How To Be an Ally
This is my personal opinion on the state of our collective consciousness when it comes to Black racism. If you don't agree, then great, let’s have a debate. If you agree, great, let’s have a debate. Either way, take it the way you want as the point is not to criticize, but to create more constructive dialogue when it comes to Anti-Black racism. Let’s do this!
I don’t have to mention their names because you already know the latest victims of police brutality, cultural insensivity and the inhumane treatment of Black people globally that has been sustained by a collective compliance from almost every social group within society. I am not an expert on allyship as I haven’t been the greatest ally either but these are jus a few thoughts on where we can all start:
How to be an ally for White People - This past month (or maybe even longer) you have probably felt a whole new wave of emotions that can be characterized by a sense of guilt, accompanied by a deep sorrow and a feeling of loss that Black people have felt for a very long time. Imagine all the thoughts and feelings you are feeling for the past few weeks, multiplied by years of oppression in your own life, but also in the lives of millions of others you identify with. Black people feel an internal pain and also a collective pain that we could never explain because we see ourselves in the Trayvons, Eric Garners, Breonna Taylors, Sandra Blands, Regis Korchinski-Paquets, and the George Floyds of the world. But mostly, the guilt is resonating with you because now you may finally recognize your own role in sustaining the same system of oppression. I know you are already trying to console yourself and reconcile these feelings, but I encourage you to let it simmer on low heat for as long as it takes. Your own silence in the past when your friends, family members and others around you make jokes about minorities, dismiss racism, or justify violent acts against Blacks for one reason or another has directly contributed to the strength of systemic racism. What you need to do is the hard work required outside of social media posts to hold YOUR OWN PEOPLE, FRIENDS, FAMILY, COWORKERS, STRANGERS and YOURSELF much more accountable in resisting the system that you have helped build, intentionally or unintentionally. Challenge your own way of thinking by educating yourself and then educating those around you and if you see an injustice, speak out and align yourself with Anti-Black racism efforts and organizations. However, what you can't do is ask Black people to educate you on basic human rights and our collective history. Google is your best friend but if you really want to get down and dirty you can dive into cultural theorists such as Stuart Hall, bell hooks, Ta-Nehisi Coates, Angela Davis, James Baldwin, Nikki Giovanni, Toni Morrison and the list goes on. You can google Chattel Slavery, Tulsa Riots, Private Prison Systems or the 13th Amendment, Jim Crow, Civil Rights, LA Riots, Detroit Riots, Black Panthers/Cointel Pro, Redlining, War on Drugs and the Crack Epidemic in the 80s, Gentrification and the list goes on. Basically, you need to be like John Brown the Abolitionist, and willing to bring down the system by any means. Otherwise, your allyship is more performative than anything else because the stakes are so much higher now.
How to be an ally for People of Color (POC) or other racialized groups – this is for other ethnic groups who also benefit from the subjugation of Black people and have actively participated in it. Just know that we see your appreciation of our culture from music, fashion, slang and lifestyle, it is a global culture which is always tied back to the urban influences. Especially in Toronto, I see and hear so many other non-blacks speaking in slang because it’s the most popular thing and maybe Drake gave you permission. Although annoying at times, this is acceptable. What is not acceptable, is the same complicity and silence when you see injustices against Blacks. It is purposely distancing yourself from the culture when the culture becomes too “problematic’ for you or perpetuating the same microaggressions against Black people. If you haven't seen it, Hasan Minhaj broke this down perfectly in his video We Cannot Stay Silent About George Floyd. The appropriation without proper appreciation of Black culture NEEDS to stop. The only way to do this is to share in the collective pain and be an advocate for social justices, inside and outside of your own culture. Now, this is not to say all other POC are not allies. This issue has revealed some great businesses and brands like Legends League, The Hundreds, and Johnny Cupcakes (just to name a few) who are not black owned but have properly and have always aligned themselves with social justice issues across the board from climate change, mental health, poverty and equality. They have inspired me to use my brand to be more vocal and be a champion of causes through creativity. I honestly appreciate the POCs who have sacrificed “appearances” and dealt with bigots to speak out. We see you and value your contributions.
How to be an ally for Black Men – you are Kings, you are leaders and you have been dealt a great injustice in this society. However, we are not the only victims and we often play a role in the lack of representation in own communities. I am challenging Black Men to be champions for Black Women, not to take over the movement but it is to return the favor to women who will RIDE OR DIE for us, 10000000% of the time. It is recognizing our privilege as men and repositioning our role as protectors of Black Women and their rights. It is on US to be the true allies to our women, who ARE the leaders of these movements and we must lean into a full support role in this fashion. It is not our time to “take over” but it is our time to take the passenger seat, back seat, help load the trunk, fill the gas and allow our Black Women Leaders to drive our communities forward while supporting in anyway they need. Yes we have our own issues, but we need to SHOW UP for everything black women are doing, whether that will be the businesses they are running, they classes they are teaching or the rallies and Movements they are organizing. It’s time to SHOW UP OR SHUT UP!
