Let me start off by acknowledging the confusion and fear that many of you are experiencing. As the world watches the rise of our Black Lives Matter movement, people are shocked, hurt, and most of you are looking for ways to let your black friends know that while you could never understand what they are experiencing right now, you want to stand with them.
As a black woman, I am still struggling to identify what I am actually feeling and if the things I want to say, are in fact, the thoughts that I want to put out into the world with pride and no regrets. So I get it, you want to call up your friends and say, “I understand why you are angry,” but you can’t possibly understand something that you have never experienced. You want to say, “If that was me, I would…” but you can’t because it isn’t you, and it never will be. I know the fear of saying the wrong thing during this time may be keeping a lot of you from being vocal about your desire to support the black community.
So, here are a few ways that you can be an ally without having to find the “right” words to say.
1. Educate yourself.
There is so much controversy going on at the moment. Everyone has an opinion, and many of us are no longer willing to agree to disagree. So educate yourself. Make sure that you know the facts. Make sure that you know the history so that you can understand the present and be prepared for the future. Then, educate your children. The generations before us have failed. Our generation is failing. Let’s give our children the tools to finally get this right.
2. Continue having the tough conversations.
That uncomfortable feeling in the pit of your stomach is essential for change. You should be feeling it. Not because you feel guilty for not acknowledging these tragedies before, but because you know that you can do better in the future. Avoiding conversations about inequality and injustice doesn’t make them go away. It makes those moments harder to tackle head-on. We don’t want you to speak up for us today and forget about us tomorrow. So keep learning, keep teaching, not only your children but your peers as well.
3. Speak up.
Now more than ever is it the time to speak up and say something if you see something wrong. That racist joke a friend made at dinner that you know was horrible, but no black people were around, so you simply shook your head. Well, that was an opportunity to let someone know that racism isn’t a joke. Furthermore, it is an opportunity to let people know who you really are and where you stand. If it is with us, then speak up for us, even when we aren’t around.
4. Check in.
You don’t always need to have something to say. You would be surprised how far a simple text or call could go just to see how someone is feeling. I recently received a text from a friend; it was simple, but the intent was clear. I couldn’t answer right away because I didn’t know what to say. Later on, I was able to process and appreciate that she thought to check in on my family and I. “I see what you are posting, and I can’t imagine how hard this may be for you. Is there anything I can do?” Initially, I thought…No. Then I realized, her reaching out was enough.
5. Sign a petition.
I recognize that many of you are not able to do all of the above, and that’s ok. Some of us are more vocal than others. You can still be a part of the changes to come. Sign a petition. There are more of them than I can count. It takes a second, and with the click of a button, you can sign your name to as many as you see fit. George Floyd was not the first, and he was not even the last, since his horrific death. We are still fighting to bring justice for countless others who lost their lives because, in the eyes of their killers, black lives didn’t matter. If you are looking for a good place to start, I would begin here: https://www.change.org/t/black-lives-matter-en-us