I recently read and shared the article “10 Reasons I Don’t Want to Be Your White Ally,” which struck up a serious conversation among a few Caucasian friends and me. They wanted to know what could they do to be a better ally. Here are a few things I personally feel white people (and everyone else) should understand before making the decision to be an ally for Black Lives Matter.
1. Don’t hold the actions of a few against the many
The people who want to kill police or white people, in general, do not represent the Black Lives Matter movement. If you find yourself thinking in that direction, consider how you would feel if the actions of white racists in your neighborhood were held against your entire community? It would be unfair and would sound silly, wouldn’t it?
2. Don’t say all lives matter
Yes, all lives matter, but all lives do not matter equally in the United States. Minorities, including women of every race and ethnicity, are not treated the same as white males. Just because the movement is called Black Lives Matter does not negate that the lives of other people matter, too.
3. Don’t wait for your black friends to speak before you chime in
One common grievance I noticed when the Alton Sterling and Philando Castile videos made headlines is that black people were not seeing their white friends admitting that these events were tragic. When you read of an injustice perpetrated against a black life or the life of any minority and you feel it is wrong, post it without hesitation.
4. Don’t hide behind your friends’ posts
Don’t hide your thoughts and comments on these issues on friends’ post or a post from a page you like. Post about it on your timeline so your friends can read how you feel. Let your friends know that you feel the way black lives are being treated is wrong. Don’t keep your thoughts hidden from those you know. Being an ally in the shadows helps not one person.
5. Be selflessly empathetic
I see a lot of white people say that they know how black people feel and give a weak comparison from their life. That is not needed. It is not wanted. Showing empathy for a cause or any person should be about the person or the cause, not you. There is one exception: if you have a black spouse or black children (children who will be viewed as black). In this case, you will know the fear of wondering if your black spouse or children will make it home alive if stopped by the police. Just simply acknowledging that you feel the specific situation is a tragedy is sufficient. If you are the praying the type, saying that you have the families in your prayers is sufficient. That is selfless support.
6. Admit that there’s a problem
Kimberlee Stevenson believes that, “You can be a better ally by first admitting that there is a problem. Throwing out black on black crime doesn’t help. We get that, and we as a community are working on that as well. Speak up and say something to your other white friends when they make racist remarks or turn and walk the other way because they see a person of color coming towards them. Have a conversation with your family and friends about their actions and words. Just be visible. If you can get angry over a lion, an alligator and a gorilla, then you can get angry over humans being mistreated.”
7. Celebrity mishaps are not relevant
The reason why BLM is so well-known is largely because the media has made an effort to write about it — a lot. Sometimes it is to inform, but most of the time, it is for readership and ratings. Due to this, you will see headlines about a celebrity receiving backlash for a picture or comment that is not racist but may lack sensitivity. Those headlines are nothing to be bothered by.
8. Being a white ally is not easy
Please understand that being a white ally is no easy task. Anytime a person supports a cause that means a change to the current social structure to benefit women, minorities or the LGBT community, those who fear these changes will label them a Social Justice Warrior. SJW white people are perhaps hated by other whites as much as Tim Wise. So expect hostility. It takes courage and a strong will to seek out justice and equality.
9. Think about the black race as a whole
Trease Shine Hinton argues that, “I would ask white people to stop and really think about what the black race as a whole has gone through. Stop apologizing, think about what we’ve endured and where we’re coming from, understand why some of us are so incredibly bitter, and stop telling us to get over it.”
Find out more on How to Be an Ally at the #BlogHer16 conference, the premier event for women online, taking place from Aug. 4 – 6, 2016, in Los Angeles, California. Don’t wait! See the agenda and all the speakers, and get your ticket now.