We are witnessing history right now. It is the civil rights movement of our time. Senseless murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery in the Unites States of America are the straws that broke the proverbial back of our entire civilization with global outcry for change.
Innocent black people are harassed, and gunned down for merely existing. We are uncovering daily evidence of criminal conduct by law enforcement, including false reports, blatant racist remarks, and use of brute fatal force. It is like open season on black people. Government of United States is engaging in warfare tactics against its own people. Gas lighting generations of black people, turning a blind eye to misconduct of law enforcement, denial of systems of oppression, making excuses for the racist rhetoric, spewing venom against the victims, and furthering the divide with every tweet, often in all caps. If that is not abismal, more violence is dished in form of rubber bullets, and tear gas. The wheels of justice don’t seem to turn when injustices are perpetrated against black people. Murderers of black lives walk free, while those protesting the murders are jailed.
We cannot deny 400+ year legacy of oppression, and deeply rooted systemic racism, classism, and sexism. The experience of black people cannot be denied. We cannot move into the future with the poisonous legacy of racial injustice, and hate. We are being called upon to be on the right side of history. We are being called to chant Black Lives Matter. We must respond to this call. To be on the right side of history, we must be the allies we would want for ourselves if we were George, Breonna, or Ahmaud.
Here are five steps to enduring and effective allyship.
1) Make it your problem
Allyship is about allegiance, and identification with the cause more than the label itself. Most oppression stems from “us” vs. “them” thinking. It is how we justify having a double standard – one for “us”, and one for “them”. Black friends, family, and communities are part of our human family. Allies acknowledge, and honor our shared humanity. They learn as if their lives were on the line. They listen as if apathy is a crime.
2) Speak Up
Silence incentivizes the oppressor by removing accountability. We must actively advocate for all human rights and make our support known publicly. We must demand justice, and equality from our institutions. Remember black lives matter more than our egos. We cannot let our fear of saying the wrong thing get in our way of speaking up. The need of the time calls for progress, not perfection. So, speak. Even if your voice shakes. Whether you use a virtual platform, the dinner table, or your seat in a boardroom, use your voice, and share your platform with the voices often silenced. That’s true allyship.
There is a whole universe of experience native to the black community. It ranges from intergenerational trauma associated with slavery, followed by segregation, to present day discrimination that keeps black kids out of schools, and in prisons with severe sentences that nowhere near fit the crime, and pushing countless lives into a spiral of hopeless poverty by closing doors to employment, and commerce opportunities. It is our collective and personal responsibility to educate ourselves about the history, current, and emerging issues confronting black people. Read books, listen to podcasts, watch tv shows/ and movies about black history. Follow black authors, and educators. As we learn, we must also pay attention to our own biases, and those unconsciously inherent in our language.
4) Money Talks
Make a statement with how you spend your dollars. Donate to organizations serving black communities. Support black media, businesses, students, and artists. Demand that businesses, and organizations you interact with break their silence. Boycott media, businesses, and organizations perpetuating the systemic oppression of black people with their silence, or bigoted ideology. Switch to brands who employ black people, and support the Black Lives Matter movement.
5) Your Vote Matters
Our democracy is vulnerable, and needs our engagement to transform into a reflection of our true collective will. Creation, and maintenance of fair systems and institutions requires policy makers, and public servants who embody the values of equity, and justice. Blind allegiance to a political party is intellectually lazy, and not an ally’s quality. Educate yourself on the various aspects of key issues facing your local and national governments. Pay attention to the voting patterns of your elected leaders, and hold them accountable come election time. Put public servants to work for all of us. Get out and VOTE!
For any life to matter, black lives must matter. They do matter. The global outrage is evident. There is hope yet that love uniting us is stronger than the hateful shackles of fear. With consistent positive action, history will remember us as the generation that chanted, “Black Lives Matter”, and so, they did.