Whenever these incidents occur, many of us remain wondering what we can do to support our African American friends beyond anguished posts online – and in real and meaningful ways.
Being an ally – a person who is not a member of a particular marginalized group but tries to help end the oppression of those in the marginalized group – is a constant process. The alliance can mean different things to different people and it can be difficult to know where to start.
This is by no means an exhaustive list, but here are some ways you can support marginalized communities.
Offer support and comfort.
Check on your friends who don’t look like you when a high profile tragedy or accident occurs. Claim that you are there for them in all the ways they need.
Educate yourself and others
Do your research.
Do what you can to educate yourself before asking others to explain things to you. There are many resources available online. Google is your friend.
Ask questions when needed.
We are all learning and it is OK to ask questions.
But be careful who you are asking, he says the writer Courtney Ariel
. Don’t rely too much on black people or other marginalized groups to be your “experts”.
It is best if the person you are asking for is someone you already have a solid relationship with. And be prepared to accept that some people may not want to discuss these things with you.
Brush up on history.
Asking “How did something like this happen?” when another police meeting becomes deadly it may seem deaf to communities that have long been dealing with deep-seated systems of oppression, Ariel writes
. Make sure you’re ready before weighing.
Influence people in your group.
Talk to the people in your life, especially those who share your same identity, so Jamie Utt wrote Daily feminism
. Educate your friends and family on how oppression systems affect marginalized groups. Hold them accountable for their words and actions, as well as the roles they can play in such systems.
Teach your kids.
It is never too early. Speak explicitly to your children about racism and other forms of discrimination. Don’t teach them to be “color blind,” says author Jennifer Harvey. Let them know that it is important to notice the differences and teach them to defend others.
Accept your mistakes.
The alliance is a process. Along the way, you are sure to do or say the wrong thing from time to time. Don’t be defensive. Take responsibility for mistakes. And do better going forward.
Recognize your privilege.
A key part of being an ally is to recognize the benefits and power you have in society because of the identity you were born with, he says organizational change consultant Frances Kendall
. Be aware of yourself and be willing to go against others who share your privileges.
Racism and other forms of oppression are everywhere, even if you don’t experience them alone. Train yourself to notice them on a personal and institutional level, he says the writer and activist Paul Kivel
. Take note of what is being said (and what is not) and who is (and who is not). Recognize how prejudice, discrimination and oppression are denied, minimized or justified.
Know when to speak less.
This is not about you. You don’t have to comment on each situation with your perspective or do everything to show how aware or educated you are, Ariel says
. Raise others without speaking for them. Let the others have the microphone to change.
Understand the experiences of others.
Instead of offering your thoughts, listen to people who are marginalized when they tell you about their experiences, frustrations and emotions. Sit down for a while.
You can’t do this job alone. Find other allies you can work with and hold each other accountable. Work with organizations that do the same job as you do. Support black people who are leaders.
Use your privilege to help others.
It can be scary, but taking risks, Kivel writes
. Call injustice or discrimination when you see it. Take action when you see cases of racism or other situations that seem unsafe.
Use the 5 D of intervention of bystanders
. This includes reducing the situation, asking for help from others, checking in with the person involved, talking and documenting what is happening.
Know your rights when you are registering.
You allowed by the Constitution to film the police on duty
as long as it doesn’t interfere with their activities. Keep a safe distance. Capture signs or landmarks that help identify the location.
Express your concerns to the powerful.
Know who your local legislators and politicians are (go here to find a complete list of your chosen ones
) and know how contact them
. Here is a great Twitter thread of a former congressman
on how to get politicians to listen.
March alongside people from marginalized groups in protests and demonstrations.
Donate your time and money.
This could take many forms, says Ariel
. Offer help to people who could benefit from your experience. Help a family pay bills. Identify organizations whose work aligns with your goals and give what you can.
Make sure you are registered
. And do it in every election, not just the big ones.
CNN’s AJ Willingham contributed to this report.