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Allyship During #BLM and Beyond
Over the course of the past few weeks, a wave of social change has been coming into fruition worldwide. If you don’t already know what I’m talking about, I mean the surge in the #BlackLivesMatter movement and anti-racism protests, which have expanded from the United States across the world. The increased attention to systemic racism, police brutality, and Black peoples’ nearly universal lack of rights is long overdue. It’s making a lot of people stop and examine the world we live in, and making some speak up about the injustices they see. This is the beginning of something bigger, something that will hopefully bring about long-lasting, impactful, and meaningful change.
If you’re like me, you’ve probably been mulling over what it looks and feels like to incite, support, and participate in this change as a non-Black person. Many of us are just now beginning to get a true — but still minuscule — glimpse of what it means to be Black in this world. And yet, we’ll never understand the pain, the complexity, the grief, or the beauty that is inseparable from the Black experience.
But this doesn’t give us the right to be neutral. In fact, as non-Black people living in systems built to deprive Black people of not only the privileges we enjoy, but fundamental human rights, we have a responsibility to fight for those rights.
Here at mindyourmind, we’ve been having conversations about what it means to do this, and to be an ally to the Black people in our social circles, various communities, cities, and beyond. We wanted to join the dialogue about #BlackLivesMatter, anti-racism, and dismantling systems of oppression. What even is an ally? What does it mean to practice allyship?
So, I volunteered to write about it all in this blog. But as soon as I sat down to do so, I immediately felt disingenuous and very uncomfortable. I am acutely aware of the fact that as a “could-possibly-pass-for-white” young Indian woman holding immense amounts and variations of privilege, I haven’t done nearly enough to be an ally. I know that I don’t know enough to teach others, and that my voice is not nearly as important as any Black person’s on the topic of allyship. I also soon realized that there is far, far too much to include in one blog.
So, before we get into it...
...let me be clear: my goal here is not to express my particular point of view or set a personal example for being an effective ally. Rather than writing an op-ed (ok, I sort of have so far, but it ends here, I promise!), I’m aiming to create an ongoing collection of resources, posts, articles, and more, categorized by some race and racism-related topics that I’ve seen and learned from recently. This is not an all-encompassing list or a one-way ticket to practicing allyship. It’s just an imperfect jumping-off point for others who are looking for ways to educate themselves on supporting a movement that is fundamentally about human rights and finally gaining traction worldwide.
Also, one part of being a true ally for Black people is understanding that you may be wrong when speaking about race, racism, and others’ lived experiences. Some of the links in this article may soon be outdated, corrected, or inappropriate. If, in reading this, you find information that is untrue or biased, or does not reflect your experiences, please let us know, and I will revise it. I know I’m going to make mistakes, and part of practicing allyship is being open to listening to others, correcting them, and shifting my mindset for the future.
Aaaaand you should also know…
This is not meant to be a light read. It’s not only going to be written in parts, but will be on the longer side, especially in comparison to previous blogs I’ve written for mindyourmind. However, this is intentional, because each point is deserving of a read and further independent research and action. I’d recommend bookmarking this series of “Allyship During #BlackLivesMatter” lists, coming back to it, or maybe even exploring or thinking through one point at a time.
Also, some of the posts, articles, or links included below may change, be moved, or get deleted. If you find that this is a case, challenge yourself: make it your mission to find three more on the same topic, in place of that one. New knowledge, resources, and stories arise every day, and being an ally means doing the work to find them.
Ok, here goes…
Here are (what I believe to be) the initial five things to think about in being an ally to Black people:
1. Learn about what allyship actually means. I know that this is what you came to this blog for, but others can put this into words far more eloquently than I can. It’s a complex, ever-changing, ambivalent concept to many, and you can read more about allyship here:
- A great starting point to learn about being an ally: Guide to Allyship
- A student-created organization that turns allyship into tangible practices: Ally Squared
- Writer Roxane Gay on the need for true solidarity: On Making Black Lives Matter
2. You need to actively practice allyship, not just call yourself an ally. This is a verb and not a noun or a self-designated title.
- American comedian Franchesa Ramsey (aka Chescaleigh) on what this means: 5 Tips for Being an Ally (specifically, see #5)
- A few notes on being actively anti-racist: Instagram
3. Understand that racism and white supremacy can come in different forms, actions, and phrases. Just because you’ve never thought of something as racist, it doesn’t mean it's not. Listen to people when they share perspective on an experience that you have not had.
- A covert versus overt white supremacy chart: Instagram
- An informative video on microaggressions: How microaggressions are like mosquito bites - Same Difference
- Common microaggression themes: Instagram
- Believing people who call out oppression is this simple: Instagram
4. If you don’t know what to say, amplify Black voices. Even if you do think you know, still choose to amplify Black voices.
5. Ask yourself what’s performative activism and what’s not. Eliminate your own performative activism, and call it out in the institutions you frequent.
- Some questions to ask yourself before you post anything related to racism, #BlackLivesMatter, or white supremacy: Instagram
- An article that talks about ‘online posturing’ versus ‘offline actions’: No single right way to be an effective all, says Black Lives Matter activist - but there is a wrong way
- An quick Insider article outlining institutional performative activism, and its harm: Cultural institutions need to stop the empty gestures and performative activism - it’s time to do the real work of anti-racism
These five points are just the beginning of a long list of things to consider when practicing allyship. Check back soon for more, and please continue to do your own research in the meantime!
Simran's passions are in mental health, media & cultural theory, and photography & design. She also loves reading, playing various editions of Halo on Xbox, and dining out. Simran started as a Western Student with mindyourmind, then worked with our team for a year before leaving for graduate school overseas.
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