I have learned so much in the past few weeks. As have, I’m certain, many of you. Silence is not an option when it comes to supporting any group that is marginalized, of which I’ve always known, but I didn’t really know how to take actionable steps in the right direction.
While I’m still in the process of educating myself on topics such as institutionalized racism, privilege, and allyship, I am passing along much of my learning in hopes that these tidbits of knowledge might be a good starting point for others. Consider this a “Beginner’s Guide” of sorts – as many are aware, this is just the tip of the iceberg in terms of the depth that this conversation could go. Please remember that I am still learning myself and I welcome any comments and messages that might help me to grow in this space, as well.
What is an Ally?
An ally is someone who, “…(takes on) problems borne of oppression as their own, without remove or distance.” While they may not have experienced oppression themselves, they make a concerted effort to understand the struggle every day.
I personally found further clarification from a definition provided by Kayla Reed:
A– Always center the impacted
L– Listen & learn from those who live in the oppression
L– Leverage your privilege
Y– Yield the floor
As an ally, there is always much to both learn and unlearn. Mistakes will be made and should be expected, but your goal is to acknowledge your mistakes and actively, intentionally make change.
What work does an Ally do?
Leaning on the experts for this one, I am directly pulling this list from “The Guide to Allyship.”
- Do be open to listening
- Do be aware of your implicit biases
- Do your research to learn more about the history of the struggle in which you are participating
- Do the inner work to figure out a way to acknowledge how you participate in oppressive systems
- Do the outer work and figure out how to change the oppressive systems
- Do amplify (online and when physically present) the voices of those without your privilege
- Do learn how to listen and accept criticism with grace, even if it’s uncomfortable
- Do not expect to be taught or shown. Take it upon yourself to use the tools around you to learn and answer your questions
- Do not participate for the gold medal in the “Oppression Olympics” (you don’t need to compare how your struggle is just as bad)
- Do not behave as though you know best
- Do not take credit for the labor of those who are marginalized and did the work before you stepped into the picture
- Do not assume that every member of an underinvested group feels oppressed
5 Ways to Support Marginalized Communities
As shared above, it is on you, not the oppressed, to learn about the cause, struggle, and reality of what’s going on in the world.
I’ve included resources that I’ve found to be helpful related to racism below, but Google is a wizard when it comes to finding solid resources related to many struggles – from POC to LBGTQIA+ and beyond. Unfortunately it’s a reality that many have been oppressed throughout history, so you should always makes sure that you are up to speed on the world before you weigh in.
Acknowledge Your Privelege
A critical piece of moving towards being an ally is recognizing “the benefits and power you have in society because of the identity you were born with.“
Learn to be self-aware and recognize that forms of oppression are everywhere, even if you don’t experience them yourself. Watch for them and learn to recognize what prejudice, discrimination, and oppression looks like so that you can learn to fight it on a daily basis.
Talk Less, Listen More
LISTEN to those that are marginalized instead of offering your own thoughts. Sit with their frustrations and emotions, even if they’re uncomfortable to hear.
Many view sharing our thoughts and opinions as being a way to relate to other. As an ally of a marginalized group, your role will look a bit different. Do not comment with your own perspective or share how educated you are, no matter how much you’ve read. Your goal is to hand off the microphone and use your privilege to allow oppressed voices to be heard.
Acknowledge Your Mistakes
Becoming an ally is an ongoing learning process and mistakes are bound to be made. Take responsibility, welcome the constructive criticism, and learn going forward.
Presley Pizzo wrote a helpful recommendation that I’ve found to be very helpful, which she calls “Boots and Sandals.”
Imagine that you are wearing boots and you step on the foot of someone wearing sandals. Most people would respond by saying something to the effect of, “Thank you for letting me know! Are you okay?” and would try not to step on their foot again. Similarly, when you are corrected on a mistake, you should not get defensive and should, rather, take this as an opportunity to learn.
