An ally is someone who fights for a marginalised group, of which they are not a part of. So white people can support racial inequality by using their privilege to amplify the voices of black people and educate other white people. But it’s not as simple as going around, announcing yourself as an ally to everyone you meet. Here are a few valuable things you can do to be an ally:
- Understand your privilege. Do some reflection and consider the ways in which your white privilege affects your everyday life. Privilege doesn’t mean that you don’t have any problems of your own; it simply means that there are certain things that you won’t ever have to think about because they simply don’t affect you. Only by understanding your place within the system, can you learn how to fight the system.
- It’s not about you. It is not only unproductive but offensive to project your white guilt on to people of colour. Being an ally is not assuaging your guilt. Equally, don’t try to take on a leadership role in the struggle against racism. You are a part of the dominant culture and so you do not need a platform to speak about race.
- Educate yourself and keep up to date. Read the news and make yourself aware of the issues and injustices black people face. It’s your job to get online and actively learn about how racism affects people of colour.
- Don’t show off about how educated you are about racism. Instead listen to the experiences, feelings and views of people of colour and try your best to amplify them. It’s your job as an ally to support the movement, not to speak over and take credit for black people’s thoughts and opinions.
- Speak out against racism. No matter how close you are to your casually racist friend, you need to call them out! You don’t have to shout or make a scene, just be clear that what they said was wrong. And brush aside any ridiculous accusations that you can’t take a joke; tackling racism is infinitely more important.
- Know that not everyone shares the same views. This may sound obvious but not all black people have the same views. Don’t expect a handful of people, or even one person, to represent all black people. White people aren’t expected to speak for all white people so why should people of colour?
- Don’t treat people like accessories. You’re not a black ally because you have a black friend, just as a man isn’t a feminist ally just because he has a girlfriend.
- Don’t appropriate black culture. Using a marginalised culture that is not your own as a fashion statement or joke hugely trivialises the systematic oppression of people of colour and serves to perpetuate white supremacy. Read up on cultural appropriation and understand the damage it does.
- Learn from your mistakes and apologise. Nobody is perfect and you are bound to accidentally make mistakes as you unlearn racist ideologies. The important thing is to apologise for your mistake and actively learn from it. This article may be full of mistakes, but it’s better to make mistakes then to refuse to talk about race altogether.
- Keep learning. Don’t just read this article and assume that you know everything about being an ally – I am a white person and I am only scratching the surface. Please go online and get reading websites blogs, articles, tweets etcetera written by people of colour. Stay informed, focused and active, and together we can all help fight for racial equality.
Feature image by Owen Webb.