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How to Be a White Ally by Nasri Maktal

A blog post by Nasri Maktal explaining how crucial it is to have white allies.

Black Lives Matter protest in D.C.

Black mothers and fathers live with the continual fear their children might be killed by the police or beaten by a white supremacist. Being black in America means having a permanent target placed on your back. Communities of color face institutional oppression hindering their voices, whereas white people do not and will not, giving them more privilege than any other race. People of color will never be able to experience the privilege white people have. Therefore, it is essential white people use their privilege to communicate with others in their community and hold other white people accountable for their racist actions.

Being black in America means having a permanent target placed on your back.

Step 1: Do your research. In order to be an effective ally, it is imperative to research issues oppressing communities of color such as police brutality and inadequate healthcare for black women. It is evident you can't fix an issue until you’ve fully understood it, so people need to inform themselves about the injustices in order to combat them. It is important to be aware of the daily realities faced by people of color.

Step 2: Don’t tell a person of color how they feel. Through personal experience, I have learned it is essential our white allies acknowledge racial inequalities that communities of color face. One abhorrent way to make a person of color feel small, is to tell them they aren’t experiencing racism. A person of color might not know how to accurately depict the oppression they face, but a white person interrupting and trying to correct them belittles their struggles. Listen to their stories and realize the courage it took to share their experiences.  

Step 3:  When you see something say something. For white people to witness an injustice without acting on it, not only calls into question their own character, but makes them complicit to racism. Our core democratic values teach us that equality is meant for all, and when you see an injustice occur, it is unethical to ignore it. Here are some examples of things you should hold people accountable for: “I don’t see color.” Well, if you don't see color, you don't see me. Or “all lives matter.” This protest belittles the oppression black people face. Yes all lives matter, but white people aren’t dying at the hands of police officers. I urge you all to educate your family members, your classmates, your friends. Desmond Tutu, a human rights activist, once said, "If you are neutral in a situation of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.” Don’t accept the harmful jokes; explain that they infringe upon the small safe-space people of color possess.

Perfunctory activism isn’t enough anymore. It is vital we have white allies, who are educated about the oppression that communities of color face, to help us move past racism. I urge you speak out when you witness racism. White people have the power to make others listen; it is time to use your voice. Buy from black businesses, spread awareness about injustices you see, and uplift black activists. Dr. king once said, “There comes a time when silence becomes betrayal.” Use your voice. Use your power. Use your privilege.  

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