Please notice that when you acknowledge your mistakes, you are letting go of your ego and leaning into the understanding that the other person has the right to be upset, even if you didn’t fully comprehend your error at the time.
Donate Your Time & Money
Within almost any cause, donations can take many forms. Identify some organizations that align with your goals and seek opportunities to give what you can. This might look like joining their group at a protest or rally, fundraising for a cause they’re connected to, dropping off bottles of water to those in the trenches, or volunteering to use your area of expertise in a way that benefits the organization.
Now Let’s Talk About Racism
Whether we care to admit it or not, racism is prevalent in today’s society. While overt racism still sadly exists, much more is masked as a bias along a graduated scale.
Recently, I learned about the Racism Scale, which has brought to light much of the bias that we see in today’s society and how those tendencies might be espoused in ways we might recognize as more commonplace.
Many of these behaviors or tendencies might seem a bit more familiar in your life or in the lives of those around you. Pay attention to your conversations and actions to see where you might fit.
Please also notice that “I don’t see color” and those that choose silence are not considered allies. It takes action to truly become an ally.
Resources to Consider
Educating ourselves should be the first step on our journey towards becoming an ally. This post contains just a piece of much of the new information that I’ve learned recently, but I would very much encourage you to tap into many of the fantastic resources available to continue your learning process.
Books for Adults
Please notice that I have only included non-fiction books on this list, though I absolutely recognize that there are incredible works in other genres that might fit this criteria, as well.
Personally, I highly recommend starting here:
- White Fragility by Robin DiAngelo
- How to Be an Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi
- Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race by Reni Eddo-Lodge
From here, there are several directions you could go and this is just a small list of the many books available on the subject:
- Tears We Cannot Stop by Michael Eric Dyson
- Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson
- Mindful of Race by Ruth King
- Me and White Supremacy by Layla F. Saad
- So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo
- Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria? by Beverly Daniel Tatum
- The Fire Next Time by James Baldwin
- I’m Still Here by Austin Channing Brown
- Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You by Jason Reynolds & Ibram X. Kendi
Books for Children
I am not a parent and thus am incredibly far from being an expert at parenting. However, there are several pieces of research highlighting the fact that racism, no matter where you fit on the racism scale, is ingrained in us at a very young age.
Some placeS to start (resources found from Coretta Scott King Award Winners, New York Times, @chinaealexander on Instagram, and my own research):
- The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats
- Saturday by Oge Mora
- Sulwe by Lupita Nyong’o
- Last Stop on Market Street by Matt de la Pena
- Hidden Figures by Margot Lee Shetterly
- Hair Love by Matthew Cherry is also an Oscar-winning short that might work well for this age group and above.
- Each Kindness by Jacqueline Woodson
- My Hair is a Garden by Cozbi A Cabrera
- The Youngest Marcher by Cynthia Levinson
- Something Happened in Our Town by Marianne Celano, Marietta Collins, & Anne Hazzard
- Resist: 35 Profiles of Ordinary People Who Rose Up Against Tyranny and Injustice by Veronica CHambers
- Little Leaders: Bold Women in Black History by Vashti Harrison
Independently Owned Black Bookstores
Please notice that I did not include any Amazon or affiliate links in the above. This is primarily because I am hoping that you might consider purchasing from a Black-owned bookstore near you.
Other Suggestions and Resources
Please let me know in the comments below, in an email, DM, or any other method of communication if you would like me to share out other resources that I have found helpful. Examples that I readily have on hand include BIPOC influencers to follow, Black-owned makeup brands, Podcasts, Cookbooks, shows and movies, and even more books of a multitude of genres.
One additional suggestion that I received from a friend that catapulted this entire conversation – If you’re on social media, find 50 new accounts from BIPOC individuals to follow. Once we start to diversify our feeds, we have more exposure and can learn more easily on a daily basis to keep the momentum going.
Create a great life!
*Please note that this is intended to be a living document. Please share any other resources, any corrections or questions you may have. Please be kind to one another. Now, let’s get to work.