In the wake of a series of deaths of Black Americans at the hand of the police, the streets worldwide are full of people advocating for civil rights. Under the rallying cry of “Black Lives Matter”, the movement has shown the harsh reality of systematic racism in the US and other Western societies.
As someone who cares about basic humanity, you’ve probably felt saddened, frustrated, and ashamed about the glaring abuses of power. So did I. And I felt the need to commit to the fight for racial justice. As a white person, I started wondering how could I be a good ally. Here I’ll share some of the resources and some good ideas that I’ve found through my researches.
As white people grown up in Western societies, we received some unearned benefits. Usually, self-interrogation around the ways in which we benefited from membership in the dominant group gets stuck on the idea of “white privilege”. The two words inspire an almost instinctive pushback. Getting defined by our own race is unusual for us white people. And the word privilege seems to suggest that we didn’t struggle in our lives.
Most of us worked hard to get where we wanted to be. I come from a poor and rural background. But we do have greater access to power and resources than people of color in the same situation do.
A study conducted in Australia illustrates how white privilege can manifest in day-to-day interactions. In the experiment, people tried to get on a bus, telling the driver they didn’t have enough money for the ride. 72 percent of white people were allowed to stay. Only 36 percent of black people received the same kindness.
But subconscious effects of past discriminations don’t tell the whole story. For example, the ability to accumulate wealth has long been a white privilege. Google “redlining” or do some research into how people of color were targeted during the subprime crisis before 2008.
So you’re ready to help with determination and passion! And yet, the first step to becoming an ally is being humbly present. Listening actively and with empathy is no easy feat, but truly hearing and sharing the voices of black people should be our first goal. Lisa M. Stulberg, an associate professor of sociology of education at New York University, says that “allies to any movement need to always be paying attention to when it is the right time to speak and when it is the right time to just listen, learn, and follow.” In this spirit, I’d like to share a plea to white women by Gabriella Effie Forson. Her post is beautifully written and can be of great help to start connecting with the experiences of black women.
Show Your Support
Giving money to community organizations that support black people can be helpful. Seek out charities that are active in your area. Since we’re in pride month, it may be a good idea supporting black trans women, who are facing an epidemic of violence. But there are other ways to show support. You can start by seeking out black writers, artists, and musicians that are new to you.
We will never understand the experience of a black person, and it’s important to remember that. We will make mistakes, and we should own them. But this is a pivotal moment. And we can’t just stand on the sidelines anymore.