The past few weeks, widespread acknowledgement has been taken of the racial inequalities that exist in Western countries, that have existed for hundreds of years, and are ingrained into the infrastructure of society as we know it. I speak from a position of privilege as a cisgendered white woman. My race has not impacted me negatively. That does not mean that other things have not, but I am privileged in our society. Therefore, I speak today to those who also have privilege, on how to be an ‘ally’ and not an ‘accomplice’. This in itself is a privilege – to have to learn to understand the impacts of race rather than to experience them daily.
The concepts of allies and accomplices was brought to me by Nikki Kendal’s book, Hood Feminism, which I’ll discuss further in this article. Let’s break it down. What is being an ‘accomplice’? Essentially, it combines privilege and omission. Privilege means that you benefit from this society. It means that your race has not made you a target for police, has not made you less likely to get hired or more likely to get fired, that your racial identity is not stereotyped negatively, that you have had access to education, clean water, food, clothing, and that your adequacy to fulfil a role, such as motherhood, has not been questioned down to your race. Omission means that you have done nothing about it. Saying that you’re ‘not racist’ is not the same as being ‘anti-racist’. You continue to benefit from this unjust society, but feel you have ‘done your bit’ by being ‘not racist’. This is being an ‘accomplice’ too racism. Silence is condoning an activity.
So, how can we, as white people, be allies for the Black community? It requires action, which I have broken down into segments below. By no means will this undo the centuries of racial discrimination and I cannot comment on how the Black community are feeling at this time, but we have to recognise that the time has to be now to change. Mainstream media coverage of Black murders, such as George Floyd and Ahmaud Arbery, are rare and proper convictions are even scarcer. We can no longer be silent. We must recognise our own privileges and use them for good.
National Bail Out – This fund helps pay the bails of Black mothers and caregivers who are incarcerated during Coronavirus due to their disproportional rate of contraction and death from the virus. For every person freed, they are providing safe housing, groceries and support services You can read about more about them and donate here.
George Floyd Memorial Fund – Both of Mr Floyd’s sisters have set up fundraising pages, to cover the costs of court proceedings grief counselling, travel for justice and to take care and ensure the futures of his daughters. You can donate to the two funds here and here.
Restoring Justice – This organisation seeks to pay bail and provide quality attorneys to the 70,000 Black citizens incarcerated in Texas due to the systematic poverty that prevents them from being able to access defence. Those affected will also receive a social worker from Restoring Justice who will work tirelessly with the person to provide resources and counselling. You can find out more about them here.
Reclaim the Block – Minneapolis based, this organisation is working to redistribute the vast police funding into areas that help the community’s health and safety. They are campaigning to fund schools, hospitals, public transport, mental health services and affordable housing. You can donate to their cause here.
Campaign Zero – Does a reduction in police violence, improvement in community interactions and increased accountability for policing sound good to you? Sounds good to me. Campaign Zero are working systematically to apply pressure to pass legislation in individual states around the US in order to make the entire country safer. When you visit their site, you can view the impact that they have had not only on states, but in individual cities too. Their main policies are as follows;
We Love Lake Street – This organisation is distributing funds to the businesses on Lake Street, Minneapolis, where George Floyd was murdered. The businesses are primarily immigrant and Black owned. This organisation will help to rebuild vulnerable businesses in the community and fund community action. You can find them here.
Black Visions Collective – BLVC are as queer and trans centred organisation working to dismantle oppressive structures in society by cultivating a Black political voice and sustainable Black leadership. There have only been 10 Black senators since the American Civil War. This needs to change. Currently, the band Walk The Moon (‘Shut Up and Dance With Me’, anyone?) are matching donations made, which you can do here.
I would absolutely encourage everyone to pick up at least one of these books to further your understanding of Black injustices that exist within our society and that white people have unquestionably benefitted from. The Black voice and particularly the Black female voice is eradicated and silenced systematically. To read is to bear witness to and to hold yourself accountable. This is by no means an exhaustive list of things that I think would be helpful to read, but rather things that I have read recently.
I have just finished reading Mikki Kendall’s ‘Hood Feminism’, which was phenomenal. Kendall discusses topics from the issues with white centred feminism, how Black lives are impacted from birth, the resources that we need to fight for and the issues that privilege may have blinded you from seeing. It’s strong, it’s unapologetic, and it’s what everyone needs to read.
Reni Eddo-Lodge’s ‘Why I’m No Longer Talking To White People About Race’ was also a really comprehensive read, unveiling the injustices that may have gone unnoticed because discussions are usually led by people who aren’t affected by racial issues. The book is a full exposé on what it means to be a Black woman in Britain today, from the micro-aggressions to the overt, angry racial interactions that Eddo-Lodge has experienced.
Micro-aggressions are also tackled in Claudia Rankine’s ‘Citizen’, a lyric poetry collection discussing all topics from education, to Serena Williams, to the ‘historical self’. Rankine makes use of multimedia, incorporating paintings, photographs and sculpture into the manuscript. For an ally, Rankine’s work highlights covert racism, such as the generalisation of Black people into stereotypes.
