In less than two weeks Donald J. Trump, the 45th President of the United States, has not only changed the rules of American politics, but has totally re-written the book on what it is to be the chief of staff. From cutting funding of abortions internationally, nominating full blown racists such as Jeff Sessions, and banning over 134 million people from entering the United States, Trump is bringing America into a new age. Because of this numerous activists, particularly white people, have become energized and want change. A large number of white people who have never thought about protesting or challenging anything outside their bubble are suddenly engaged and want to be part of a solution for change. They want to know how to become allies in the fight against the hate that is the Trump administration.
As a Black man, my entire life is a fight against racism/white supremacy.
While I am resentful at many white people’s sudden urge to end oppression, I remember what the man who I consider to be the greatest thinker of the 20th century, Malcolm X, once said. “Don’t be in a hurry to condemn because he doesn’t do what you do or think as you think so fast. There was a time when you didn’t know what you know today.” Because of this, I try to be understanding when non-POC’s ask me, “What can I do?” Below are six points on what I believe an ally is and what an ally can do. There is strength in numbers. Hopefully we can all come together and end this dangerous system.
Speak up and speak out
One of the most important duties for an ally is to challenge those who are within your immediate circle (this includes co-workers) when they say or do something racist. Yes it is great when you’re hanging out with your Black or Asian friend discussing how terrible racism/white supremacy is, but what carries more impact is when you are around white people and call them out when they say racist things. Being an ally is about getting into those spaces we POC’s do not have access to and having those conversations we cannot. It may be a bit scary to put yourself out there and some folks may be uncomfortable and/or cut you off when you do so, but if you are committed, this is what it takes.
Join other white people in the fight
Black and other non-white people have been fighting racism since its inception. It is as natural to us as a reflex. While it is nice for white folks to join us in a march or protest, it would be much more effective to organize amongst yourselves. White people know what moves and what makes white people tick better than anyone. In my experience, a white person’s word will always be listened to more than a person of color. We need white allies to work with each other on how they can go into white spaces and fight racism. Organizations such as SURJ (Standing Up for Racial Justice) were created to bring white people together to perform anti-racism work.
Don’t look for praise
Many times in groups or online, I will hear white people say, “Well I support Black Lives Matter, “ “I marched for… (insert Black or Brown man murdered by police)”, and “I am out here at the airport protesting the Muslim Ban..” So what? You want a cookie? Allyship is not about looking for recognition in fighting for the less fortunate. You should not look for kudos or want to be labeled as that white person who is working to dismantle white supremacy. We should all be doing this, every single day. This reminds me of an old Chris Rock joke where a guy brags about taking care of his kids and staying out of jail. You are supposed to be doing this. That’s what good people do – make the world a better place for everyone.
Donate money towards anti-racism organizations
In the fight against racism/white supremacy, there are many fronts in this battle. Allies can protest, organize amongst themselves, write essays informing other whites on important issues, and donate money. It is no secret that resources such as money and oil run the world, and many organizations that are in this fight desperately need the resources. Most anti-racist institutions are non-profit, so a donation is always welcomed and can go a long way. If you are still trying to find your place in the movement, giving a dollar or two towards the cause is a great way to start.
Do not center yourself during talks of racism
I believe every non-white person has had this experience in person or online: we are talking about their experiences of race in America and all of a sudden, a white person takes over the conversation and makes it about them. White people, whether intentional or not, have a habit of centering themselves when talking about race. They feel as if they themselves are being attacked, or they feel like the white savior. One of the most important things an ally must do is LISTEN. When Black, Latino, Asian, Native American, and Middle Eastern people discuss the challenges we face and the everyday racism we encounter, it is not meant as a slam towards you. We are letting you know how the world is from our perspective. This is our experience. Derailing the conversation with, “Well not all white people” or even shedding “white tears” is counterproductive and does nothing to help us and you. By listening to our experiences, this will give you the knowledge to be a better ally.
Understand what racism is and how you benefit
Let’s start with one absolute truth here: Every white person is either racist or benefits from the system of white supremacy. It is a system that discriminates and disenfranchises people of color while maintaining a hierarchy that keeps white people at the top. While you may not be a card carrying member of a skinhead group, I can guarantee you have either harbored a racist thought, looked the other way when an act of racism occurred, or reaped the benefits of everyday racism such as not being followed in a store, your United States citizenship not being questioned, “fitting the description” of a crime, or even your intellect being up for debate. This is a glimpse into the everyday life of a person of color. This ain’t white privilege, this is racism. Understanding the system of white supremacy, how it functions, and affects everyone is paramount in being an ally.
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