Updated: Aug 25, 2020
The difference this time is we’re not alone
Witnessing this recent wave of those committed to tackling racism and inequality has been phenomenal to see. Speaking to older mentors this really feels like a call to action unlike any time before. Many had become numb to the pain and trauma of Black people constantly being subjected to systemic racism, yet the succession of Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, George Floyd and the blatant use of privilege and power by Amy Cooper caught on camera seemed to be the straws that broke the camel’s back. The emotional rallying cry of “Black Lives Matter” is now inspiring many into new found action. My life, and the lives of so many other Black people, matter. They always have, but now those words were being echoed globally for all to hear.
The processes that compound discrimination were not only being discussed but starting to be dismantled. Some of the progress made off the back of the BLM protests is a testament to what can happen when we collectively mobilise around action — whether thinking critically about the role police play in society to an international conversation on Black history and how to reframe what is being taught at school (check out The Black Curriculum), the momentum for holding those in power more accountable has never been greater than it is now.
Allies — Don’t cancel racist friends/family/associates
After those appalling scenes of the far-right protests, one thing I couldn’t stop thinking about was how is the knowledge from activists and scholars going to filter down to those men? Some people may be committed to ignorance but in my hopeful optimism I have to believe some of those men are capable of change, otherwise why continue doing the work I’m doing?
As allies you need to continue having those uncomfortable conversations even with friends/family. You need to use your influence, power and privilege in those (and many other) spaces, and quite often it starts a lot closer to home than most care to admit
I may not be the one that can reach those men directly but their family/friends/associates could. Many of you may have engaged with people in your friendship circles, immediate family or on social media declaring that “All Lives Matter” with their outrage directed at BLM protests. You may have pointed out the hypocrisy of their silence during the far-right protests and/or proceeded to delete/block/stop engaging with them.
Please continue engaging! As allies you need to continue having those uncomfortable conversations even if it’s friends/family. You need to use your influence, power and privilege in those (and many other) spaces, and quite often it starts a lot closer to home than most care to admit. These are the moments where you come in as an informed ally and push that conversation. It is exhausting work but quite frankly that is allyship! I know it’s not easy but that is one of the many ways you can support at this moment.
The point of being an anti-racist ally is that it enables Black people and People of Colour (POCs) to stop having to explain racism over and over again. If you keep deleting/cancelling those who don’t agree with you, who’s going to be having those conversations with them?
The point of being an anti-racist ally is that it enables Black people and People of Colour (POCs) to stop having to explain racism over and over again. If you keep deleting/cancelling those who don’t agree with you, who’s going to be having those conversations with them? As Black people and POCs we can delete racist trolls online but will continue to face overt/covert discrimination as we move through the world. Not having to engage with racism is a privilege that is not afforded to all.
· Think about calling out vs. calling in their behaviour. Is publicly calling out their behaviour going to help achieve the change you wish to see? What are the pros and cons of both?
· Be realistic about how long it takes to change someone’s perspective and be patient. Possibly suggest resources you are reading/watching. Remember you were at the beginning of your journey once too.
· Arm yourself with as much knowledge as possible. Again, there is a host of material to help you so avoid inundating your Black/POC friends with queries.
· Always continue to centre the voices of the communities you are speaking out for. Don’t speak over them and if you’re called out on this don’t become defensive, continue to listen and see how you can do better.
How else can allies support — connect with communities/organisations already doing the work
For many the battle for racial equity has just started, but for some this has been years of building within various communities. It’s been a few weeks since Blackout Tuesday now, so think about any tangible actions you’ve taken since. This is so much more than posting a black square or a picture at the protest, how can you use your voice/resources to impact change? Again, there are many organisations that need your time, money or both! This is not something that will be solved overnight so if you’re committed start listening to the needs of those communities that you are protesting for and prepare for the long haul.
If the Black Lives we are fighting for do not include those who are the most vulnerable then it is not inclusive and we need to question our intentions
I am still learning how to be an effective ally myself and stand by the side of those who are the most marginalized amongst the Black community. If the Black Lives we are fighting for do not include those who are the most vulnerable then it is not inclusive and we need to question our intentions. I try to lead by example on allyship, and sometimes I may get it wrong but will continue listening to those marginalised voices, standing in solidarity and actively pushing conversations that promote change. I urge you to do the same.
Written by Karim Perrineau - Director and Co-Founder of New Beings