Opinion: So you want to be an ally?

There is a shift happening globally, and it is time to address it. A recent poll conducted by Monmouth University revealed that 76 percent of Americans believe that “racial and ethnic discrimination is a big problem for the United States.” This message is to white folx: We need you, but in the right way. To push for real momentum, there is no room for your fragility; understand that. If you choose to take up the call to realize racial justice in our country and in our community, then do it because it is the right thing, not because you need acknowledgment, recognition or credit. So what can you do? Here are a few things. This list is by no means comprehensive:

Educate yourself. “In order to stand with us, and people who look like me, you have to be educated on issues that pertain to me, fully educated so you can feel the full level of pain so that you can have full understanding,” says Emmanuel Acho, former NFL linebacker and creator of the now viral video Uncomfortable Conversations With a Black Man. Two trending books are good places to start, one aptly titled, How to Be an Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi. But look, don’t stop there. Educate yourself on your own fragility. Robin DiAngelo’s White Fragility is eye-opening. It is not the responsibility of black people to educate you. Those who do should be paid for their labor.

Understand and confront your biases. We need to look no further than recent headlines — like “Bird Watching While Black: White Woman Calls Police on Black Man After She Refuses to Leash Her Dog” — to understand that racial biases translate into racist actions. White people react to black people doing normal things, and those reactions can cause real harm, every day in every city. Denial does no good. Don’t let shame and defensiveness get in the way of change. Our lives are at stake as long as you are unwilling to confront yourself. Have the courage to unpack your biases and, when you do, make a conscious effort to be different. [pullquote-1]

Stop perpetuating violence with microaggressions. What are microaggressions? “[B]rief and commonplace daily verbal, behavioral, or environmental indignities,” as defined by Dr. Beverly Daniel Tatum, a psychologist and former Spelman College president. White people communicate supremacy through negative assumptions, describing differences in ways that are hostile and derogatory, like unnecessarily remarking on a black person sounding “articulate.” Whether intended or unintended, microaggressions are often subtle, but harmful. “Whiteness,” is not a cultural barometer for “normalcy.” STOP IT!


Learn what it means to be an ally. Become comfortable with being uncomfortable. Black folx navigate this terrain daily. Be willing to take leadership from black folx. Ask how you can help and wait to be invited in. Writer Giselle Buchanan created an Instagram resource guide on how to become an ally when you don’t know how (tinyurl.com/BeAnAllyBuchanan). When you utilize these tools, throw her a couple of bucks (VENMO @giselle-buchanan), as if purchasing a book. There are plenty of local organizations doing racial justice work you can also support. A simple Google or Facebook search will turn up results. Again, educate YOURSELF.

Know your place in the movement. All of us have gifts and talents. Some of us are disruptors, caregivers, visionaries, builders, front-line responders, healers, storytellers, artists — and everything in between. What are your gifts? How can you offer them up? This doesn’t mean you are in charge. You can lead spaces when confronting racism with your family or same-race co-workers, and in other spheres of influence. You’re either actively working to be anti-racist or you’re not.

Sister Helen Prejean says, “Being kind in an unjust society is not enough. It is more than greeting your black neighbor as you pass one another on the street. It is more than showing up to a couple of protests. It is a commitment to a holistic lifestyle change that surrenders privilege and uses it as a weapon to protect black lives until we live in a society where white skin no longer possesses a higher value.”