The news keeps on coming, more black lives being taken senselessly… horrifically… systematically. My stomach turns, I am filled with rage, my eyes begin to well. I can not rest. I spend hours on the internet; reading, researching. “What can I do to help? This has to change” As a woman of Italian American descent, my white skin has given me privilege. With this privilege, I refuse to be quiet. I have to take a stand.
As I re-read history to continue to educate myself on the impact of systemic racism, I reflect on the responsibility white allies have to take regarding antiracism. I meditate on the role of white allies in the civil rights movements. From the allies who helped slaves escape to freedom safely, those who marched on the front lines of protests, and those who made policy changes in government. As a person with white privilege, it is vital for me to speak out and take action. As a person with white privilege, it is imperative that I be an ever learning student on this topic. I must also continue to listen to Black voices. If you are a white person who is intent on being an ally to the African American and Black community and would also like to fight for change, I share these action steps with you.
In your dedication to being a white ally and fighting for social justice, the first step is to begin with yourself. Explore the role that white supremacy has played in your life, and how injustice and systemic racism has impacted the lives of Black people. Identify times you have been complicit. Feel the discomfort that comes with this and allow it to move you forward.
When you hear people of color sharing their experiences, listen. Keep your eyes and ears open. Seek out opportunities to listen and learn from Black people, without putting the onus of educating you on them. This may look like reading books by Black authors, listening to a Black speaker, watching a documentary by a Black filmmaker, or having a conversation with a Black colleague. While you are listening you may notice feelings of discomfort or guilt arise. Acknowledge these feelings internally, and keep listening. Do not dispute their experiences or bring your own emotions or world view into the conversation. Become curious, and take in what is being said without feeling a need for an immediate response, if really what is needed is a quiet reflection after listening.
It is your responsibility to educate yourself on current events in the Black community. It is not the responsibility of People of Color to educate you. Developing knowledge of the roots of systemic racism, and the impact that it has on this community is key. Seek out other allies who are further in their journey than you. Take a course or workshop by a person of color to learn and grow. Read books on the topic to further your knowledge and understanding. Read books written by people of color, with people of color as the protagonist. The two most powerful books I have read to help me in exploring and hearing the experiences of people of color are The Autobiography of Malcolm X as told to Alex Haley and Between The World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates.
Talk About It:
Spread this knowledge, talk about it wherever you can. Notice the discomfort or guilt that may come up for you. Notice the discomfort and guilt that may come up for others with white privilege. And talk about it anyway. Educate and talk despite the discomfort. Create a culture of discussing racism and antiracism. Fight injustice whenever you see it. This can range from pointing out beliefs rooted in racism at the family dinner table, to opening up a conversation about race at work. Have you noticed that your company has not made any comment on the murder of George Floyd? Tell them that this is something important to you. Ask about diversity in the workplace. Share important information on social media.
Donate To Causes You Support:
As the saying goes, put your money where your mouth is. Research people who are on the front lines fighting for change, and people advocating strongly for policy change in government. Offer financial support if you can.
Advocate For Policy Change:
It just takes a quick google search, and you will be able to find many petitions to sign to show your support for policy change. Call your local representatives, let them know that you believe black lives matter. If you are able, protest.
Research people who are running for local office. Do they share the same values that you do, will they fight for your beliefs? Do they believe in creating changes to the police system to combat the impacts of systemic racism in the force? Do they want to reduce health disparities? Equal rights for all? Go to the voting booths and make your voice heard.
Volunteer for places in need. Community centers in disadvantaged areas, after school programs for children in need. They all need our support. I am especially passionate about advocating for black LGBTQ youth. The Trevor Project is a great place to start learning about how you can assist this population.
I hope that these action steps inspired you. In a time when it can be easy to feel helpless, know that you have the power to speak up and fight back. If these action steps seem overwhelming, choose one or two that you can commit to. Together, we can make a change.
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Jessica is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker who is passionate about helping those struggling with postpartum depression and birth trauma. She creates a safe place for her clients to share their stories and develop the necessary skills to thrive. Jessica specializes in treatment for children, families, and mothers.