How to be an ally TO Black Women – You are Queens, you are Leaders, and you are the best gift that was placed on this earth. You cannot do any more than what you are currently doing. You are fighting for the attention of your Black male counterparts while fighting against injustices for/with them, while fighting for your own rights, raising children, running businesses and support your bf/husbands dreams (even when they decide to pursue a rap career at 40). You are a triple minority and society needs to stop playing around with you. We need to rally behind our Black Women and this is for all the previous social groups mentioned. We need LISTEN to them, because as Chelsea Lately realized, “they (black women) know what is up” and they always know what is best. They are the Warriors, the Inventors, the CEOs, AND our Mothers, Sisters, Cousins, Aunts, Best Friends and Cheerleaders. Thank you for always being of service to EVERYONE in society, from your neighbors to being front line workers to the doctors, lawyers, governors, politicians and engineers that make this city run. You are and will always be the REAL MVPs. Let us know how and what we can do to better support YOU.
How “I” can be a better Ally – I have a strong background in communication theory that deals with race representation in the media and social justice. My studies in post secondary, specifically when I completed my Masters degree studying Race Representation in the Mainstream media truly shaped by identity politics. I had to explore and learn about my history, pre and post slavery, and how the stereotypes used to dehumanize Black people have been recycled throughout history and permanently ingrained in our collective social consciousness. Coming out of school and stepping into the corporate role, I was forced to subdue that side of me significantly due to being one of the only Black people or POC in the office, building or board meeting. In many ways I am ashamed that I had to suppress sides of me that are deeply tied to my mind, body and spirit. Why? Because as a Black man, I am always aware of my skin and in the moments where I think I am an equal around people who supposedly don’t see color, I am quickly reminded. An example, one of my previous jobs in media (a long time ago), one of my superiors (an executive) called me the N word while we were drinking and hanging out in the hotel room on a business trip...that sobered me up real quick! You know one of those “you are my "n-word‘’ type” moments. It was a hard pill to swallow but with all my pride I swallowed and laughed it off, jokingly saying, “You know you can’t use that word”. Until then, I thought we had a great working and personal relationship that was filled with respect but in that moment, I was reminded how he, and the rest of the world, sees me. There are a thousand other stories like this and even worse that many other Black people experience. It forces us to retreat into our shells and take our Black Power berets off, because we know in a White person’s world, that hat doesn’t fit. I am challenging myself to be more vocal against injustices towards Black Women, Black Men, First Nations & Indigenous people, those with disabilities, advocate for mental health and those who identify with the LGBTQ+ community. I am challenging myself to do my part to call out injustices in my own social circles whether it be homophobia, colorism, or misogyny. We all must take a deeper look inward to see how we are maintain this deep-rooted systemic racism and come out more unified than we have ever been.
All this to say, shit is f*cked up. Black people do not need pity. We do not need sympathy. We need empathy and we need people to take us seriously from here on out. If not , please get the f*ck out of our way. Stop calling the cops on every black person you see. Stop antagonizing us when we are having fun and peacefully enjoying life. Stop participating in our cultural forms if you ain’t really “bout this life” and stop perpetuating the system of Anti-Black Racism, not only in this country, but wherever you go. In short, DO THE WORK!
Feel free to comment and add resources that are relevant so that we can keep this conversation going.
We are all here to do the work but I’ve compiled a list of some resources. Please add more in the comments and I’ll be happy to share out the full list.
Here is a list of resource and community organizations you can support:
DONATE (see post from jayohbirch IG):
CLOTHING BRANDS (check post by Bobby Hundreds)
We Buy Blacks (USA)
- Beyond Heroes and Holidays: A Practical Guide to K-12 Anti-Racist, Multicultural Education and Staff Development by Enid Lee, Deborah Menkart, Margo Okazawa-Rey
- How to be an Anti-Racist by Ibram Kendi
- Policing Black Lives: State Violence in Canada from Slavery to the Present by Robyn Maynard
- Until We Are Free: Reflections on Black Lives Matter in Canada edited by Edited by Rodney Diverlus, Sandy Hudson, and Syrus Marcus Ware
- Policing Indigenous Movements, by Andrew Crosby & Jeffrey Monaghan
- The Skin We’re In by Desmond Cole
- Colour Code
- The Secret Life of Canada
- The Diversity Gap
- Momentum a Race Forward Podcast
- About Race
- Code Switch
- Yo, is this Racist?
- Ear Hustle
Special thanks to Funke Aladejebi for the list of books and podcasts, Patricia Awosiyan for the edits and Sajid Malgi for the amazing design work! Until next time, Stay Clutch my friends! Leave a comment below and let's continue the good work we are all doing!