I think that any sort of ally behavior should include continuous learning and listening to marginalized people when they speak. A part of this is also not insisting that marginalized people speak on demand or educate us on the issues because one, it is centering us and our understanding in the conversation rather than other people and two, other people are not and should not be responsible for our education.
We have to take responsibility and do the heavy lifting ourselves to really learn more. That doesn’t mean we have to do an unrealistic amount of work though – there are so many different resources that already exist to help us understand the experiences of others and larger social issues. In one of her pieces in the book Black Girl Dangerous, Mia McKenzie wrote about why she didn’t want to have conversations with white people about race any more and in part said that:
Listen. It’s not my job to teach white people about race. If they want to have a better analysis on race they can read a book. Shit, they can read a thousand books because a thousand books have already been written on the subject. Films have been made, art installations have been erected. It’s all been said. (Black Girl Dangerous, 2014, pg 79).
There are so many different resources out there about race, gender, class, sexuality and sexual orientation, ability, and more. And in the digital and internet age, learning about different issues has become a little easier to navigate. Books, podcasts, videos and vlogs, films, and so much more all exist and they can all help us learn and better understand.
So I thought I would share some of the things that have really helped me learn and continue to learn!
- Black Girl Dangerous (site) – this is a site that features and amplifies the voices of queer and trans people of color. It was originally started by Mia McKenzie and has grown to include the works of numerous queer and trans people of color from many different places!
- Black Girl Dangerous (book), by Mia McKenzie – this book is a collection of essays first published on the BGD site. McKenzie writes about race, queerness, class, and gender in an intensely personal and reflective way. At times, she brilliantly uses satire to punch up at the more privileged (and often ignorant) some to make a point about society at large. I definitely recommend reading this – it can be purchased online over at Amazon!
- We Want the Airwaves – this podcast is hosted by artist and activist Nia King and she interviews various queer and trans artists of color about making both art and rent without compromising their values.
- Queer and Trans Artists of Color – Stories of Some Of Our Lives, by Nia King – this is the transcripted book version of some of the interviews Nia King has conducted in the podcast We Want the Airwaves. In this book, she talks to Magnoliah Black about fat burlesque, the politics of black drag with Micia Mosely, interning at Playboy with Janet Mock, gay gentrification with Van Binfa, and so much more! The book can be found online at Amazon and a few independent bookstores around the country.
- Nia is currently working on volume two and you can support that journey on Indiegogo now!
- The New Jim Crow, by Michelle Alexander – in this book, Alexander writes about the relationship between mass incarceration and the history of Jim Crow and slavery within the US. (And there is a strong relationship there.)
- Different syllabi – various people have collected writings about various issues, including Baltimore, Ferguson, Lemonade, and the Black Panthers.
- Our National Conversation About Conversations About Race – this is a podcast with Baratunde Thurston, Raquel Cepeda, and Tanner Colby. The three talk about culture, identity, politics, power, and privilege in relation to race in our still very racial America and cover stuff like Starbucks’ Race Forward campaign, annoyance versus oppression, shows like Fresh Off The Boat, Black Lives Matter, and so much more.
- MTV’s Decoded with Franchesca Ramsey – Decoded is a weekly series on YouTube from MTV News where Franchesca takes on race, pop culture, and other uncomfortable things. The series is half sketch comedy, half vlog, and all amazing.
- Curriculum for White America to Educate Themselves on Race and Racism – this is a long list of resources for white people to learn more about these topics.
- Popaganda and Back Talk – these are two podcasts from Bitch Media in Portland, Oregon. Topics vary from volunteers, the food industry, self care, environmental justice, writing about race, and so much more. Many of the conversations are intersectional in nature and look at the issues from a variety of lens to get a more full understanding to issues.
- Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution – this is a film about the Black Panther movement from the 1960s and early 1970s. It discusses the beginnings of the movement, how the federal government (including the FBI) handled the groups, and so much more.
- Civil Rights for Beginners, by Paul Von Blum – this is another really great resource on the civil rights movement and helps to fill in the holes that many history classes might create. I honestly learned more from this relatively short book than any history class that I have ever taken and it’s significantly more interesting than any dry textbook. Plus the illustrations by Frank Reynoso are really amazing as well.
- White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack by Peggy MacIntosh – this is one of the more widely known introductions to white privilege. MacIntosh created a list of just some of the experiences white people can have because of the white privilege that exists with the US. Not everyone is going to experience every single one but odds are, if you’re white, you will have had more than a few of those experiences.
- TED Talks – since 1984, TED Talks have had numerous conferences all over the world and is dedicated to the spread of ideas. Videos from the different conferences (including independently related ones) are vast in number and in topic and available online! Plus, there are collections of talks specifically about race, gender, and so much more. The length of videos vary but most are under 20 minutes long!
Many of these suggestions are very focused on race and racism but some also deal with intersectional issues and in addition to race, also talk about gender, sexual orientation, class, etc. And this list is in no way final or complete but rather, just a starting point to learn more about different issues, especially in relation to racial justice.
At the same time, no one place or single person can have all the answers and so it’s important to center the voices of people of color and other marginalized folks without projecting their individual experiences to an entire group of people. Everyone is going to have a different experience but it’s important that those with privilege not only start listening more but critically engage with our privilege and the related systematic oppression.
This is, of course, just one part of acting in solidarity with a marginalized community and not the only step we as privileged people need to be taking. Throughout this entire process, I also think it’s important to critically engage with our own privileges and ignorance and really dig deep into uncomfortable subjects and areas of our lives. And it’s important that we start doing a whole lot more action as well – like calling someone in about problematic behavior and having those difficult conversations with others or financially helping out marginalized people and organizations. All of this is of course what I personally think is important and everyone’s allyship and participation is going to look different.