This is a debate I have often with others and far too often with myself. I am currently in bed, post wisdom teeth removal, loopy from pain meds and ready to be honest.
Lately I have been more vocal about my experience growing up Black and the discrimination I continue to face because of it. It took me a while to speak up on this issue because until now I never realized what would have made my painful experiences just a little bit easier. Dealing with racism from such a young age has taught me the importance of allies and the important role they play in our fight to combat anti-Black racism.
I want to start by saying thank you to all the allies who have dedicated time to support and uplift Black voices, including mine. Thank you for using your power and privilege to advocate for me and my community. It is easy to ignore the inequity the Black community faces but you have chosen to stand up and speak out despite the barriers and challenges you encounter. You are doing more than enough.
Allies play an important role in dismantling stereotypes. They provide spaces for the Black community to fight for systemic change. They stand up for people who are different than them. They listen and embrace our stories and cultures. For that, I am eternally grateful.
I decided to put together a list of actions I find most effective when it comes to being an ally for the Black community. I think being an ally looks different on everybody. I also think that everyone in the Black community would cumulate a list different to mine. To those who are looking to become a better ally, these are a few things I personally appreciate.
- Understand racism and your privilege
Learn about the historic and current oppression that the Black community faces. If you have never experienced racism you are likely not aware of how prevalent it is in today’s society. I am sure if you ask, there are many people who would be willing to share their history with you. If not, there are plenty of books and documentaries which highlight the Black experience. Analyze how your actions and behaviours may contribute to racism or put Black people in uncomfortable positions.
2. Listen Up
Learn about the cultures and experiences of the Black people around you. Create opportunities for Black people to speak up so you can listen and learn. Be understanding, compassionate and willing to learn. If you are speaking with Black colleagues or friends truly listen to what they are saying and what they are asking of you. Don’t minimize their experience or their stories.
3. Speak Up
Address inappropriate behaviour including racist language. Educate others and let them know why their actions are hurtful or destructive. Standing up to racism is a life long commitment and you can not pick and choose when to speak up.
4. Amplify Black Voices
Make space for Black voices to share their stories and experiences. Support Black leadership and organizations. Support Black businesses, your Black friends and co-workers. Create spaces that allows for the Black community to thrive without the fear of judgement.