By Pelumi Nubi
The deaths of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and so many other black individuals by police brutality have led to an outbreak of peaceful protests in all 50 states of America. People all over the world, black and white, and every colour in between have spilled into the streets chanting: ‘no justice, no peace’ and ‘black lives matter’. Now, many non-black people are asking themselves how to be a good ally to BLM and black communities.
Multiple protests were held here in the UK where I currently live. The same place I had my first racist experience when I was 10 years old. I had just migrated to the UK from Nigeria. The kids in school would not play with me because I was too dark. They were calling me ‘Blick and fresh off the boat (FOB)’. They would make monkey noises at me and refuse to touch anything I had touched. So I withdrew to the library where I read travel magazines and fantasized about exploring the world and escaping my reality.
Fifteen years later, I have explored 60+ countries but sometimes I am still made to feel aware that black people are simply not allowed in some whites spaces.
This isn’t a new conversation … But it is an opportunity for change.
The events in the past few weeks have sparked up conversation amongst many about the injustices that black people face daily. But this is not something that started in the last few weeks. The only difference is that these injustices are now documented. They’re shared for the world to see, thanks to the reach of technology. The reality is that there has been a long history of black people facing systematic oppression. It’s easy to stand on the sideline and be an onlooker but what legacy will that leave behind? You can however stand with every black person and make a promise of allyship by becoming anti-racist.
While we might quickly want to rush off to ‘fix the problem’, I think it’s important to first completely understand not just how to be a good ally, but what being an ally entails. The actual definition of the word ‘ally’ is to unite one commodity with another for mutual benefit. The moment you remove mutual benefit from this unity, the concept of allyship ceases to apply. And this could manifest in very simple ways such as saying things like ‘I don’t see colour’ or ‘all lives matter’. Sayings like these water down the current pressing situation.
This isn’t a black-only fight.
Stepping up and showing your solidarity and support can be scary, especially when you don’t know exactly how to do so. But remember, the battle against racism is not a black-only battle. This is the world fighting against the existence of the disease that is racism – which should not exist in the first place. Think about this way: Would Covid-19 be eradicated if only black people wore masks?
Would you like to help with the Black Lives Matter Movement and learn how to be a good ally but don’t know where to begin? Here are 7 ways to become a co-conspirator in the fight for an anti-racist world:
How to be a good ally in the long-term
Becoming an ally step #1: ACKNOWLEDGE the existence of racism
The first step of how to become a good ally is really to admit to yourself and to others that racism TRULY EXISTS. You will probably get it wrong at first but that is absolutely okay. I don’t want to sound condescending, but no matter the proximity you may have to the black community or however sympathetic you might be, you will never truly be able say, ‘I understand how you feel or what you are going through’.
Your willingness to admit that is one of the most valuable things you can do as an ally to black people. The acknowledgement of this truth makes us feel seen and heard. It means that you acknowledge my experience. It might be a hard pill to swallow but to be a better ally you’ll need to remove yourself from being the hero in this situation.
Support by action is all that counts. Check your prejudice.
Do you see a black person flying first class and immediately think maybe they are sitting in the wrong cabin? Do you see black people in a fancy hotel and assume they are not guests and that they are working in the hotel?
Microaggressions can be very passive but still very traumatising especially when faced every single day. This builds up.
Being a BLM accomplice step #2: LISTEN and LEARN
Listen – without the need to justify.
Honestly, to constantly talk about the injustice that black people face every day can be extremely exhausting and mentally draining. Don’t demand an explanation or become suddenly perplexed if a black person chooses to share their everyday experience with you. As a good ally, their explanation should be met with a willing ear ready to only listen, not an attempt to justify it. Don’t shut them down with general phrases like ‘ it can’t be that bad’ or ‘ I am one of the good guys’.
Remember, you are not the hero of this story.
Being an ally to black communities step #3: GET INFORMED
Get informed – educating yourself is such a fundamental step to becoming a good ally to black people because it means you are equipped with the knowledge on how best you can help to dismantle white supremacy. Nobody deserves to live in fear. Nobody deserves to have to give their children, especially their black sons, talks about how to best handle engagement with the police.
There are so many books available online such as “Why I’m no longer talking to white people about race” by Reni Eddo-Lodge or ‘White fragility’ by Robin Diangelo.
If you want more digestible content check your social media platform using the #blacklivesmatter tag and you’ll be able to find easily digestible resources to help keep you informed. On Instagram @glographics have created amazing resources that break things down.
