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10 Tips to Being a Better Ally
Is going through transition.
And despite the rather cliché-esque connotation of the word these are the few things I know about transition:
It’s uncomfortable-as hell; Physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually-uncomfortable.
It stretches you; leaves you reaching to fill a gap, with the knowledge that though something isn’t right-the identification and the solution of that “something” remains elusive.
Transition is akin to being dropped in an unknown foreign country in the pitch dark of night. How (the *7%#) did I get here? Where am I going? Where will I end up? Will it be dangerous?
It can be a time of confusion and senselessness; What am I doing? What’s the point of this, anyway? Is this a mistake? Should I have left well enough alone? Is all this trouble worth it?
Which is why it is an easy time to give up.
It’s easy to believe we are lost…because for a time we are…
Transition is a painful growth- in the guise of stagnation-wrapped up in what can appear to be hopelessness.
In all its “glory” transition is deceiving.
We are individually experiencing an unprecedented time of transition in the world. Whether it be working from home, being unemployed, walking out in suffocating masks or waiting on physical lines to get into supermarkets-6 feet apart.
Whole countries and governmental bodies are transitioning, whether due to COVID, police reform, equalizing civil rights or all of the aforementioned.
It’s a time when most are winging it. Advice and information within our communities, the media and governmental officials are sometimes in direct conflict with each other.
Partnership relationships are also making transitions-some are partnering who’ve never desired to before, out of necessity, empathy or “band-wagonism”. Others of us have partnered for “the greater good” or “the “lesser of two evils”.
Whatever the reason, these newly forged relationships will be going through stages of uncertainty-and some “winging” will be taking place. Racial relation ally-ships are unchartered ground for many and while intentions may be good-we also know that they paved the way to hell.
So, from one Black Woman to the World-these are some characteristics I have identified in a great ally:
- Be earnest in your pursuit to understand and help-and do so with humility.
- Listen deeply, reflectively and with an open mind. It is very possible that how you understand race relations in the past was a lie… (refer to Santa Claus, Easter Bunny…etc.)
- Ask how to be of assistance…that way you are borrowing the eyes of whom you seek to help. Most of the time they know what they need. If not-a solution can be reached together. It is not the time to take charge. Be still with any impulse to take immediate action.
- Educate yourself on the issue(s)-a lot. Read. Watch videos. Listen to audible. Podcasts. Seek to educate yourself from credible sources you would NOT have gravitated to in the past. Broaden your horizon of thinking on the following:
Civil Rights Movement, how the slave trade began, what was physically and psychologically, spiritually done to these people. What was the justification for slavery?
How did/have White People benefit/benefitted from slavery? Where are the remnants of these oppressed institutions and ideologies today? I assure you they exist…
- Seek to excavate the secrets. The truth shall set us all free. The more we hide (to subconsciously protect ourselves) the more we hurt everyone…ironically…
- Slaves were people so feel that pain. Empathize. Self assess any guilt or defensiveness. These feelings exist for a reason-evaluate why (or do so with a wise source). It may not have been you who took part in slavery, but when we share the burden of pain with others (as much as we are able to) we heal and we help them to heal as well.
I wasn’t a slave (and even I have to exercise empathy and understanding of what it must have meant to be one-and some of my ancestors were slaves) and though I can’t relate 100%, I can certainly imagine what it must have felt like to be one-that is the pain that I experience. And whether I admit it or not, I bear major psychological effects of my ancestors having gone through that experience.
- Slave owners were people. Again, self assess any guilt or defensiveness you may feel. Consider what type of psychological “resolve” had to be made in order to own slaves. I am imagining deep inner conflict. And eventually having to kill certain aspects of yourself, your conscience, your spirit to feel good about being you. There had to be major fragility of positive identity there. Be willing to entertain the fact that this may have trickled down generations to you as well…
- And empathizing with the pain of the African diaspora will naturally lead to understanding the anger as well. The anger of being unjustly used, then egregiously mistreated-due to the color of our skin. Our ancestors were violently removed from their homeland and forced to work under unthinkable circumstances to build the countries we now live in-yet we are still treated as if we are wrong to be here…why?
- Be willing to be held accountable. No- do not be a doormat-but be open to the possibility that something you have done/said can be considered offensive, even if that was not your intention.
- Know that a lot of work lies ahead and it is ok. Do not allow that to overwhelm. Every step counts. Nothing long lasting is effectively built in haste.
All in all, transition/change is ridiculously difficult.
The North Star most of the time, is the faith that we are moving towards something much better than before. Where we were was a dead place, of chronic disappointment, a self-hating dead end. That knowledge-though many times tenuous is what can keep us in forward motion, after all the energy from the novelty wears off.
And though stopping is always an option (people say things like “stopping is not an option”-but it is) what good would stopping do?
Because the thing about transition is that if you don’t see it to its end- you delay and magnify. You delay arriving to the new place, and magnify your time in that hell place…and only you can get yourself unstuck.
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