Right now, people of color are in need of allies.
What does it mean to be an ally? I know many of us would consider ourselves allies to many different marginalized societies, from the LGBTQA community, to immigrants and people of color. For most however, being an ally just means that we mentally support their struggle, and click ‘LIKE’ on a few ‘woke’ posts on social media. Truly being an ally is more than just accepting the injustices of our society, and going on with our days. True allies must accept their own part in this system, and decide to fight against it.
As a white woman who lives in Connecticut, I am very aware of my own privilege. I know that I have blind spots I will never be able to see, because racism is something I have never personally experienced. And yes, my name is Karen. And no, I don’t think being anti-Karen is racist. There are a lot of bad Karens in the world, but I am determined to be one of the good ones. This starts by being an ally to marginalized social groups, especially the Black community.
The only thing you really need to be an ally is compassion. You have to start by understanding that your experience is NOTHING like the experience of an oppressed person. You have to know that fully, and understand that we don’t live in the ‘land of the free’ until every single one of us is free. And you have to commit to being part of the change that is necessary to dismantle the systemic racism that is poisoning our country as we speak.
Here are five ways to be a good ally to the black community:
READ MORE: How to Teach Your Kids to be Anti-Racist
Educate Yourself. The first thing you need to do, is gain a frame of reference. You can do this by watching many of the Netflix documentaries currently available on the topic (or ROOTS, for that matter). The movie Just Mercy is available for free this month, to encourage education about systemic racism. There are plenty of books on the topic.
Through technology, we have the amazing ability to educate ourselves. All we have to do is find the resources. Learning about the struggle that African Americans face in this country will help you access more compassion, which is the cornerstone of being an ally.
Recognize your own privilege. White privilege is a real thing, people. As a white person, I freely acknowledge that my life is not made harder because of the color of my skin. In fact, the color of my skin and hair actually makes my life easier. TRULY understanding that and acknowledging it is a very important step in becoming an ally. Once you understand that this conflict isn’t about black versus white, it is about Americans versus systemic racism, you can take your place on the right side of history, and use your white privilege to stand by the black community as an ally.
Acknowledge your blind spots. A blind spot is a problem that you cannot see. When horses wear blinders, they can see perfectly fine in front of them, but are completely oblivious to the world the exists on either side. If you were raised as a cisgender white person, its likely that you won’t even have an inkling of the everyday problems people of color face. So you have to know going into this, that you may have no frame of reference for comparison to anything you hear. But you still have to accept and honor the experiences of the black community as real, and valid, however different from your own. Which brings me to the next bullet point:
LISTEN. Don’t speak. Focus on hearing with your heart. Talk to as many people of color as you can about their experiences. Entrench yourself in understanding. Armor yourself in compassion. Listen to the stories you are told without judgment. Do not impose your opinions, or try and control the narrative. Embrace the narrative as something entirely new. And when the speaking is done, ask questions. Gain understanding. And make space for the emotional turmoil that will come with understanding how truly unfair this system is.
ACT. No matter who you are, there is something you can do about this. Maybe you go to a protest, and stand between the tear gas canisters and peaceful protestors. Maybe you donate to a cause, such as the NAACP . Maybe you sign petitions, or bring supplies to the front lines of the protests, or make an effort to expose your children to different communities. Whatever you can do, you must do.
The world is in need of change. It is up to those of us who are blanketed in privilege, to throw those blankets off, and embrace and support our communities of color. We always tell our children to be the change they want to see in the world. That change must start with us.