You immediately become a better ally to black people when you are aware of the daily struggle we go through.
How to be a good ally step #4: DEMAND CHANGE
Write to the people in power – less talking and more action is how we become anti-racist and be better allies to our black communities. This is one way to show that you have done your homework and that you are fully aware of the fundamentals of the Black Lives Matter Movement and are committed to help fight back the racial injustice that black people face.
Use your privilege to write to your local MP or policy makers. The MyPostcard newest non-profit collection allows you to send a specially designed #BlackLivesMatter postcard to a state representative demanding justice for George Floyd and change in your own country. At the same time all proceeds are donated to the Bail Project.
Being a black ally step #5: DONATE
You can make a donation – there are various donation channels and GoFundMe platforms that have been opened for the victims of racial injustice and anti-blackness that you can choose from.
Please do not trust blindly, ensure you are vetting any charity you choose to donate to. It’s no surprise that some people will try and take advantage of the situation and people’s generosity. The biggest mix up so far is people donating to Black Lives Matter Foundation which has nothing to do with the Black Lives matter movement. Investigation is currently ongoing.
Like I mentioned earlier, MyPostcard have created eight beautiful non-profit postcards. These can not only be sent to your local representative, but also to family and friends to show allyship and that you stand with the Black Lives Matter Movement. The great thing about it is that all profit made from the #BlackLivesMatter postcards will be donated to the Bail Project. This organisation’s vision is to combat mass incarceration to ensure families that can’t afford bails are reunited.
How to be a good ally to black people step #6: SUPPORT black business
Support black business – and no they don’t have to be ‘small’, prejudices like that are problematic. Black businesses are not always small or inferior. Those are the small ideologies that need to be changed. They are just businesses.
Show support to the black lives matter movement and buy from them. Ways to become a good ally includes showing your support. This also includes aiding the financial growth of black people that has often been stunted due to the systemic racism that they have faced for generations.
Becoming a BLM accomplice step #7: USE your privilege for good
Use your privilege – come to an understanding that you have more power than I could ever begin to describe in this article. During these last few weeks, many images have surfaced of white bodies literally protecting black ones when the police tried to attack them whilst protesting. You could see an immediate change of reaction from the police just by this one small action.
The Black Lives Matter Movement needs you to step up and make yourself seen – this is being anti-racist. Use the privilege that you have to speak out often – not only when it’s a trend.
Your privilege can be used in so many ways – such as demanding skilled black people within your workplace get equal opportunities for promotions and career advancement for example!
This is not the time to remain silent. One good example of how to be a BLM accomplice is the #PullUpOrShutUp movement. The movement forcibly called for organisations from different sectors such as beauty, to provide data on how many black people are in the senior management team or just employed in their company in general. The result was shocking. It led to declarations from beauty influencers and their followers to form true allyship by vowing to spend their money somewhere else until those brands do better!
Becoming a good ally to the Black Lives Matter Movement and becoming anti-racist involves sometimes letting your favourite brand go if they are not backing up their promises with action plans.
Final thoughts on how to be a good ally to BLM
Remember, there is not only one way to be a good ally of the Black Lives Matter Movement. Judging from the list above there are so many ways. Silence and inactivity are not among them. You have to be the change you want to see. It’s simply not enough to not be racist. You must be anti-racist. You can do this by amplifying black voices and by standing with us.
Whilst writing this, I’ve found myself to have been very conscious of my tone and I just realised that I am censoring yourself. This is because I’m censored in everyday life and I’ve now taken time to self-censor. This is the truth of every black female in all facets of life, from the workplace and any other institution. As you are reading this some of you might be assuming that I am too outspoken, too loud or too upset. I want you to think about that. What is that? Why is that? I will leave you with that thought.
Peace love, light and yours uncensored,
About the author
Pelumi Nubi was born in Nigeria and relocated to the UK at age 10. She is currently doing her PhD in cancer research and human genetics.
As a world traveller who has visited over 60 countries, her eventual goal is to visit every country in the world.
She created the @black.kintsugi brand on Instagram to educate people about traveling. Specifically, that it can be easy, safe and most importantly, do-able. Her goal is really to help people step out of their comfort zones and encourage them to explore new destinations and have culturally immersive experiences.
Read more of Pelumi’s articles on her blog.
Stop back next week to read Jessica Ufuoma’s piece on inclusivity in travel media and the peculiarities of traveling while black.