How White People Can Be Better Allies to the Black Community

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How You Can Be a Better Ally to Black People | Wit & Delight
Photo by Wengang Zhai @wgzhai on Unsplash

A Note From Kate (added Wednesday, June 3, 2020): The learning we’re doing every day is showing us the work we have to do going forward. While the ideas in this post are a start, we’re working on a specific plan for how Wit & Delight will do better for Black people in the future to earn our role as an ally. This will not be a shift that only lasts for a few days or weeks; this will be a lifelong journey and we are committed to following through on it.


The last Friday of the month is typically one where our team puts together a post sharing meaningful articles, videos, and other links we’ve found on the Internet lately. Things shifted for us as this week progressed, and it didn’t feel right to stick to the original schedule after all that’s happened these past few days in Minneapolis.

This 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.

Our team has been horrified by what happened, and even as I type this up, I’m crying at my desk. It’s appalling and senseless to think of a person being killed in such a cruel way, and it makes me hurt all over.

But the thing is, our hurt and our feelings in response to this atrocity won’t do any good unless we use them for something bigger. That message (and a whole host of other lessons) is continuing to be ingrained as we have conversations about what’s happened, and as we listen to the input of Black people on the topic of racism.

Our hurt and our feelings in response to this atrocity won’t do any good unless we use them for something bigger.

I am a white person and I fully acknowledge that I have work to do to shift the ways I think about and approach race. All white people do. We need to unlearn the deep-rooted habits and actions that perpetuate injustice. We need to unlearn the patterns that continue to contribute to systematic racism.

I’ve heard white people say they feel helpless when things like this continue to happen; when Black people are murdered and the perpetrators are all too often not held accountable. But we’re not helpless. We’re far from it. We are inherently privileged because of the color of our skin, and it’s our job to put in the work to become better allies to Black people.

Today we’re sharing a list of ways you can do just that, by educating yourself and donating and making your voice heard. This list is by no means exhaustive, and we are fully open to additional ideas or continued dialogue you’d like to leave in the comments. We’re not perfect and we don’t claim to be, and we are all ears for how we can do continue to do better.

1. Keep the conversation going.

One of the (many) steps we can take to push back against the racial oppression that is so widespread in this country is to not remain silent in the face of it. Start conversations about the injustices you’re seeing and further the discussions on social media. Talk about race with your family and friends, even (and especially) if it’s uncomfortable.

This dialogue should not end a week or a month or a year after a murder like this one happens. Keep the conversation going.

2. Educate yourself.

Let me be clear: It is not the job of Black people to educate white people about racial injustice. It is our own responsibility. Do the work of seeking out books and documentaries and articles and allow yourself to learn from them. Our team has been circulating this document, which is full of ways to educate yourself about racism—both its history and what we can do to counter it today. I purchased So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo this week and intend to read more on the topic in the future.

Below are a few resources that have been recommended to us. There are so many insightful, meaningful ways to learn more on this topic and this list is only a very minimal starting point. If there are other resources you think are important to read or watch, please share them in the comments.

3. Sign the petition.

One of the most immediate ways you can show your support is by signing the petition by Color of Change, a nonprofit civil rights advocacy organization. The petition calls on Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey to 1) block the involved police officers from receiving their pensions and 2) ban them from ever becoming police officers again. It also calls on County Attorney Mike Freeman to immediately charge the officers with murder. You can sign the petition through this link, or you can text the message “Floyd” to the number 55156.

4. 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.

5. Donate.

Financial assistance is one of the most crucial ways to support people who are fighting against injustice. 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’re in the Twin Cities, there are plenty of ways to help locally. This guide shares information on immediate protest needs and where to donate.

6. Protest.

Protesting unjust measures is one of the most visible and powerful ways to show your support. It’s powerful to see millions of people starting conversations and sharing posts on social media; it’s even more powerful to see thousands of people come together physically, all in unison, pursuing one greater outcome. In the piece, Of Course There Are Protests. The State Is Failing Black People., Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor describes the necessity of the protests happening this week.

If you do go out to protest right now, whether in Minneapolis or elsewhere, please 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. Don’t avoid the discomfort you’re feeling.

This week has been uncomfortable. It’s supposed to be.

Recognize that the ability to quickly move past the feelings that have been brought up in response to George Floyd’s murder is an absolute privilege. The people who move past them are those who don’t harbor continual fear over the same thing happening to themselves or to their loved ones. Systematic injustices can only become invisible if they don’t affect you.

Sit with the discomfort you’re feeling instead of ignoring it. Reflect on your own privilege and how you can do better for Black people in the future. And then decide which actions you’re going to take going forward.

BY Jackie Saffert - May 29, 2020

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Leave a Reply

Anna Fisher

I really appreciate this post and think it is really important. This said, you might consider tweaking the title, which implies the reader may not herself be black.

