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True Anti-Racist Allyship Is Not Just Talking or Trying or Hoping

To the members of my White community:

This is a time of devastating racial injustice. Like many of you, I’m struggling to find the words to describe what is happening in our country. But perhaps the greatest part of this devastation is knowing the current events in our country are not isolated to this point in time. Historically, we have always been a nation where systemic racism exists. Racism existed 100 years ago. Racism existed 20 years ago. Racism existed one year ago. Racism exists today. And racism will exist tomorrow, too — and next year, and probably the year after that. Maybe it is this reality — the overwhelming longevity of racism and not knowing when or if racism will ever disappear — that is tugging at our hearts the most right now.

As a White community, we talk about necessary change. We change our profile pictures on social media to black images. We tell others that we are heartbroken. We tell our Black friends that we see them and hear them and we attempt to hold our Black friends on our shoulders so their voices can be heard. At least some of us are doing those things. And for the people who are not doing those things — we try to educate them. We post educational pieces on social media. We have uncomfortable conversations with people who mean well, but just don’t quite understand. And we also have difficult conversations with people who don’t mean well. We try to do what is right. We try to overcome.

This is not enough.

We cannot just talk. We cannot just try. We cannot be White allies only in times of public murder.

True allyship is not just talking or trying or hoping. We have to work toward becoming a nation that is committed to healing ourselves and each other from the racial disparities and discrimination that so pervasively impact the lives of Black people. It is about the real work. It is an active, ongoing process — one all people must engage in because racism is a system that all people were born into. Regardless of whether we want to engage or not, it is our responsibility to not be silent. It is our responsibility to acknowledge that we are part of the system. We cannot absolve ourselves from any fault on the issue of racism — even if we claim to not be racist — because as White people, we are systemically embedded into the problem of racism.

It is our responsibility to understand it, to educate ourselves about it (please do not ask your Black friends to educate you — most are understandably tired of explaining it to white people who don’t get it), and to cultivate real relationships with people of different racial identities. It is our responsibility to work toward dismantling systems of inequality that exist all around us by speaking up, actively listening, engaging in meaningful dialogue, and holding ourselves accountable to our internal biases.

We must dedicate ourselves to listening to people who experience different realities than us. We must be open to collectively creating a culture where every person feels seen, heard, and accepted. We must acknowledge that Black Lives Matter, but also recognize that “matter” is the minimum — Black lives should be celebrated, valued and honored.

Just saying “something needs to change” is not enough. We have to step up.

1. Educate yourself on what white privilege really means.
2. Engage in deep reflection on how your race has shaped your life.
3. Actively listen without becoming defensive to Black people. Truly listen.
4. Listen to and amplify Black voices by including them in your media/communications.
5. Talk to your kids about racism. Read educational children’s books to them about racism.
6. Read books for yourself about racism. Join a racism-related book club to reflect and engage on the topics.
7. Confront White people when they do not understand racism — educate them. Do not be silent.
8. Fight for change by joining peaceful protests, contacting policymakers, or using your leadership to change the way something is done in your community.
9. Get comfortable saying, “I am committed to doing more,” and research what specific action steps you can take.
10. Repeat these things consistently with cultural humility and a growth mindset.
We need more to happen now. Our Black community is hurting. We can all do more.

To the members of the Black community:

I’m sorry. I am committed to doing more. Your lives are valuable and needed.

Getty image by Eblis.