Despite the huge relevance of the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement in recent times, racism is nothing new. For centuries, black people have battled with discrimination, segregation, and institutional racism. And with stories in the news like the murder of George Floyd, it can sometimes seem as though nothing has changed.
With social media and global connectivity, it is easier than ever to spark global movements and spread awareness of important issues. And this is part of the reason why we have heard Black Lives Matter shouted so loudly around the world.
In light of this, it’s understandable that many people of all ethnicities and backgrounds are asking what they can do to help. Taking part in protests and sharing anti-racist posts on social media is one thing, but to influence meaningful change, you need to become an ally to the black community.
Here are five ways to achieve this:
1. Understand how racism works
If you have never been a victim of racism, you might not realize just how prevalent it is in society. It is far more than racial slurs shouted on the street or aggressive messages on Twitter.
It can often be far more subtle and potentially even more damaging. Just because slavery and segregation aren’t widespread in this country anymore, it doesn’t mean that black people don’t face struggles every day.
Workplace discrimination, microaggressions, and living in constant fear are still realities. That shows that there is still a lot of work to do.
2. Be an ally by listening to people
Every black person you know is likely to have a wealth of personal experiences of racism and discrimination. Listening to a loved one’s struggles will probably have a greater impact on you than reading accounts online.
Be compassionate and understanding, and refrain from offering different perspectives or unfounded advice. It’s unlikely that you have the answers or the experience to help them. Allow them to talk and simply listen.
3. Confront your behavior
One of the most important steps in becoming an ally is to confront your own racism. Take a good look at your behavior and attitudes to uncover whether – intentionally or not – you have done or believed anything recognizably racist.
Don’t be afraid to be honest with yourself. It’s the only way you can eradicate it from your life.
4. Support black causes
Racism in the Western world is best exemplified by the scarcity of black people in leadership roles. Although there are many black business owners, CEOs, public figures, and politicians, they are overwhelmingly in the minority.
Make an effort to support black leadership as well as other causes and organizations that take a stand against racism. Black History Month is a good place to start learning, as exemplified in this article by Dr. Bashar Hanna.
5. Teach other people
The more people who set out to become an ally, the more likely it is that change will ensue. You might hear someone using racist language, for example, and call those people out about it.
But a better approach is to tell them why their behavior is wrong as that can help them understand the issues and change their behavior. Teach your children about racism too, and what they can do to make a difference.
Be an ally
As you can see, there is no single way to be an ally when it comes to Black Lives Matter. A combination of the suggestions above is necessary as the fight must not stop. There is still so far to go.