Last Friday, an uprising swept the nation following the murders of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and others at the hands of police brutality. People took to the streets to participate in peaceful protests, signed petitions to reopen investigations and defund police departments, and began educating themselves about the Black Lives Matter movement and the systemic and institutional racism that has crippled the Black community for far too long.
This is not the first uprising of its kind — think back Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 60s — but it is certainly the largest. In recent weeks, we’ve seen people from all races and socioeconomic backgrounds come together to fight alongside the Black community in a tremendous display of allyship. And while I, as well as many of my Black peers, appreciate the sentiment, some things have weighed heavy on my mind, and they are worth sharing. So, I give to you my 2 A.M. thoughts amid a revolution.
My Co-Founder, Toby Egbuna, has already touched on this point in his article, No More Applause, but I would like to add a little more color.
I believe that it’s important to set expectations in any relationship — platonic and/or romantic — not only for your own needs, but also so others know how to connect and interact with you. And as a black woman, my expectation is that my non-Black friends stand with me on the issues that directly affect my life and my community.
In the same way that you’d expect me to reach out to you if a loved one was sick (with no need for a “thank you” or pat on the back), I need you to support me now. While I acknowledge your effort, you are, quite literally, just meeting my expectation of friendship.
In the last couple of weeks, I’ve had many non-Black friends reach out to me to check in and have conversations about recent events. As mentioned above, I do value the outreach, and I always welcome dialogue about racial inequalities in America, the issue comes when these conversations turn into non-Black people trying to educate me, a Black woman, on the challenges plaguing the Black community.
This is essentially the race-based version of mansplaining, I’m dubbing this practice “whitesplaining”, and it’s extremely patronizing. Just because you read a couple articles and are able to articulate some of the issues, doesn’t mean that you are an expert. Being black is my reality. I get it; I live it every day. Please hear me when I say that you have nothing to prove to me and nor I to you. While I thank you for taking the time to educate yourself on the Black experience, please share this newfound terminology and understanding with your other non-Black friends.
The truth of the matter is: it’s all performative until it isn’t. We can only know who our true allies are 2 to 3 months down the line when the riots and protests have ceased, and the TL goes back to normal.
If you’re going to post on social media right now, great, but make sure you’re doing it with genuine intentions. Moreover, make sure you have a long-term strategy in place for how you will continue to support the fight for racial equality. Continue to read Black literature; keep having uncomfortable conversations with your peers; make your one-time donation a recurring one. Your activism today means nothing if you’re complacent tomorrow.
For ways to consistently and persistently to support Black Live Matter, click here.
When I scroll through social media, I’m frequently taken aback at the condescending tone some of my “allies” have taken. Your “holier than thou,” “I am doing everything perfectly” demeanor is off-putting and isn’t helping to push the cause (our cause) forward. This approach is exclusionary and could dissuade potential allies from inquiring more because they may think that it’s too late for them.
It’s counterproductive to use this time to belittle people for just now “waking up” and joining the movement. We’re all entitled, and encouraged, to change our opinion when presented with new information. We all also have to start somewhere — you haven’t always been the perfect ally, in the same way that I, haven’t also been well-versed on the issues plaguing the trans and Latinx communities.
We must be cognizant about our tone and our message if we want to infiltrate the hearts and the wallets of non-Black folks who have been ignorant in the past. If part of our long-term strategy is to encourage white and non-Black people of color to have candid conversations with their racist/conservative/unaware peers, we have to also welcome those same people into this movement and help them to overcome the learning curve.
Please remember, your job right now is to educate your loved ones and follow the lead of Black people. You have no right to play gatekeeper to a movement that is not your own.
In just over a week, we’ve seen several signs of progress, including a proposed ordinance for ‘Breonna’s Law’ and the Minneapolis City Council announcing their intent to disband the police department and invest more in community-led initiatives. However, we need to remember that this is a long-term play. Your allyship must be unrelenting. I urge you to continue to use your voice and your privilege to advocate and amplify the voices of the marginalized.
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