This is a strong point, its worth pointing out though that the reader may also be male.

Gabby

Long time reader, never commented. Thank you for the post and the effort to be an ally.

Thank you for this post and all of the information contained within. I’ve shared it around for my network to take advantage of as well!

Rebecca

Thank you for this post. For acknowledging this injustice. For your willingness to speak up. As a Hispanic woman raising a biracial son, I’m confronted with knowing he will not live with the same freedom as his cousins who are also biracial but who pass as white in our society. While I didn’t grow up scared because of my race, my heart genuinely fears for my son.

Anonymous

I saw the initial title of this post and as a Black woman, I was offended. In a way, I still am. The word “allies” almost implies we are the enemy. Obviously we aren’t. I’m disgusted that this is a blog post in 2020. If it helps someone-great. However please be more thoughtful and sensitive.

Anonymous

Thank you for your input. I think it’s hard as a white person to speak up about racial injustice because there is always a black person who is unhappy with how you’ve worded it. It is a highly sensitive issue, and we are not always educated on the right way to say things, but are learning and trying. I think this is a good, honest article and a step in the right direction. Instead of putting down the author and the title saying only that you’re disgusted, perhaps you could give a suggestion to a better word for “allies”? In… Read more »

Anonymous

It is not any black person’s responsibility to coach white people on how to be better at talking about race. It is our responsibility (as real allies) to figure it out ourselves and do better. This is too much to ask someone who has already had to walk through a world built not to include her. However well-meaning, this world is represented by things like the original title of this article that addresses the reader imagined by this blog (“you”) not to be black (but as the new title shows, as likely white).

Anonymous

I understand why people say “it’s not their job to educate you”, but isn’t discussion and communication going to be one of the most powerful tools?

Dee

The definition of an “ally” to to “combine or unite a resource or commodity with (another) for mutual benefit”. So in essence it means we are “uniting” with a community that we are not a member of. It does not mean as an ally, you are our enemy.

Sara

Thank you so much for making this post. You’re 100% correct that as white people it is our job to educate ourselves. We cannot place that burden on the black community as it is not their job. #solidarity

Thank you for this. My heart is broken for POC and the devastating events. I’m just a white woman, living in mostly white town. I can’t just stay silent.

Thank you for this. I’m just a white woman, living in a mostly white town. My heart is aching over the current events and POC. I will do my best to be an ally to all POC. Peace

Kari

Thank you!!!

Bryan

I already KNOW black people have it AWFUL. “Educating” myself won’t help THEM. Protesting is so utterly useless that even Dr. King pointed out that “a riot is the language of the unheard”. Donate? I don’t have a job or money. Talking about it? Sure, but it’s not like we can reach too-far-gones. We can probably take action by voting, but the presidential candidates representing both major parties are racist. All I can do is continue to treat black people with the respect that every person inherently deserves.

Allison

Hey Bryan, I interpreted Dr. King’s words to mean that people who are unheard must riot to be seen/heard. Protests bring awareness to an issue, and awareness brings conversation. If we fail to keep talking about it, then we have failed to bring about any kind of change. Please keep talking about it, and encourage others to treat people of color with respect, as you do.

John

Bryan, your attitude is the problem. Being someone that isn’t racist is NOT ENOUGH. How about demanding officials for justice. Doesn’t cost a cent to do that. You clearly have enough money to have access to internet, and access to a computer/phone. Talking about it DOES help, and it has reached so many beyond your capacity to understand. Look at how social media has exposed this story of George Floyd. If that wasn’t talked about, or spread throughout media, how will we have known about it? Are you sitting comfortably, completely unaffected by racism, Bryan? That is called PRIVILEGE. And… Read more »

David Pinsky

All good, but what’s missing is make sure you’re registered to vote and become reliable voters!

This is fantastic, thank you SO MUCH for all the resources, links and the call to action that needs to happen!

Rebekah

Another book to add to the reading above is White Fragility by Robin DiAngelo.

Karen Beliakoff

Thank you for your post. I appreciate these ideas and know I must be more active. These are tangible ways to start.

Karen Beliakoff

Another wonderful book:
The Warmth of Other Sons

Karen Beliakoff

Correction: Suns

Anonymous

The problem mostly is the way that we are blamed for what our ancestors have done. We can not go back in time and change it but yet to be hated for that is just as awful. I have seen many things in my lifetime but the one thing I have seen over and over again is that the racism is on both sides and until the hatred of both sides of the race is stopped the rest will not end.

Naomi

I’m an older white woman. True, we can’t change the past but we can work to change the PRESENT. By seeing that systemic injustice and racism exist TODAY (not just in the past) is necessary before we can start making our own efforts to dismantle it. I think this article gives us some good ideas, lIke noting white privilege and racism and making white family members and friends aware.