Michael Fuller’s ‘Kill The Black One First’ is an account of his life as a Black child in the care system during the 1960s, leading to his becoming the first black Chief Constable in the UK. Throughout the chapters, racial relations are explored, decade by decade, including fact, stereotyping and barriers. I had the pleasure of meeting Michael at the book reading and can wholeheartedly recommend his autobiography.
Next up on my reading list, I will be reading ‘White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard For White People To Talk About Race’ by Robin DiAngelo. It has been reviewed by The New Yorker as a ‘methodical, irrefutable exposure of racism in thought and action, and its call for humility and vigilance.’
If you’re an Instagram user, here’s a list of some incredible voices and activists to decolonise your feed with.
- Munroe Bergdorf (@munroebergdorf) is a proud trans black model who encourages an open racial dialogue and for perpetrators to be held accountable. She’s also absolutely beautiful in body and soul.
- Grassroots Law Project (@grassrootslaw) are tirelessly working for justice for those affected by police brutality and murder. On their page, they run campaigns that you can get involved with, such as phone calls, texting in and signing petitions.
- Gal Dem (@galdemzine) is a print and online publication that shares perspectives from Black women and non-binary folk, as well as other women of colour.
- Natasha Ofili (@natasha_ofili) is a deaf actress and activist who posts regular updates on what you can do to support both the Black and the deaf community.
- Astra Marie (@funkychunkyy) promotes body positivity and is an absolute ray of sunshine.
- Stephen Lawrence Charitable Trust (@s_lawrencetrust) works to deliver impactful programmes for young people and communities. Stephen was murdered at a bus stop in an unprovoked racially motivated attack in 1993. His murderers were not convicted until over 10 years later. This launched a public inquiry into the mishandling of British criminal justice and racial policing attitudes.
- Keah Brown (@keah_maria) is the author of ‘The Pretty One’: her debut collection of essays discussing the intersection of Blackness, queerness and disability.
- Indya Moore (@indyamoore) is a trans actor and activist who uses their platform to speak out about injustices to the Black community. You may have seen them in Netflix’s Pose. (You should definitely watch it if not; it’s awesome)
- Laverne Cox (@lavernecox) is currently acting in DISCLOSURE on Netflix, a film by and about trans people looking at life on and off camera, as well as the legacies of white supremacy and colonialism.
Use your voice
Reclaim the Block – Minneapolis based, this organisation is working to redistribute the vast police funding into areas that help the community’s health and safety. They are campaigning to fund schools, hospitals, public transport, mental health services and affordable housing. Their current petition demands that Minneapolis do not pour more funding into violent policing methods. You can sign that here. It will ask you for an American area code and number, but I usually find a restaurant in California and use that information.
Stand Up To Racism – This organisation has groups around the UK that engage in peaceful protest. On June 3rd at 6pm, they are urging everyone to #TakeAKnee in honour of the Black lives lost during the pandemic. You can find them here.
Black Thrive – UK based, this organisation works to support Black mental health within communities and in households. Right now, they’re running Zoom chats to support Black citizens struggling with the effects of Covid-19. You can find out ways to help here.
Discrimination Law Association – The DLA operate in the UK and bring together a ‘broad range of discrimination law practitioners, policy experts, academics, and concerned individuals and organisations, all united around a commitment to strengthening anti-discrimination law, practice, advice and education in the UK.’ You can sign up as a member to support them here.
Grassroots Law – They currently have a petition running for justice for George Floyd which you can sign and then receive email updates about the case. Over 3 million people have signed so far, world wide, and their goal is 3.5 million. You can find them here.
The Impact of Omission – This study is trying to gain a national understanding of the extent to which Black history is taught in schools. You can take their survey here to aid curriculum changes.
In a position of privilege, bearing witness to discriminatory behaviour can be the thing that prevents a racially motivated ‘stop and search’ becoming a racially motivated police murder. If you see a Black person stopped, whether you know them or not, stand by them to let them know that you’re there. If you’re able to, speak to police and question their motives. This article underlines the issues that Black people face with the police, entitled, ’10 Rules of Survival: Get Home Safe’. In a position of privilege, it is unlikely that you will have had to think about altercations with police meaning that you won’t be able to return home. I know that that thought has never occurred to me when speaking with law enforcement. This is another example of privilege in action.
If you’re buying something, try to support Black owned businesses, especially during this pandemic. Of all the businesses that have gone bust during Covid-19, 40% were Black owned.
If you’re sitting at the dinner table or on the phone and a family member or friend says something discriminatory, challenge it. The time has gone for ‘they’re just old’, ‘it’s too uncomfortable’ or any other excuses that privilege allows us. Silence is compliance with the racist agenda and to be an ally is to challenge these discriminations on all levels. Using the information that you have gathered through the websites, pages, books and funds that I have shared, plus the countless other resources that are available online, in libraries and linked through various social media pages.
For now readers, I leave you with this message: Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced – James Baldwin.