How To Be An Ally
Being silent is no longer an option. But what happens after the hashtag? We investigate what it means to be anti-racist and how to be a better ally.
The latest abuses against Black American citizens has left many of us devastated and feeling pretty hopeless. What can we do? Now is not the time to keep scrolling. If you feel that it’s happening to someone else, in another country then you are wrong. The issue of racism against Black people is systemic and has leached into our everyday lives. It is not exclusive to the US, it’s a big problem in the UK too. However there are lots of proactive things that we can all be doing to understand how we can become anti-racist and better allies. We have put together a list of resources to help you in your anti-racism work.
What Does It Mean To Be Anti Racist
It’s easier and more comfortable to think of ourselves as being non racist. However many of us are guilty of learnt micro aggressions and covert racism and we don’t even know it. When you engage in these behaviours you may not be a White supremacist but you’re also part of the problem. Being anti-racist means being an ally to Black, Asian and ethnic minority people (BAME). It means educating yourself about the history around racism. It means calling out racism when you see it. It means using your privilege to lift up people of colour and help their voices to be heard. It means listening and learning. It doesn’t happen overnight but if you can make some changes today, tomorrow, you are already proving to be a better ally.
‘It is not enough to be quietly non racist, now is the time to be vocally anti-racist.’ – Angela Davis
Listen and Learn
Now is the time to educate ourselves as to how we can be better allies. Which means listening. We will have questions, of course we will. But it’s better practise to try to find the answers yourself through resources than by asking Black people. It is not their responsibility to give you the answers, these already exist. If you do have conversations with people from the BAME community on the subject of racism, be respectful. If you are told that you are incorrect, or offensive or need to change, then you do. Sit with it and ask yourself why you feel the way you do. When we ask questions, we open ourselves up to criticism so embrace this and try not to take offence.
You can find some incredible literature available, written by black authors. Whether you choose fiction or non fiction, putting yourself into the world of Black characters and stories helps to shift your thinking and find your empathy.
Donate – Your Money and Your Time
Charities and organisations calling for change need tangible resources. So if you are able to, they would be grateful of a donation to help their cause. If you cannot afford to donate money, sign up to newsletters, follow them on social media and share their information. Here are some charities and causes that you can donate to in the UK and US.
Sign Petitions & Write To Your MP
Living in a democratic country means that as voters we get to decide what our representatives talk about. Write a letter to your local MP imploring them to act on your behalf. You can find your local MP along with their contact details here. If you’re a little stuck for what to write then we have found some really helpful templates written by Jo Lorenz, Founder of Conscious Citizens Co. Or sign and share a petition to force change. Figure out what you want to change and find a petition to contribute to. Whether you want an end to Stop & Search, or you want to see prosecutions for police brutality cases, there are a lot of worthwhile petitions on change.org.
Call Out Businesses
If you feel that a business does not adequately cater to Black people then tell them so. In the same way we now frequently ask companies ‘who made my clothes’, let’s ask where are the Black people in their imagery? What percentage of their workforce is Black? Do they have any Black board members? If you run your own company, what can you do to ensure it is more inclusive? Can you provide mentorship or create programmes to attract and retain Black talent?
At the same time support businesses run by Black people. You can do this simply by supporting them on social media and by spending money with them.
Some of us participated in the music industry led #blackouttuesday. It was designed to pause social media for a day, enabling Black voices to be amplified. It was an emotional show of solidarity but remember that sharing an image and a hashtag is the start of your journey, see above points. Merely sharing an image can be construed as ‘optical allyship’, which is allyship that only serves at the surface level to platform the ally. (For more information see Mireille C Harper’s post on Instagram on the subject.) Social media is a great place to learn and show your support. Follow Black influencers and brands and engage in their conversations and their work. Be supportive and respectful of their spaces. This is not an opportunity for you to bombard people with questions and argue within the comments of their feeds and profiles. Please also refrain from sharing images and videos of violence against Black people. It is triggering to the Black community and does nothing to solve the issue. Here are just a few of the inspiring people we follow:
There are several demonstrations and peaceful protests planned in the coming weeks in London. See @blacklivesmatteruk on Instagram for more details. Taking to the streets is a wonderful way to show allyship. It’s important of course to be safe while doing so. We advise you to equip yourself properly for any march or demonstration. Masks, gloves, hand sanitiser, sunscreen and water are all important. Please observe the correct social distancing rules where you are able to so as not to endanger others and of course avoid going out if you suspect you may have COVID-19.
We hope this has given you the tools you need to continue your allyship journey. Sharing on social media is all well and good but the things we do offline now and what we do in the weeks and months to come are more important. It may feel like a moment in time but for the Black community is has been a long time coming. Let’s not let it slip into a distant memory without creating real lasting and systematic change.
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