Su C.

Definition of racism: prejudice, discrimination, or antagonism directed against someone of a different race based on the belief that one’s own race is superior. Definition of white supremacy: the belief that white people are superior to those of all other races, especially the black race, and should therefore dominate society. By definition, black people and people of color cannot be racists against white people. Till this day white people are benefitting from a white supremacist system, which was designed by their ancestors. That’s white privilege. Black,Indigenous and POC Americans are till this day suffering from the system white people benefit… Read more »

Aja

Racism doesn’t exist on “both sides”. Because it’s systemic in America. All people can be prejudice but racism is a one sided thing. There was never Tulsa Oklahoma for white people.

Tom Kincaid

Thanks very much for these great calls to specific actions.

Marlo Reddy

Thank you for your post, as a white woman I feel helpless. Yes I do my part, but this is a bigger part to do and it’s hard to know exactly what to do! We have to change all of us, this needs to stop 🖤

Hung

White people are a global minority, less than 10% of the planet population. Asians and Blacks are the biggest ethnic majorities in the world. Coming from a non-Caucasian, whites should start seeing the world for what it really is. No country forces diversity to include white people into their countries. Better start asking yourselves why that is, and wake up.

Allison

Thank you so much for all of these resources!

Serret E Samson

Thank you for this post, i needed more information.

BeeBee

I’m a white woman and I live very close to Ferguson MO. When we had riots here after the murder of Michael Brown, so many black people said “we don’t need whites here with us, this isn’t your fight.” It made me feel confused because I wanted to help and I felt outraged and I know a lot of people did too. When I thought about it more I realized that the thing us white people often do is, we make it about us. It’s not about us. We need to learn to shut up and listen to black voices.… Read more »

Tasha Lynema

Very insightful! Thank you for writing this article! When sitting on the white privilege side of the fence, you dont always know what to do or how to raise your voice. This has helped me!

Meghan

Hi, I just want to say thank you for this. I am a white girl just trying to learn how I can help do my part in making this place a better & safer place for all.

Andrew Spencer

Thank you for this post.

Lesley

Thank you so much for putting concrete suggestions on ways to help and educate oneself into this article. So many articles I’ve read about being an ally talk in very abstract terms. I love that you gave us specific suggestions of books, movies, places to donate, etc. I will check them out!

Ruby Berliner

So You Want to Talk About Race is by Ijeoma OLUO, not Olu 🙂

Beach

Share with not wit

Wanda Goodman

Thank you so much for this information. Education is truly the door to hope.

jacquie Owens

I’m choosing to support black businesses. Donations for bailing out violent protesters and looters is an insult to minority communities, speaking as a minority myself. Just shows what low expectations this writer has of minorities in her loud, self-righteous, but clearly misguided journey toward wokeness.

Misa B

Thank you for your post. Here are some other great resources to add to your list: Racial Equity tools https://www.racialequitytools.org/act and WorldTrustTV on YouTube has some great educational videos around privilege, implicit bias, unconscious bias, etc.

Actually, the FIRST best thing to do is to stop accepting passive income. Slavery was a system where one person worked and another took the fruits of that labor. Wall Street is a passive income system whereby the few get rich and the many get poor. That ponzi scheme trickles down to low wages, discrimination, cutting corners (pollution, substandard products, and overwork). The best thing that EVERYONE (aka white middle class) can do is to sell your stocks, pay the penalty (if it’s a 401K) and get out of what is no more than SLAVERY BY PROXY. You do not… Read more »

issam zeinoun

This is very helpful to everyone. thank you!

Jenna

I agree with the person below who said, “it’s hard to believe we’re seeing this title in 2020”. So racist. How about just learn to be better to EVERYONE, regardless of color – be a kind person! With people like you – and a lot of other people on here – we will never live in world where our colors are beautiful and respected – instead they will always be decisive and something you feel you need to lower yourself to understanding. THAT is the very definition of racist! Your article is smug, rude, and narcissistic – but I doubt… Read more »

J. Whitehouse

I tried to sign the petition, but put my post code as is in UK and said is invalid. Could you please tell me what I am meant to put there?

Samanta

White privilege needs to stop https://teespring.com/white-privilege-7297

Tom

But if I say white comunity I’m racist?

Lindsay Pearson

I recently attended a Zoom meeting called Crossing the Bridge, organized by a gallery curator named Maria Neuda. In her gallery there was a photo exhibit of couples, at least one of which was a black and white couple, who were the guests on the Zoom meeting. They were a unique couple, both for their long, loving marriage and their personal accomplishments, but I want to cross the bridge by getting to know black people. I know this may sound stupid but I don’t know how to do that. I don’t mean I want to help “the poor underdog” (although… Read more »

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