I have a confession to make: I’m not an ally. I haven’t earned that title.
For years, the police systematically murdered unarmed Black Americans while I stayed silent about it. I’m ashamed of that, and I’m not hiding this fact. It’s disheartening that it took this many rounds of murder to wake a lot of us up; but when George Floyd died, it was a catalyst for me to want to be better. I want to be an ally, and I hope one day I’ll deserve that title.
Having never been involved in the past, I didn’t know where to start, and for anyone else in the same position, I urge you not to let that discourage you. I was overwhelmed by the endless amount of work put into this fight by Black leaders and educators, the BIPOC and LGBTQ community, and the Black Lives Matter movement. I was ashamed of my own silence, and I thought speaking up would make me a hypocrite or an imposter. I thought I had nothing to add to the conversation when there were people so much better equipped to speak to it than I. But now, I realize it’s not about being silent. It’s about prioritizing, listening, and amplifying Black voices.
If you’ve ever felt like I have, I implore you, don’t stay silent like I did. Our silence is complicity, and it allows the government to continue over-policing, brutalizing, and wrongfully imprisoning members of the Black community. By staying silent we take the side of killer cops and the systems that protect them. If I haven’t made it clear yet, I’m not an expert. I’m very far from being the voice you should follow on this. I’m just a person on an active quest to educate myself. I’ve learned things along the way, mostly through trial and error, and I share them with you hoping they can help on your own path to allyship. Here are six tips for being a better ally:
1. Check your own privilege. Don’t make others check it for you.
Be cognizant of the many ways that the deep-rooted racism in our country benefit you while detracting from your fellow Black citizens. If you’re White, you will never experience negative discrimination based on the color of your skin, and you will be afforded opportunities that POC are not. This is not my opinion; it’s a proven fact.
Be aware of this and commit yourself to fight for the equal rights of your fellow humans. You’re going to make mistakes, and you’re bound to say the wrong things. Apologize, learn from your mistakes, and do better next time. Being called out isn’t the end of the world. Having someone check you is a chance to do better; it’s not an attack unless you refuse to learn from it.
The last thing the Black community needs right now is to be taking care of White feelings and fragility. It’s not on them to educate us. Between books and online media, there are guaranteed answers to your questions just waiting to be found. It might be easier to DM a Black person, but take the time to research on your own instead. Black people have been screaming these truths for centuries, it’s unfair to tell them to repeat it on our schedule.
2. Join the movement on social media, but don’t hog up space.
Social media is a powerful force to be reckoned with. In the case of Egypt, it can give people the tools to literally topple governments. It’s important that you make your voice heard on social media; however, a black square with a hashtag isn’t going to cut it, even if it was well-intentioned.
If I may suggest, take part in the Amplify Melanated Voices movement. Mute your personal Instagram (no more meme posting or old travel selfies), and instead use whatever platform you have to share the voices and stories of Black educators, artists, and creatives. Another thing to consider is the amount of space you take up on social media, even if you’re posting about the movement. Ask yourself and answer honestly: are you stealing away screen time from the Black community with your personal opinions or “hot takes” on current events (ironic from someone writing an op-ed)?
Does what you’re posting actually contribute something to the movement, or is it just for optical allyship? Are you stuck in an echo chamber of posting something that’s already been shared millions of times? Does your sharing of violence against protestors do more harm for the mental health of the Black community than it does good?
3. Donate, if you can.
It’s a difficult time financially for most of America right now, but if you have any amount of money to spare, even a few dollars, please consider donating it.
At the time of writing, the Minnesota Freedom Fund is completely funded. Consider donating to Black Visions Collective, Reclaim the Block, NAACP Legal Defense Fund, The Bail Project, Unicorn Riot, Campaign Zero, BLM, and the Black Trans Protestors Emergency Fund. There’s no better way to be spending any spare dollars you have right now. It doesn’t stop at the protests or fight against police brutality either. It’s important to support Black joy as well – buy from Black-owned businesses, contribute to funds for individuals’ life goals, and support Black creatives. It’s not just about surviving; it’s about giving everyone the ability to thrive.
4. Fight White supremacy in your own life.
White supremacy isn’t limited to our law enforcement organizations; it’s pervasive in every aspect of our society. To be an ally you have to actively be anti-racist and snuff out White supremacy wherever it rears its ugly head.
Most likely that includes within your family, friend group, co-workers, and any social situation. It means having conversations with your friends and family that make you uncomfortable. There’s a chance you could lose people in your life, but you can’t ignore these conversations or sweep them under the rug.
The movement needs you to reach out to people. It’s your job. There are great resources online to help prepare you for these talks. Sonya Renee Taylor put it well in her IGTV video: if you’re having conversations with your White family and friends about whether or not a different race has the right to live, that’s White supremacy incarnate. Point it out. Watch out for fallacies from the other side that are meant to trip you up. Remember that All Lives Matter isn’t a nice sentiment. It’s dangerous rhetoric that circumvents your argument and refuses to acknowledge the problem.
Racism isn’t always an active belief; it lives inside our subconscious bias’. Don’t just focus on the people who openly disagree with you. All non-Black people have places where they could better their allyship. Remember that your ultimate goal is to re-educate those closest to you. Your goal is not to prove how right you are or shame them for their ignorance, which could leave to further divisiveness.
5. Learn from Black educators.
Research Black history, media, and knowledge. There are so many Black activists, creators, and educators putting out amazing resources from which you can learn.
Some people I recommend following and listening to on social media include my fellow ABC alumni, the young adults from Black-ish. I’ve always looked up to them for the way they use their platforms and voices, especially now. On Instagram, I recommend following Gina Danza, Darien LaBeach, Movement for Black Lives, Ivirlei Brookes, Nelini Stamp, Keith Mach, Chaka Mpeanaji, and Vets About Face.
Remember, it’s not their job to fix you or help you be better. It’s on you to listen and learn.
6. Know your place at protests.
Not everyone can be on the frontlines right now, and that’s OK. There are many lanes in this revolution, so be part of whichever you are able to. If you are afforded the opportunity of going to protests, it’s important to know your role.
You are there to lend support, be a body in the crowd, and if it comes down to it and you are comfortable, help peacefully protect your fellow protestors from police aggression. You are not there to instigate violence, agitate police officers, deface or loot, or do anything that will bring public scorn to the movement.
If you see other White people trying to cause havoc, intervene. Listen to protest leaders and support in any way you can.
Written by Nolan Gould @nolangould
Photography by Gustavo Oliver @g.0liver