Stand for The Vision or Stand for Division? A Guide to Allyship
Allyship is not a trend - that's my issue with widespread words that make important matters like civil rights and the call to justice for Black lives seem cool and fashionable.
'Trendy' words make it far too easy for non-Black people, who are sheltered by their privilege, to execute meaningless performative actions and label themselves 'allies'; to associate themselves with a cause they have little care for beyond Instagram challenges and hashtags.
That's not something that I'm here for.
If you're going to stand for something as important as the Black Lives Matter movement, it is critical to do it right. So let's discuss the do's and don'ts of BLM allyship...
Don't: Speak Over Black Voices
It's neither the time nor the place to speak over the people whose experiences are at the centre.
Know when to keep quiet.
It's never our place to tell our Black brothers and sisters how they should react to the injustices they are facing.
Our role is not to have an opinion or a voice right now, but to fight so that the voices that have long been silenced can be heard.
Do: Use Your Privilege to Amplify Black Voices
Nothing is more important than the voices, experiences and perspectives of the Black community in the midst of this movement. Make a conscious decision to not speak over these voices, but to amplify them.
Privilege means that we are more likely to be listened to - so make noise and make their message so loud that it can't be ignored.
An action as simple as sharing the content of Black creators is amplifying a necessary voice. Promoting and spending money on Black businesses. Sharing the work of Black activists, writers and listening to the Black men and women who are speaking out.
Fight in the spaces where our voices are needed - they are not needed in Black spaces; integrating yourself into these and whitesplaining is unethical and inconsiderate.
Frankly, your presence there is unnecessary.
Save your social commentary for educating your non-black peers.
Shout at them. Shout at the police, your MPs, the system.
But always amplify Black voices and act as a protective barrier for Black bodies.
Don't: Practice Superficial, Performative 'Activism'
Liking and retweeting is great.
Awareness is central to any movement.
BUT if you're doing these things to maintain some image of 'wokeness'; if you're keeping up with what you perceive to be a trend; if your 'activism' is limited to hashtags and pretty images on your Instagram story while you avoid actually checking your anti-black family and friends...
You're disrespectful and you need to either educate yourself or immediately remove yourself from the conversation because you are part of the problem.
Do: Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is
There are viable ways to help without taking ownership of a perspective that doesn't belong to you.
Black people have historically been more likely to come from socioeconomically disadvantaged backgrounds - many US protestors will be faced with bail fees that they can't afford. Put your money where your mouth is and donate toward their bail bonds. Donate toward funeral expenses and the livelihoods of victim's families.
If you aren't at the economic advantage to do so - that's okay. There are petitions to sign. MPs to write to. Fundraisers to start. Take action.
Ways to Help: https://blacklivesmatters.carrd.co/
Don't: Equate the Experiences of all 'POC'
If you're from an ethnic minority background, you're probably not a stranger to the detriments of white privilege. You should not, however, be talking about it as a response to this movement - you're essentially All Lives Mattering it. Please don't try to equate your oppression.
This movement is about Black lives.
'People of colour' do not share one, universal experience; each community faces varying nuanced and complex issues. (Not to mention the offensive nature of the fact that everyone non-white seems to just get grouped into one, generic category while white people get to be white and individual)
Black lives have been historically undervalued and abused at a disproportionate rate to any other minority; don't use terms like BAME or POC interchangeably with Black. It's tone deaf, it's reductive and it's disrespectful.
Do: Check Anti-Blackness in Your Community
The most important place for non-Black allies to act, is within our own communities.
This means being ready to call out racism any and every time we might see it. At our family dinner table, in the car with our friends, even around people that we may not know all that well. Our role is to challenge anti-Blackness in all of its forms.
Silence will always be complicity.
If you care about Black lives, be ready to fight injustice in every moment of waking life.
Be ready to call people out on their prejudices. Be ready to have challenging conversations with your family and friends.
This is where your voice is needed.
So use it.