With the Black Lives Matter movement gains global traction, the world is coming together in protest and action against racism, many white people are finding themselves at a loss for how to be an ally. Being an ally to Black Person of Colour (BPOC) or Black Indigenous Person of Colour (BIPOC) is more important now than ever. No doubt, you’ve seen the footage on the internet of people putting themselves between BPOC/BIPOC and the Police. This is important and has been a really clear visual of the change that can make, however that might not be possible for you. In the midst of a global pandemic, of racist families and many other reasons that may stop you from going to a protest you might be wondering what else you can do other than share things on social media. I’ve combined some things I do and know, and some resources, to create this post and hopefully help you to become a better ally when you feel lost.
It is not BPOC/BIPOC job to educate you
This might sound harsh, but it’s really important to remember this. Every day of their life BPOC/BIPOC are faced with racism and continue to fight for equality in the world. Google exists, white allies exist, social media exists. If you’re truly an ally you will take time to do some research, seek information where you can and be thankful if a BPOC/BIPOC takes time to educate you.
Own your privilege
Last week I, briefly, explained why your privilege is important. Your privilege is important. Use your privilege and platform (no matter how large or small) to elevate the voices of BPOC/BIPOC. This might mean sharing posts, photos, words, promoting their new book or project.
Support the BPOC/BIPOC community
There are hundreds of artists, writers, journalists, activists, creators and more out there that are BPOC/BIPOC. Elevate their voices and artworks, share their profiles to your social media, buy their art or clothing, stream their music and movies or TV shows. If purchasing artwork or clothing from BIPOC keep in mind that white Australia currently owns the rights to the Aboriginal flag and anything that you purchase with that flag on it means the proceeds are going straight to the racist society that we are fighting against.
Donate, or sign and share petitions
It doesn’t matter how much you donate, every single dollar counts, but if you’re not able to donate then you should at the very least be signing the petitions! It might seem small to you, but it can make a world of difference. Signing a petition will take you no more than a minute, and sharing it might make it two if your connection is slow. You can find these petitions on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, TikTok and anywhere else.
Have the conversation (yes, even if it’s uncomfortable)
I know it can be difficult to call out people for racism, especially when they are friends or family. Yes, racism is also often a learned thing and not natural, but it’s still wrong and those who are racist might not even understand or realise why what they say is racist. This might mean having constant conversations with your family, commenting on your uncles social media post, talking to a friend or co-worker about their comments. Keep in mind that the best way you can hope to make change is to remain calm. I know it can be hard to remain calm with people who don’t share the same views as you, but start off using non-confrontational language, perhaps try skipping the racism word in the first or second instance. Explain why something is offensive, explain that it isn’t a white person’s place to say whether something is or isn’t offensive. If you have the knowledge to answer questions or explain why things are offensive specifically then share that knowledge, if not learn together. Admit that you aren’t sure, but that you can look it up together and find information to explain why.
Show respect to BPOC/BIPOC
Remember what I said in the previous point about it not being a white person’s place to say what is or isn’t racist? That applies to allies as well. You might get things wrong, you might say the wrong thing, you might not understand why certain actions are being taken but it isn’t up to you. I’ll be the first to admit that I have gotten things wrong before, or said things that were wrong, and prior to educating myself I would often defend myself. The thing is, you might not be someone who is racially discriminative but that doesn’t mean you weren’t a product of systematic racism in your upbringing. Acknowledge what you said was wrong and do better.
Virtue signalling is a no-go
Furthermore, your white guilt is not the burden of BPOC/BIPOC. It can be tiresome to have the same conversations with family, imagine how tired those are who are victims of racism. It’s not your BPOC/BIPOC’s burden to listen to your tears or have to acknowledge you for what you are doing. If you’re looking for someone to vent to about please feel free to message me (or other allies).
There’s a lot to learn when you become an active ally, that is part of your privilege. Here are some brief answers and explanations I’ve been giving often lately to help you out a bit.
“I’m not privileged” Admitting privilege doesn’t mean that you haven’t had an unfortunate life, or suffered discrimination. It simply means that you haven’t consistently and systematically suffered as a direct result of this thing. For example, a white gay person may have been subject to systematic and consistent homophobia, but their life has not been made worse because of the colour of their skin. Privilege is not binary, and is intersectional, but when it comes to white privilege the basis is that someone who is white is that they have not had a lower quality of life because of the colour of their skin.
“But all lives matter” Yes, absolutely, all lives do matter. Black Lives Matter is not a movement that is discrediting that but it is bringing light to the fact that in present society Black lives are not valued on the same level that White lives are. Saying that “all lives matter” is as if you are telling firefighters that all houses matter when there is only one on fire in the street, bare in mind that house has been deliberately lit on fire. Or that all cancers matter when you’re fundraising for breast cancer. Or that all Forrests matter when you sign a petition to save rainforests. Nobody is saying fuck all other Forrests, it’s just a petition to save the rainforests that are currently being destroyed.
“Rioting isn’t the way to do it” It’s not our place to tell people how they should feel or discredit their feelings. Have you considered taking this approach with the murder of BPOC/BIPOC? Many civil rights movements were achieved through riots.
“There’s a [POC] there, it isn’t racially charged” other POC are able to be racist towards BPOC/BIPOC. Any level of privilege can result in oppression of other minorities. BPOC/BIPOC may also be subject to systematic, institualised racist views and this may be a direct result of the racist society in which we currently live.
“I’m gay and I understand how it feels to be part of a minority, I just don’t agree with riots” Stonewall was a riot started by a black, trans woman.
“I’m not racist, but I don’t support the LGBTQ+ community” (or the other way around) Equality is intersectional, you can’t be pro-equality for one without the other.
“I just don’t see why it’s important to change the date” If it’s not something you find important, then why not change it for us all to feel included in celebrating the history of Australian land, rather than the colonisation of Aboriginal communities and the Stolen Generation?
“Not all cops are bad” ACAB doesn’t mean that all cops are bad. ACAB means that all cops are bastards, meaning they are part of a bastardised system. Your Mum, Dad, Brother, Sister, Uncle or whoever could be the nicest person in your life, but they are currently benefiting from a system that is racist, homophobic and built on brutality. Your Uncle John may be a wonderful person, but his silence and participation in an institution that profits from brutalist, racism and homophobia is not wonderful.
“Blah blah blah, reverse racism” This circles back to white privilege BUT… Racism, by definition, is prejudice, discrimination, or antagonism directed against someone of a different race based on the belief that one’s own race is superior. Other races may be discriminatory towards you because you are white (based on prior experience) but this isn’t racism. Prejudice/Discrimination is different to racism and it’s important to acknowledge that.