While the issue of race and police violence disproportionately hurts minority communities in America, none of us are immune to the ripples it leaves in our society.
Recent events, such as the police shootings of Black men in Louisiana and Minnesota, and the attack on Dallas police officers at a Black Lives Matter demonstration, have left many of us wondering how we can best support our friends and loved ones if we’re coming from a place of privilege.
The first thing, always, is listening. On Wednesday, Refinery29 gathered a panel of five activists and experts for R29 Dialogue: Race In America, a livestreamed event aimed at talking about what's going on, and what we can all do to help. Here’s what they had to say about how to get involved in the issues and be the best ally you can:
“If you want to educate people, it’s really, really important that you educate yourself first. Because a lot of times when you start talking about something, people are going to kind of come for you and you want to be prepared to defend what you believe against what they’re saying. So I think that having that foundation for yourself first is the most important thing to changing minds and changing society.” — Seamus Kirst, journalist/activist
Remember that it’s not about you.
“Allies, a lot of the time, get access to spaces that many communities of color or marginalized communities don’t get access to. When that happens, unfortunately, that just further marginalizes people’s narratives in their own voices. So it’s important to use that access that our allies have to bring in those stories, bring in those voices. And then when we do have our own spaces, being comfortable with letting that happen and not having to interject there, too.” — Amani Al-Khatahtbeh, founder of MuslimGirl.com
Don’t be afraid to use the tools that you have, from social media to your IRL social circles…
“I really don’t believe in the concept of armchair activism as being something negative. I don’t like the way that people talk about it so negatively. That’s really such a great way to make a difference. If most of our social lives are now perpetuated on social media, if you see an article that’s going to make a difference, that’s going to open people’s eyes, then definitely share it. What do you have to lose? Who knows who it’s going to reach?” — Amani Al-Khatahtbeh
…But do be mindful of what you share.
“Overall, I think that social media has been beneficial. I do think that the perpetuation of ‘trauma porn’ and Black pain is a major problem. And that’s something that’s one of the pitfalls of this tool. A celebrity, who I very much respect, was posting ‘Black Lives Matter’ the other day, but they had a picture they posted that was very gruesome. It was very disturbing and triggering for me to see that this was something that they felt comfortable posting. This Black man dying, in pain, in front of his child and his partner. That this was what they felt was needed to call people to action, and to also force us to watch that again made me deeply uncomfortable and sick.” — Jamia Wilson, journalist/activist
Don’t leave those most affected to do all the heavy lifting.
“These moments where you kind of have to explain the necessity of certain hashtags or certain movements, they’re really great opportunities for our allies to step in, because that’s a really unfair position for communities of color to be placed in. On top of the fact that we’re already enduring this injustice, then we also have to continue asserting our humanity to people and trying to prove to them and convince them why they should care about our rights, too. That’s really unfair. ” — Amani Al-Khatahtbeh
Be willing to get your hands dirty.
“For me, when I’m thinking about people who I want as my comrades and co-conspirators — because I think ‘ally’ is a little distant — I actually need some people in the trenches with me in that foxhole — so I need the people that are willing to put their bodies on the line and willing to get called out and stand there right with me… Those are the people who are doing the righteous work. The people who really understand that they will not be free if each and every one of us will not be free.” — Jamia Wilson
Acknowledge that you might be benefitting from the system, even if you don't want to be.
“I think it’s obviously really hard, because nobody wants to admit that [they benefit from white privilege], but the only way change is going to happen is if white people start doing that and reflecting on how they can change that. It’s hard to separate yourself from the conversation and not feel like you’re declaring yourself a racist or being called a racist. But it’s really important for white people to listen in all of these conversations… To be able to accept that you do benefit from white privilege on a daily basis, whether you wake up choosing to or not.” — Seamus Kirst
Remember that it’s a community problem.
“This is something that we need to remember: There are race relations, there is racism in America that goes back generations. People who are alive still remember how things were for them when they were not allowed to go into certain places. We cannot ignore this. We also cannot ignore the fact that, again, people are — police officers are — recruited from these communities." — Maria (Maki) Haberfeld, professor of police science at John Jay College of Criminal Justice
Watch the whole R29 Dialogue below.
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