It starts with you.
If you want to be an agent for positive change, your actions must be self-motivated. You have to start with yourself.
Whether you’re aware of it or not, you’ve incorporated biases that frame your perception of people of color. It’s difficult to come to terms with this, because no one wants to think they hold prejudices. But we all do. And we often exercise these prejudices without knowing.
We make fundamental attribution errors, linking others’ actions to their social identities rather than their individual identities. We’ve evolved to think like this because it saves time and cognitive energy. But when a FAE becomes an ultimate attribution error—when we make these links on a greater level—it’s quite damaging.
It isn’t until you challenge your notions of race—and come to terms with the fact that you have implicitly been “otherizing” people—that you can truly enact change. Your biases don’t exist in a vacuum; there is a reason why you feel the way you feel, whether you perceive these feelings to be positive, negative, or neutral. Become mindful of these feelings, and challenge them through intergroup dialogue.
Becoming an ally does not happen overnight. It involves a learning curve. An uncomfortable learning curve. You will slip up and accidently say something insensitive, but the most important thing is that you learn from your mistakes.
Keep in mind, however, that time is of the essence. Don’t be too easy on yourself. The system is broken, and you can’t afford to be a bystander. To whom much is given, much is required. Inform yourself of the systematic inequality in our country. Have the difficult conversations. Don’t take things at face value—there is a reason why people have the perspective that they have. If you don’t understand their rationale, ask them to clarify. In the words of Beverly Daniel Tatum, “even if you don’t like the definition of racism that I am using, hopefully you are now clear about what it is.”
Don’t invalidate, but do participate.
Which aspects of this post inspired you? Surprised you? Upset you? Are there any other aspects of allyship that are important to be aware of?
1 thought on “Advice for a White Ally”
This post is extremely impactful and well-said! I noticed that I struggle with voicing and acting on my viewpoints and beliefs. Although I do care about this issue and am passionate about fixing race relations in America, I notice I become quiet once I am around my normal crowd or those will overpower or argue with me. However, you are right, time is of the essence and I cannot afford to be a bystander. This is a great passage that definitely sparks me, and probably others, in ensuring I work for change and do not let these issues just pass by me. The point you make about slipping up and making insensitive comments is important, learning from those mistakes is essential to understand the impact those comments can have on individuals well as how to address them in the future if they are made by someone else. If you are an ally, it is okay to make a mistake, which I think is an important concept to understand. Another important aspect you address is understanding that others have different perspectives. We cannot give up on taking action just because others feel and act differently, mostly against us. Nonetheless, your post is one that I can see myself referring to when I am in a state of giving up or even lost a little bit on how to move forward.
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