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Why Being a Self-Proclaimed White Ally Isn’t Enough

It has become evident that being a self-proclaimed white ally isn’t enough. It isn’t enough to make a change in a world that is anything but post-racial.

As a white woman, I feel a responsibility to be more than just a “white ally.” But how? What more is there to do?

Posting links to articles on Facebook isn’t enough to consider yourself an ally in solidarity with those who undergo discrimination based on their race, gender, sexual orientation, or other identity. However, there is more you can do that doesn’t involve physical action.

First off, use your white privilege to call out racism and discrimination when you see it. Even though to you it might seem like it’s small, your words inherently have power. We live in a world where white is valued because of an institutionalized set of morals created by men who believed they were right.

Don’t be afraid to address your own prejudices. As human beings, it is natural instinct to pass judgment, and knowing where we each stand on the scale of understanding that others’ backgrounds and perspectives are different for each person is important. I have had time to think about my role as a white woman in society and while I am a very open-minded person, there are times where I have to address my own prejudices.

One of the most important things one can do is listen. Just listen. Perhaps it is the simplest piece of advice, but it isn’t necessarily the easiest. Knowing when to step down and not be “the expert” is required in order to be an ally. How can you possibly know how to help or how to be empathetic without listening?

Learning other perspectives is one of the most important things we can do in order to make change in a world where we still dismiss other peoples’ hardships and struggles.

Acknowledging that there is still rampant discrimination in our country is necessary as well. Having black friends doesn’t make you “woke,” it doesn’t mean you aren’t racist, but understanding that racism exists and acknowledging the privilege you have being white puts you a step closer to being an ally. Being an ally doesn’t mean being a savior and it also doesn’t mean you won’t make mistakes along the way. But asking questions and genuinely wanting to use your white privilege in a respectful and helpful way will make a difference.

After the events in Charlottesville, my Facebook feed was flooded with posts of outrage and of sadness and even genuine confusion. One video came up that stuck with me, and I suggest that every white person who considers themselves compassionate should watch it:

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Sophia is a rising junior at Amherst College and plans to continue studying mass incarceration and prison reform. She wants to do whatever she can to fix the broken system of justice in the United States. Sophia is a sprinter on her Track & Field team and loves 70's soft rock.

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