10 ways to be an ally to the black community

black lives matter, black lives matter artwork, being an ally to the black community, black allies
My first full illustration using Procreate on the iPad.

Oh boy, it’s been a rough week for the world. Especially in the US. The whole world saw that video of George Floyd pinned down by Derek Chauvin for 8 minutes. I can’t breathe. Momma. Before his soul left his body. His death outraged America, causing protests in almost every city. Even countries have their citizens protesting in solidarity, such as most of Europe, Canada, New Zealand, and Australia.

Black people in the US have always been murdered for the smallest things. Being a criminal or having a bad past does not justify unjust treatment. George Floyd’s murder was the straw that broke the camel’s back, causing an uproar across the world. But before George Floyd, we ran for Ahmaud Arbery. We fell asleep knowing we could make it another day, unlike Breonna Taylor. These were just in 2020.

Prior to that, we couldn’t breathe for Eric Garner. We started marching for Trayvon Martin. And let’s not forget about the thousands of black victims who didn’t get recorded.

Colorism and racism is a problem across the world. I just saw a photo of a protest in Brazil, and someone was holding up a sign that said,”If racism is international so is anti-racism”. In other cultures, the lighter skin, the more beautiful and virtuous. This mentality has to stop.

Which is also why white and non-black POC need to take a stand on behalf of black people. We need to step up and say enough is enough, to stop taking lives!

You don’t have to go out to all of the protests and march (but please do, if you would like!) But there are some little things you can do be an ally to the black community. Take it one step at a time. Show the black community you are trying and are with them.

1. Recognize your privilege

Yes, white people have the most privilege and benefit from systemic racism. Yes, other minority groups deal with microaggressions, hiring discrimination, etc. but other minority groups are much less likely to get killed by those who were sworn to protect them.

I realize that yeah, I actually do have some privilege as an Asian woman who grew up in ethnically diverse neighborhoods, so I have never experienced outright, systemic racism besides microaggressions here or there. Cecilio grew up in a liberal white college town, and while he never outright experienced racism either, he has been told, “Oh, so you’re one of the good ones” (he is half-Filipino, half-Mexican).

I benefit from being a lighter-skinned Filipina, from a culture that idolizes fairness and obsesses over the latest whitening beauty products. But it is that privilege where I have a duty to use that privilege to speak out for my black brothers and sisters.

2. Stop being defensive and stop saying the following phrases:

  • I don’t see color. Well, black people are very well aware of their own skin color and the challenges they face on a daily basis. From panicked looks from others walking down the street to not being able to go out at night to get gas, run errands, etc. without worrying about getting pulled over. Black parents have to give their children “the talk”: you know, giving advice about following the cop’s directions to a T in case if they get pulled over to lessen their chances of getting murdered.
  • I have black friends/co-workers/romantic partners. Yeah, so? You can still be racist. And yes, you can still be racist even if you are dating and marrying a black person. I was looking through a fundamentalist Christian influencer’s IG: a white woman married to a black man with 8–9 children. She gushes over the lighter-skinned children and their blonde hair and blue eyes while not saying much about the darker-skinned children. She has long-winded captions about praying to God to whether if she should marry a black man, and how she felt like a black woman at heart. Please don’t emulate her. I know this is an extreme example, but just know that your actions speak louder than words.
  • Stop making it a race issue. Until black people stop getting arrested for the tiniest crimes and murdered for the color of their skin, no, race is still going the be an issue for them and for their allies.
  • All lives matter. This is a knee-jerk reaction to the Black Lives Matter movement. Yes, all lives matter, including white lives and brown lives. But Black Lives Matter stemmed from the acquittal of Trayvon Martin’s murder in 2013, and the number of black men and women getting murdered mercilessly. But retorting with All Lives Matter, you are dismissing and devaluing a black person’s life. It does not mean only black lives matter. What it means that they matter as a person, and not as a statistic.
  • Yeah, well what about…enough with the what-about-isms. Property can always be replaced, but lives cannot. No, if, ands, buts, or what-abouts.
  • Martin Luther King protested peacefully. Yes he did, and he still got shot and killed.

3. Learn and educate yourself about discrimination in the black community.

Read articles and books. Do Google searches. Listen to podcasts. Here is a list of books you can read about anti-racism. For fiction, I highly recommend reading The Hate U Give. I am more than halfway through and once I’m done, I will do a review here.

4. Don’t be afraid to talk about race.

I know it’s hard. But avoiding it makes it even more awkward and makes it seem like you are burying your head in the sand, and denying that racism still goes on today. We do not live in a post-racial, post-MLK society. And please, call out your racist relatives if they say something nasty.

5. Do not say the N-word, even if it’s in a song.

I don’t care if you’re listening to a song and the N-word is in the lyrics. Do. Not. Say. It. Don’t say the word with the “er” at the end or even with the “a” at the end. Just don’t. If you’re not black, don’t say it. Here is an article that explains why, and the history behind the word.

6. Do better than the generations before you.

Your parents and grandparents grew up in a time when it was okay to make jokes about racial stereotypes in ways that would not be tolerated today. But you should know better, especially if you grew up with people of color. So do better and break those generational curses.

The Filipino culture is notorious for being racist and xenophobic while capitalizing on black culture. On one hand, we want our skins to be as light as possible and marry a white man and have mestizo children. On the other hand, I know so many Filipinos who love hip hop music and culture. It’s a weird juxtaposition.

You don’t have to be perfect because no one else is, and we don’t understand what it’s like to walk a mile in a black man or woman’s shoes. But empathize and advocate for them.

7. Donate

Charity groups need your support more than ever to dismantle racial discrimination. Here are a few charities I have in mind:

8. Catch up on your black friends.

If you have black friends, acquaintances, or colleagues, catch up on them and let them know that you are there for them. Even if you don’t have the right words to say. I worry about my best friend, Nate, all the time. And I know it’s not easy being out and about as a 6’4″ black man. So I texted him recently to make sure he was okay, and we’ve had some Facebook Messenger meetups with our other friends. Just show that you care.

9. Support black businesses.

Now more than ever, black businesses are getting a lot of support and exposure from white people and other POC. It would mean the world to them knowing that you purchased their products or services, especially if you fell in love! You vote with your money, and this is one of the best ways to be an ally.

I originally had a list with my commentary of the black-owned businesses but because it got really long, I am going to make a separate post dedicated to them!

I have a few businesses I want to give a short shoutout to:

10. Know that allyship is a lifelong journey.

It’s not a one-time deal. You don’t take all of this in and then think, oh I’m done, I can’t be racist! No! To be an ally, you have to be anti-racist, which means unlearning any racial bias that you absorbed when you were younger. It feels unnatural but it takes awareness and consciousness. And it’s a lifelong journey, not a destination.

Over the next few weeks, I will be sharing some of my favorite black-owned businesses and influencers. I will still post my regular content, but content related to the black community will be sprinkled in to show that I am an ally. I also ordered a few beauty products from black-owned businesses which I will also be reviewing and swatching.

I urge you to do the same in your own way.

Hannah is a travel writer, graphic designer, and the founder/editor of Hannah on Horizon. She is based in Sacramento, California, living with her husband and two adorable dogs. She shares tips on how to experience luxury travel on any budget, and how to maximize time at each trip or destination, no matter what your budget or amount of vacation time at work. She enjoys making you feel like you have visited each destination with her through her storytelling and informative writing style.

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