, too. My friends and strangers were intimidated by his ever-present scowl and loud "cop voice," but I knew it was just how he was. Inside, he was a goofball who would chase my little brother and I around and toss us into our backyard pool.

He held "pig roasts" in the town where he did his work: an annual summer gathering for cops and their families with raffles, bounce houses for the kids, and a big pig roasted over a roaring fire. Sure - him and Mom got into several arguments over silly things, but I thought despite it all, he was a good person.

My perception of him didn't change until high school, when the Black Lives Matter movement arose in 2013. George Zimmerman got acquitted for shooting Trayvon Martin, and my father found nothing wrong with it.

"He was suspicious! He could have been hiding a weapon under that hoodie!" he said. "Do you know how fast it takes for someone to pull a hidden gun on you?" I accepted his argument, but didn't ignore the counterarguments on social media.

Then in 2014, Eric Garner was choked to death. "Well, it's sad he died, but they had the right to detain him," my father said, "He was a big Black man. He could have just as easily strangled them!"

He tried to demonstrate to me what he meant. He laid on our carpet floor, and told me to go in and pretend to choke him. He tightly grabbed both of my wrists to demonstrate how someone in custody might fight back. I was too scared to tell him he was hurting me.

A BLM protest after the death of Eric Garner.

As the years flew by, so did the dinner table arguments. When I got a college rejection letter, my dad blamed affirmative action and how it perpetuates "Black privilege" by only accepting minority students. When it came to a new video of a Black man getting killed by a police officer on the news, he'd say, "the media only chooses to show certain parts of the video clips to stir up an argument!" With every new clip of a defenseless Black man murdered, my father had a new way to prove it was illegitimate.

But the clips kept coming. And in 2020, they haven't stopped.

I didn't truly learn about Black Lives Matter until moving to New York City for college in 2016. I was out of my white, Catholic, police-heavy neighborhood and into a new environment where professors cared more about facts than "law and order." Many of my new friends were non-white, and some of them were Black. In my Black literature class, I learned all about how racism isn't just blatant, but can be subtle and systemic, too. Something my dad claimed was just liberal bullshit.

When the Black Lives Matter movement had a resurgence this year, so did my dad's prejudice towards Black people. "They're not all as impoverished as you think they are - some of them are just lazy!" he'd say as my brother and I rolled our eyes. He recently told my brother the concept of racism is just inflated because, "Lebron James makes more money than I ever will!"

Some people think racism ended in the 1960's with the Civil Rights Movement, and some people know better. When Black Lives Matter had its resurgence, I knew I needed to do my part - especially because I had dipped out for so many years, afraid my angry father would kick me out of the house for my participation. Silence is compliance, after all.

By LOGAN WEAVER on Unsplash

Problem was, there weren't too many protests in my corner of New Jersey and I was scared to go to the few around because, well...there's a pandemic. So I thought long and hard...what's a talent I have that I can use to make a difference? What's something I can sacrifice that will make an impact?

This crazy year, my primary source of income has been from Vocal challenge wins. I've made some money from reads and tips, too. I was getting $1 or $5 tips on my articles - enough to buy cups of coffee, but not enough to pay for rent or student loans. So I figured...why not give it all to BLM?

Since August, $89 dollars worth of my readers' Vocal tips to me have gone to the BLM movement. I don't intend to ever stop giving them to BLM. Every time someone donates, I also leave a $1 tip. So through help from Vocal, I've managed to donate $102 to BLM this year. I'm a broke college grad - I know it's not that much. But it's money I could have used to buy books or it's something.

My last receipt from donating to BLM on Thursday, November 5, 2020.

Doing this isn't just a way to distance myself from my parents, who would probably prefer I keep the money. No matter who wins the election this year, our country is still going to have a problem with policing. It's not a problem that will magically go away because one candidate wins over the other. On social media, I’ve seen posts from my Black friends saying how stressed and scared they are. This election, people’s lives are literally on the line. We know we need to defund the why not add more funding to BLM?

When George Floyd's, Breonna Taylor's, and Ahmaud Arbery's deaths hit the news around August, I saw many people on Vocal say they would donate a portion of their read earnings to organizations supporting the movement. Personally, I didn't think these solutions were effective because 1.) It takes an awful long time to reach the minimum payout requirement on Stripe, 2.) When you do reach that minimum payout, it's only $20-$35 dollars, and 3.) Many Vocal creators no longer held those promises as summer turned to fall.

I encourage any creators reading this article...why not donate your tips to BLM or an organization supporting the movement? The more people who work together on this, the faster the problem could end (although the ending is going to take a very long time). You can donate right now by clicking on the picture below!

What's a few dollars? A sandwich at the deli? A tissue box? It's nothing permanent, so it's better off sent to a movement that will use it for good. And this is something everyone can're all reading this on Vocal, after all! One thing I noticed when I told my readers I would be donating my tips to BLM is that I received tips more frequently. People are more inclined to tip you if they know your money is going to a good cause.

By Dyana Wing So on Unsplash

Of course, sending your Vocal tips BLM's way isn't the only thing you should do. Protest if you can, sign petitions, and educate yourself by reading books about systemic racism. Acknowledge your privilege. Buy from Black-owned businesses. Support your Black friends and colleagues. Listen to them.

While I was texting my mother before our phone call, one thing she messaged me was, "I know it is hurtful when I say 'all lives matter', but don't you think we should show love, respect and equality to all colors, all religious groups??" I didn't get to respond. So I'll answer her question now...

Yes mom, we should. But all colors and all religious groups won't matter until Black Lives Matter.

The White House fence in November, 2020.


In addition to donating your tips, here’s a masterlist of ways you can aid the movement. I hope you’re staying safe and healthy during this stressful election week.

If you’d like to reach out to me, you can find me @katyisaladybug on social media.

As always, thanks for reading. #BLM.


Kathryn Milewski
Kathryn Milewski
Read next: New Mexico—It's like a State, like All the Others!
Kathryn Milewski

Insta: @katyisaladybug

Playlists, memoirs, and other wacky pieces.

See all posts by Kathryn Milewski

Find us on socal media

Miscellaneous links