I firmly believe that when you have a platform, you should use it. I am muting keto posts here for the rest of the week in support of the Black Lives Matter movement, which deserves more of your time this week. Before you go, please read the essay below for some of my thoughts on how to be an effective white ally. Take care of yourselves.
This one’s for the white people.
Not for those who are openly and vehemently racist; we’ll save that conversation for another day.
If you have never stepped up to advocate for your black friends but now feel charged to do so, this one is for you.
Let’s start with what you should avoid right now.
Nobody is waiting for your public statement of anxiety or fear over the situation. I promise. These long-winded posts certainly take a deep amount of self-reflection to concoct, and while I appreciate your efforts, I challenge you to dig further. Why have you been silent for so long?
Nobody cares about your criticism of protests and riots, especially when your life has not changed. You cannot shout from a mountain of privilege and expect those fighting for the right to live to hear it or care. What you are saying is only noise to the void.
You cannot criticize the bandage and the wound when you never considered the weapon or intent.
You cannot condemn the fruit when you never contributed to the environment it grew in.
You cannot command peacefulness from the perpetually oppressed.
And while it probably feels like you should ask what you can do to help, remember that it is not the job of another person (especially POC) to educate you. We all have access to loads of resources. You should do your own research before you ask.
I’m guessing this is probably how you’re feeling right now.
You probably ache for those who have felt this anxiety, this anger, this pain for the lifetime. If you feel uncomfortable, you’re in the right place.
You probably wonder when it all got so violent, so depressing, so out of control. If you feel overwhelmed, you’re in the right place.
You probably worry harder than ever for your friends, family, neighbors, coworkers, and the strangers beside you. If you feel ready to help, you’re in the right place.
You’re probably a little scared to defend your friends online. Maybe you’re not the kind of person that self-identifies as a “keyboard warrior” or you just shy away from arguments because you don’t want to contribute to discord. Your silence is deafening, but if you’re ready to speak up, you’re in the right place.
If you’ve remained silent because you “want to avoid getting political,” you are privileged to have the option to opt out of this conversation. You should take this moment to educate yourself why that is.
What is white privilege?
To quote the NCCJ, privilege is…
“unearned access to resources (social power) that are only readily available to some people because of their social group membership; an advantage, or immunity granted to or enjoyed by one societal group above and beyond the common advantage of all other groups. Privilege is often invisible to those who have it.”
There are layers to privilege; to be privileged is not to have grown without struggle. Privilege means you’ve experienced advantages (or a lack of consequences) in life because of one of your traits. Other forms of privilege include socioeconomic status, education, sexuality, religion, and ability.
So what does white privilege look like?
If you’ve never been questioned for completing everyday tasks, you have experienced a benefit of your white privilege.
If some sort of official has never “randomly” requested to see your identification in a group of your friends, but not the others, you have experienced a benefit of your white privilege.
If you never had “the talk” with your parents about how to survive a traffic stop, walk to the store, or jog around the neighborhood, you have experienced a benefit of your white privilege.
If you watch these protests on television or online and have the option to tune out the issues when your brain is tired of seeing it, you have experienced a benefit of your white privilege.
If you grew up watching sitcoms and reading magazines filled with people who look like you, you have experienced a benefit of your white privilege.
If you never had a problem finding a doll that looked like you as a child, you have experienced a benefit of your white privilege.
If you find solace in the idea that “the system will work” because it’s worked for you in the past, you have experienced a benefit of your white privilege.
Nobody is calling you racist for benefiting from white privilege throughout your life. You are a product of a system that was created for your benefit. What’s important is that you see it when it happens and use it to help the people who need fair treatment.
So what should you be doing right now?
Those who need you most are waiting for your support and tenacity-not in words, but in action. Use your discomfort to act.
Attend a protest. When you’re there, talk to the people around you. Get to know your neighbors. And if you can’t go out, support someone who can.
Donate to a relief fund or to an organization in your locality which fights these injustices.
Before you speak, listen. Is what you’re saying helpful? White people have a tendency to speak in a self-important manner. It can be extremely dismissive. When you don’t know what to say, pass the mic to those who need somebody to hear them.
When someone says, “black lives matter,” don’t respond with “all lives matter” or “I don’t see color.” Doing so only minimized the struggles, aspirations, trials, and achievements of an entire group of people who want to be brutalized. Nobody is telling you that your own life doesn’t matter. The point is that black lives matter, too. And if you’re ready to be an ally and an advocate, then you know by now that the truth is, no lives matter until black lives matter.
When your family member makes a racist remark, have a conversation with them. Where did they learn to speak like that? Do they know the kind of pain it causes? Would they say the same about you? These conversations are hard and necessary. Don’t become passively tolerant of these remarks. Speak up and let them know you will not hear it any longer. You will need to get used to the discomfort of these conversations, because it will take many of them to help your loved ones realize the danger in their words.
Resources (from Dismantle Collective): https://www.dismantlecollective.org/resources/
Checklist for White Allies Against Racism: https://www.powershift.org/…/files/checklist-for-white-alli…
From Tolerance.org: https://www.tolerance.org/…/for-white-allies-in-search-of-a…
This is not something that will be solved overnight or in weeks. We are fighting battles that are woven into the fabric of our country, and only with repeated care and action will we remove the hate that has festered within.
Edit: As a start, I encourage you to donate to this charity. The NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. is America’s premier legal organization fighting for racial justice. Through litigation, advocacy, and public education, LDF seeks structural changes to expand democracy, eliminate disparities, and achieve racial justice in a society that fulfills the promise of equality for all Americans. LDF also defends the gains and protections won over the past 75 years of civil rights struggle and works to improve the quality and diversity of judicial and executive appointments.