Racial inequality is an issue that effects the entire population, not just minorities. In order for the issue to be resolved, everyone (especially the oppressive majority) must be aware of the issue in order for their to be true equality. However, as someone who does not experience racism first-hand, a white ally must be mindful of their behavior to be sure that their impact is truly progressive. These six guidelines are the simplest ways to be a helpful white ally;
- Don’t use the n-word. Just don’t, it’s that simple. There are so many other words you can use, words that have no connection to the oppression, abuse, and dehumanization that an entire race has experienced for centuries. It doesn’t matter if your black friends gave you permission to use it. It doesn’t matter if you don’t mean for it to be racist. The issue is much greater than you, your friends, and whatever the context is.
- Educate yourself. It’s important to have a deep understanding of the historical events that led to the current state of racism in our society. Recognize the intolerance in your family line, and the fact that your ancestors were the original oppressors. Take note that despite the Nineteenth Amendment being passed in 1920, black women were unable to take full advantage of that right until the 1960s. Remember that ISIS is a group of violent extremists, and that they do not represent all Muslims. You’ve probably heard of the gender wage gap, but what about the 54 cents that a Hispanic woman makes to every white, non-Hispanic male dollar? Suicide rates among Native American youth are higher than any other demographic. You can’t call yourself a part of the movement for racial equality if you aren’t aware of the inequalities.
- Recognize your privilege. Even before being brought into the world you are protected from certain experiences, simply because you are not a person of color. This does not mean that all white people have wonderful lives free of any worries or complications. This means that your public school education doesn’t leave you clueless about your own culture. This means that you don’t have to fear police. This means that no one will look at you and decide your limitations before they have the chance to introduce themselves. Be aware of this, and use it to promote equality whenever possible.
- Lose the God complex. Being a white person who recognizes racial inequality doesn’t make you better than anyone else, and that entire notion is counterproductive. You haven’t earned the respect of a certain race for recognizing that their lives have worth. That should be common knowledge. The principle of the movement you are uniting yourself with is that all people deserve respect, equal opportunities, and lives free of prejudice-based obstacles infringing on their potential. The issue of racial inequality existed long before you noticed it. You are not going to be the “white savior” that immediately ends racism. You are adding your voice to that of millions, in a protest that has lasted for generations.
- Don’t be afraid to speak on race. You are choosing to separate yourself from bystanders and white supremacists alike, but those never actively talk about racial issues then become bystanders. Desmond Tutu said it best, “If you are silent in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.” No progress comes from silent allies. As long as you do not speak over the first-hand experiences of people of color, your voice is needed to change the minds of others.
- Support and encourage diversity, everywhere. In the top 100 films of 2014, 73.1% of characters were white, and only 4.7% of directors were black. It’s important to speak out against white-washed movies, such as Stonewall, The Last Airbender, and Gods of Egypt. Supporting businesses owned and run by minorities is important to destroy the notion that their race defines their ability to succeed. Hashtags and days dedicated to the beauty of non-white people are important because of eurocentric beauty standards, which idolize white features. The cure to racism is not to be “color-blind,” but rather to embrace the beauty and unique characteristics of every race and culture.
This is obviously a very simple list, but keeping these ideas in mind can be very helpful for avoiding problematic behavior. Overall, respect the voices and opinions of those who have actually experienced racial injustice, and be aware of your own impact. Your role as a white ally is important, but only if it is a respectful and positive role.