So this one goes out to all my fellow whitey tighties, to all the other white people trying to be better, and ultimately, to myself. I am writing this from the experience and position as a white person so a lot of what I have to say is just references to people (usually people of color) who have said it before and said it better. None of the ideas or tips below are inherently mine – all come from reading through many many articles and narratives or conversations I have had in the past.
And more than anything else, this is a note to myself, a reminder of what I personally have to do as a white person to be better.
A few starting places and lists of things to do as an ally:
- So You Call Yourself an Ally: 10 Things All Allies Need to Know by Jamie Utt
- The Do’s and Don’ts of Being A Good Ally by Karnythia
- 10 Simple Ways White People Can Step Up to Fight Everyday Racism by Derrick Clifton
- Becoming a White Ally by Jessica Alzen
One of the most important things to do to act as an ally? Educate yourself. Read articles about race, the history and social construction of race, racism, a history book that describes actual history and not the whitewashed/vague history we are often given in high school. Watch videos and films and learn as much as you can. Read and pay attention to the narratives that people of color put out in the world (because there are plenty of those narratives already available.)
This part will of course take work on your own account. Take responsibility for yourself – use Google, find sites like Black Girl Dangerous, Everyday Feminism, etc that have countless articles and narratives about race (and often include intersectionality of race and other identities). I often try to have a collection of resources about social justice issues so this can be a starting point to finding other resources.
Some places to start however:
Race – the Power of an Illusion
- PBS worked on a series and incredible amount of resources regarding race and this ended up the final product. There are resources, background readings (included below), questions and answers, and so much more.
Scientific Background Readings on Race from PBS, including:
- 10 things everyone should know about race
- Interview with Joseph Graves, Jr (evolutionary biologist)
Historical Background Readings on Race from PBS, including:
- The Historical Origins and Development of Racism
- Origin of the Idea of Race
- Societal Background Readings on Race from PBS
- A Sociological Definition of Race
Another thing to keep in mind while acting as an ally is to realize that not only is it a constant set of behaviors but it’s also not about you/us/whiteness. Do not make things about you; do not center yourself. Take the sidelines and center marginalized people when they speak. Mia Mckenzie says it better than I ever could and wrote on Black Girl Dangerous that:
It’s not supposed to be about you. It’s not supposed to be about your feelings. It’s not supposed to be a way of glorifying yourself at the expense of the folks you claim to be an ally to. It’s not supposed to be a performance. It’s supposed to be a way of living your life that doesn’t reinforce the same oppressive behaviors you’re claiming to be against. (source)
Of course, all of this is just the tip of an iceberg, the beginning of a journey. There is so much more information and context and history out there to learn and understand. So for now and like many other posts I have written, consider this just step one of many and not an ending point in any regard.