If you are a white person trying to be an ally to the Black Lives Matter movement you may have a steep learning curve and will experience a whole spectrum of emotions. Emotions such as shock and anger can be a catalyst for change but just having those emotions are unhelpful without positive action.
It is difficult to navigate complex interracial relations and even people with the best intentions may inadvertentlmake mistakes and alienate those they are trying to be allies for.
A good starting point is to check your privilege: there are various tools available that can give you an indication of how easy or difficult your life has been so far.
Examples include the White Privilege Test from Monitor Racism, the White Privilege Checklist from Arizona State University and Buzzfeed’s How Privileged Are You? quiz.
Being born in a predominantly white society can mean starting from a disadvantaged point for people of colour. This can be compared to running a race a several steps behind white people – there was an excellent Channel 4 programme called The School That Tried To End Racism that showed that in real life to demonstrate how racism affects people of colour.
What We Can Do
There is so much that white people can do to be good allies. Activism can take many forms and it all starts from educating oneself.
You can find plenty of sources of valuable information about racism. A good example is Great Big Story’s list of books about racial injustice.
Then, there are behaviours both online and offline that can demonstrate you are supporting the Black Lives Matter movement.
Donating money to support Black Lives Matter causes can make a huge difference. If money is tight, what you post on social media can also draw the attention to racial inequality and the fight for a better society.
Supporting black-owned businesses online and offline can contribute to the advancement of minorities.
Buying products and services from black-owned businesses, talking about them on social media, leaving positive reviews about their activity and continuing to post about Black Lives Matter all contribute to the cause.
Probably the easiest way to find black-owned businesses (but also artists, creatives, freelancers and more) is through Instagram. You can find many proactive accounts constantly updating their feeds with recommendations of people to follow.
In the US, for example, Khadijah Robinson founded The Nile List to give visibility to black-owned businesses.
You can also write to your local Member of Parliament highlighting local causes that require attention, such as low quality housing for minority groups, lack of structures such as youth centres, support for single mothers and other issues affecting black people that are pertinent to your area. Also, don’t underestimate the power of online petitions.
If you are an entrepreneur you can offer free mentoring to aspiring black business owners as well as paid internships.
As consumers, we can also choose with our wallets by supporting large organisations that take inclusion seriously and with our clicks by visiting websites that don’t have racial biases, while avoiding those that do. To give you an example: Condé Nast’s food magazine and YouTube channel Bon Appétit was found to discriminate against people of colour, paying them less than their white counterparts (see for example this article on Vox).
In our social interactions, we can also take other people to task when they use racist language. If arguments get heated, it’s your call to walk away or to educate the other person. Whichever option you choose, silence is no longer an option. In the words of Desmond Tutu “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.”
Talking of social interactions, please be considerate towards your black friends: listen to what they have to say and never question their experiences of racism. They are not there to be your teachers about structural racism and you have to do your own homework.
Whatever you choose to do, here’s a useful reminder: don’t expect to be thanked for what you do because we should all have been more supportive and always condemn racist behaviours.
Do you want to be an ally to Black Lives Matter? Listen, be supportive, take action.