Protests have erupted all over the world in response to the video of George Floyd being murdered by former police officers Derek Chauvin, J. Alexander Keung, Thomas Lane and Tou Thao. Systemic racism and police brutality are, unfortunately, nothing new to our country, but the death of Mr. Floyd lit the match igniting the world to call for change. As a white woman, I’ve thought a lot about the word “ally” this week. When people say they’re an ally or they’d like to be an ally what does that mean/entail? How does someone take a stand and show support, without drowning out black voices on the front lines? Social media has been overcome with hashtags, resources, and black squares over the past week as individuals of all races speak up and continue to post things. Does this make someone an ally? According to advocates and academics, being an ally is “an ongoing commitment to educating yourself about anti-black racism and your role within it, listening to and amplifying black voices and speaking up when they go unheard.” Discussed below are actionable ways to understand what it takes to be an ally.
An ally is a verb referring to actions an individual take to move change forward. Posting on social media can be a great way to spread information, resources, places to donate, and to find ways to educate ourselves if used correctly. However, social media is one small piece of an extremely large complicated puzzle. Social media expresses unity in present times but educating yourself shows that you intend to follow through on the things that you are advocating for online
As an ally, it is your job to educate yourself, not ask black people to educate you. In the age of the internet ignorance is no longer an excuse. There are countless ways to find educational resources without asking individuals that have been victimized to educate you as well. Many black individuals are in collective mourning at this time and it is not their job to be our teachers. I have listed a few great resources at the bottom of this post as a starting point.
Truly listen to the black individuals in your life, on your social media page, or on your television. Listen from a place of compassion and empathy instead of a desensitized intellectual viewpoint that allows you to separate yourself from the systemic issues and pain being discussed. Listening doesn’t require any specific response. Telling black individuals, you understand them can be patronizing and is inherently untrue. White individuals cannot understand black individuals’ experiences. Varying identities, intersectionality, and life experiences make it so we cannot understand nor is it our job to.
Pass the Mic
Being an ally is a choice. Being an ally is choosing to raise racialized voices while muting your own. Being an ally does not mean being the center of attention or making things about yourself. Being an ally is about dismantling the system and amplifying black voices. Being white means being privileged. Being privileged means when we speak, our voices are heard in ways black voices are not. Having a voice is a privilege. Using our voice to amply black voices is a necessity.
Having privilege means learning about racism instead of experiencing it. Having privilege means being able to choose whether to become involved in the fight to dismantle systemic racism. Having privilege means being able to choose to be uncomfortable, instead of being forced to live in fear.
- Me and White Supremacy (book)
- White Fragility (book)
- The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness
- The 13th (documentary on Netflix)
- The Hate U Give (movie on Hulu)
- White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack (article)
- The Breakdown (podcast)
- 1619 (podcast)
- Code Switch (NPR podcast)
For a complete list of (continuously updated resources) please click the link below.