How to Become an Ally to the Black Community

How to Become an Ally to the Black Community

Verywell / Laura Porter

As the country wrestles with the issue of systemic racism, many people are wondering what they can do to help address the issue. Aside from teaching kids to be anti-racist, diversifying friendships, and participating in protests, most people want to know how to do more.

Perhaps the best way to influence change is to become an ally to BIPOC. But, if you are like most, you probably aren't sure how that is done or even where to start. After all, you don't want to enter into the situation without being equipped to address racism in a way that is educated, considerate, and compassionate.

Consequently, here are some ideas on how you can become an effective ally to the Black community and impact change. Keep in mind that every situation and community is different. So, use your best judgment on how and where to get involved. But do get involved because as Edmond Burke said, "Evil triumphs when good people do nothing."

Understand Racism is Everywhere

For most people, admitting that racism exists is a difficult thing to do. After all, it means that the country has not made progress and that deplorable acts are still being committed against Black people and other marginalized groups. But just as age, gender, and politics influence people's actions, so does race.

Being white means you don't have to deal with racism all the time. So, sometimes it's hard to recognize that racism is happening.

But you have to step outside of your beliefs and experiences and ask questions. Learn to see the effect that racism has on people.

Pay Attention to Those in Power

Pay attention to people in authority positions. Observe what they are saying and how they are treating people. Once you do, you will start to notice code words for race as well as hidden agendas. You may even notice how certain policies and comments have on people of other races. Most likely, you already notice a person's skin color — now pay attention to how they are treated because of it.

Get Educated

If you truly want to become an ally, it's important to make the effort to educate yourself.

Be Careful Not to Overwhelm People

And, while you can ask your Black friends for suggestions on what to read or where to gather information, don't expect them to educate you. Many of them are tired from spending a lifetime fighting racism, so taking time to educate you can be overwhelming for them.

Do Your Own Research

Instead, put in the work to learn about racism by reading books, following activists online, and watching influential movies and documentaries. Then, have the hard conversations with your Black friends. Ask the right questions and listen to their thoughts and opinions without providing anecdotal stories about your own experiences.

Listen to Their Experiences

Many times, your friend's personal experiences with racism will have a greater impact on you than what you read. So be sure you talk to them. Just remember to be compassionate and understanding if they choose to share stories or information with you. Most likely, what they have experienced is highly personal and painful for them. Validate their experience without minimizing their thoughts or feelings.

Also, resist the urge to respond to them with a better or different perspective. Simply listen and just allow yourself to be in their shoes. Don't try to educate them or fix the situation in some way. Doing so just silences them and discourages them from sharing. Plus, it's condescending and rude to assume that you somehow have the answers.

Confront Your Own Biases

And, most importantly, don't be afraid to confront your own racism. Dig deep and recognize anything you have done or believed — either intentionally or unintentionally — that was racist and eradicate it from your life.

Becoming an ally is about more than not wanting to be racist, being an ally is about educating yourself about systemic racism in the United States; and then using your mind and your voice to influence change.

Take a Stand

It's difficult — and sometimes even scary — to take a stand against injustice. But part of being an ally means you are willing to take risks. And even though you may lack self-confidence or feel inadequate when it comes to addressing injustices, do it anyway.

The only way you will make a difference is to intervene in situations where racism is being perpetuated.

Keep The Big Picture In Mind

You need to be strategic in what you do and not enter into things haphazardly. So be sure you pick your battles carefully. Decide what's important to challenge and take a stand. Think about a strategic way of addressing the issue and the source of power. And, learn to recognize the connections between racism, economic issues, sexism, and other forms of prejudice.

Be careful not to confuse the battle and the war. It's easy to zero in on a particular incident and to focus on the injustice of it. Instead, keep your focus on how this one incident contributes to the larger patterns of racism.

Support Black Leadership

One of the best ways to empower the Black community is to support those who have emerged as leaders. Whether they are local politicians, teachers, or business owners, get behind them, and lend your support. Help them reach their goals and support their efforts to make a difference.

Likewise, you should look at ways to support Black causes and other organizations that work to support those impacted by racism. If you're white, use your privilege —the fact that you don't experience the challenges of racism — to empower those who are being treated unfairly because of their race.

Don't use the term "colorblindness." It's simply not possible to not see the color of someone's skin.

This country has repeatedly demonstrated that it recognizes and categorizes people by the color of their skin. Not only has this been evident through slavery and continuing racism, but also when the country developed internment camps during World War II for Japanese Americans and confiscated land from indigenous people.

Band Together

It's important to remember that you will not end racism on your own. Communities have to work together in order to see results. For this reason, you need to build support, establish networks, and work with already established groups and diverse sources.

Check For Consistency

Be diligent about what groups you decide to join and support though. Although some groups claim to want to end racism or support people of color, you may find after a little digging that their messages do not match their actions. Consequently, avoid linking yourself with groups that have inconsistent messages or actions. Doing so many end up harming your efforts more than helping them.

Pay Attention to Where You Get Your News

Be aware of the type of news you're consuming. Make sure you are getting your information from a diverse set of sources. Follow activists and Black leaders on social media in order to diversify the information you are consuming. Retweet or post the information that really resonates with you. And, don't let the fear of judgment keep you from becoming an ally.

A Word From Verywell

If you are looking for inspiration for where to start on becoming an ally to the Black community, research leaders who have worked for racial justice — there is a long history of people who have fought for racial justice. If you are white, you might research how other white allies worked for racial justice to use as examples; if you are Latinx, you might research Latinx allies as examples, and the same goes for people of all backgrounds.

Reading about and listening to stories from a diverse range of allied voices can inspire you to take the next step. In the meantime, start educating your self about systemic racism in this country. You can't be an effective ally if you're not informed.

By Sherri Gordon
Sherri Gordon is a published author and a bullying prevention expert.