How white people can be better allies to the Black Community during times like this.
This past Monday, George Floyd, a 46-year-old Black man and resident of Minneapolis, was killed by a police officer. The officer kept a knee pinned on George’s neck even as he was pleading, “Please, I can’t breathe,” all while three other officers at the scene did nothing to intervene.
I hear repeatedly white people say they feel helpless when things like this continue to happen; when Black people are murdered and the white perpetrators are all too often not held accountable. But white people are not helpless. You all are far from it. You are inherently privileged because of the color of your skin, and it is your job to put in the work to become better allies to Black people.
While I honestly am over having to explain to white people how to show up, in the spirit of giving I am sharing some ways you can.
1. Start speaking up and keep the conversation going
When you see racial discrimination, oppression, and violence occurring; you need to speak up. That is not the time to be mute or tongue-tied. Start conversations about the injustices you are seeing and further the discussions on social media and in person. Talk about race with your family and friends, even (and especially) if it is uncomfortable. If you are a predominately white organization release a statement acknowledging how white racism and supremacy results in racial discrimination, oppression, and violence. And dialogue should not end a week or a month or a year after a murder like this one happens. Keep the conversation going.
2. Take it upon yourself to educate your self.
Let me be clear: It is not the job of Black people to educate white people about racial injustice. It is your responsibility. Black, Indigenous, and People of Color get tired explaining the same ideas over and over, every time a white does not know what to do or joins the conversation. Do the work of seeking out books and documentaries and articles and allow yourself to learn from them. And if you must hit up your Black friend for insight; pay them for their intellectual property, or at least buy them dinner, and actively listen to what they are saying. There is a great document titled you can check out for starters, “Anti-racism resources for white people.” Another good start is reading my article earlier this month about how Black folk have never been safe in America. You’re welcome. And here are some more resources that I recommend:
- Who Gets to Be Afraid in America? by Ibram X. Kendi
- Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race by Reni Eddo-Lodge
- Hood Feminism: Notes from the Women That a Movement Forgot by Mikki Kendall
- So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Olu
- Trigger Warning with Killer Mike
- The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander
3. Sign petitions.
One of the most immediate ways you can show your support is by signing a petition by a nonprofit civil rights advocacy organization. Sign as an individual and as an organization. Color for Change has a petition demanding that the Mayor of Minneapolis, to 1) block the involved police officers their pensions and 2) ban them from becoming police officers ever again. And County Attorney Freeman must immediately charge all four officers with murder.
Financial assistance is one of the most crucial ways to support people who are fighting against injustice. Put your money where your mouth is. One of the organizations to support right now is the Minnesota Freedom Fund, a nonprofit that pays bail for individuals who otherwise cannot afford it. As protests continue in Minneapolis, their work will continue to be especially necessary. A few other organizations that are top of mind right now include Black Visions Collective and Reclaim the Block. If you are in the Twin Cities, there are plenty of ways to help locally. This guide shares information on immediate protest needs and where to donate.
5. Make your voice heard.
Contact Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman, Minnesota Governor Tim Walz, Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey, Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison, and the Minneapolis Police Union to let them know you demand justice and accountability. You can find a contact toolkit, including sample messages to include when you reach out, through the ACLU of Minnesota and at this link.
Protesting unjust measures is one of the most visible and powerful ways to show your support. It is powerful to see millions of people starting conversations and sharing posts on social media; it is even more powerful to see thousands of people come together physically, all in unison, pursuing one greater outcome. The Movement 4 Black Lives has a Week of Action for allies and organizers across the country to share demands and ways for to take action. And if you do decide go out to protest right now, whether in Minneapolis or elsewhere, wear a mask and do what you can to practice social distancing. You can also reference this guide for additional ways to protest safely.
7. Do not avoid the discomfort you’re feeling.
Recognize that the ability to quickly move past the feelings that have been brought up in response to Ahmaud Arbery, George Floyd, Nina Pop, Tony McDade, and the countless other murders of Black folk is an absolute privilege. The people who move past them are those who do not harbor continual fear over the same thing happening to themselves or their loved ones. Systematic injustices can only become invisible if they do not affect you. Sit with the discomfort you are feeling instead of ignoring it. Reflect on your privilege and how you can do better for Black people in the future. And then decide which actions you are going to take going forward.