On Being an Ally

A black fist beside a white fist, line drawings

I’m a white person who wants to stop racism. Many of us – I’d like to think most of us – want to do something, we just don’t know what to do.

I don’t know what it’s like to have someone dismiss me or treat me poorly because of my skin colour. I also don’t see it in my daily life because a) I’m a privileged white woman and b) no one in my circle would behave this way, or they wouldn’t be in my circle.

My question is, and always has been how can I be a better ally?

Reading this article from 2017 has helped: For Our White Friends Desiring to be Allies is full of great info that someone like me probably wouldn’t otherwise know. For example, there’s a reaction I’ve had to awful events like the murder of George Floyd that I now know hurts people of colour. Read it, please.

If you’re not aware that Donald Trump is choosing language to deliberately trigger white supremacists, if you think that racism is a small problem for a fraction of Americans, you need to read this book: Hateland – A Long, Hard Look at America’s Extremist Heart. I read it as I edited the audio for Derek, who narrated the audiobook version. It’s not for the ostriches among us. Suspecting these truths is one thing. Seeing them proven is quite another.

Another thing I have changed is muting or unfollowing people who say racist things on social media. I used to think I was denying them a voice. Now I see I’ve been unwittingly feeding into it. I engage, refute, calmly introduce facts and argue. It’s uncomfortable and messy and worth doing. And it’s a tiny thing to do in light of the racism that some people face every day. I’ve also resumed reporting people who advocate violence against other races. I used to do that only when I came across it. Now, I probe trending racist hashtags and actively seek out people to report.

It’s not enough to say, “I’m not racist” and think we’re good. We need to educate ourselves and follow the lead of black people who are on the front lines of this fight. For years, Colin Kaepernick has been a hero of mine for his integrity. He took a knee and lost his career for it. He has never stopped advocating for an equal society. As his white ally, I watch and learn. I seek out Ted Talks from black leaders on race. It’s knowing that contradictions exist (looting during valid protests is bad) but they don’t detract from the core message. We need to try harder and it’s on us to do the work. Let’s do the work.

4 thoughts on “On Being an Ally”

  1. Unfortunately, you can’t stop racism for it is merely one aspect of a much broader systemic, pervasive, and inherent societal ingrained attitude with racism merely being one symptom of that attitude.

    If you’ve ever been judged based on your hair colour; culture; where you live; disability; education; language or how you express yourself ETC., these are all symptoms of the same attitudes.

    When I lost my sight nearly 4 decades ago I finally learned to see, for I am no longer blinded by what I see! And that is one of the inherent attitudinal problems.

  2. I have hope, but I’m practical. how much has really changed since the race riots of the 60’s? Or any other similar incident since then. As long as humanity tries to address symptoms nothing will change.

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