(An Open Letter) to My Future Allies

My husband is white. My babies are white passing. My family is evidence that white people can be true allies to the black community, but my family is not the norm. My family is privileged with the safety that the color of their skin brings, but that also means that people in my home are safer than: My brother. My father. My sisters. My mother. Some of my dearest friends. Myself. When I was asked to write this article, my immediate reaction was to reach out to the African-American voices in my life. What needs to be said? What needs to be amplified? How can I share our grief in a way that will make them GET it? Because in the world of us & them, our voice is the one that is silenced, dug into the pavement with a knee to the neck until we no longer have air to speak with. The Black community has become accustomed to the emotional labor of advocating for ourselves, for the George Floyds, Ahmaud Arberys, Breonna Taylors, Emit Tills, & Rodney Kings because we know that tomorrow, it could be any one of us. Tomorrow, I or He or She could be the next viral hashtag. Black voices are already doing our part because our lives depend upon it. So, I pivoted. I asked the white voices in my life: What do you need to know & learn to help address your own white fragility? Where do you want to grow in your role as an ally to the black community? I implored them to shirk the embarrassment that comes with asking questions around race & to ask anything even if it felt silly, or stupid or ridiculous. It's exhausting & it’s heavy work; but we will never get anywhere if we can’t travel together. “How do I show up for the Black Community without fear of fumbling?” they asked. “How do I show up without being seen as ‘performing’”? “How do I know the difference?” “How can I advocate for the black community without overstepping, or disrespecting someone's experience?” “What if I end up making it worse?”

My answer to that is simply this: You Can’t. You can’t make it worse. We are dying. My people, my family, your neighbors, & friends & colleagues are collectively dying random, senseless, deaths nearly weekly. Unless you are going to actively join in on the killing, you cannot make this worse by speaking up; but you can certainly enable it by remaining silent. The vast majority of white people are not evil, they are comfortable. Leaving your comfort zone is always going to be scary, I know. Acknowledging that you have a privilege, is scary. Acknowledging that the people in your circle have racist tendencies, is scary. Acknowledging that you yourself may have habits rooted in racism, is scary.

But we need you to take that next step, no matter how frightening. We need you to buck up & show up, because the people that look like you are killing the people that look like us. It isn’t about politics, or which side of the table you sit on at thanksgiving dinner or which of your connections blocks you on Facebook. It’s about enough being enough. It's about a moral obligation to do the right thing.

It’s going to feel uncomfortable at first, but your voice will get stronger the more you use it. Feel free to start small by checking in on your own privilege. Do your own inner work by reading books & articles like this one to honestly address where YOU are at right now. Correct yourself when thoughts rooted in oppression or prejudice creep up in your own mind & speech. Practice saying things in the mirror like: “Hey, that’s not an okay thing to say. Here’s why ______. Can I suggest you read this book or article that could give you further information on the subject?” If you practice saying the words to yourself, you will have them in your arsenal when the opportunity arises to defend the black community against someone else. You’ll be a little less clumsy & a little more confident. Be okay with the crickets & the awkwardness, because that means you’ve said something that’s made them THINK. Racism is a proven conversation killer, but the dialogue will flow easier with time & opportunity. If you find that you are often coming across racism on social media, consider typing out a message in your notes that you can simply copy & paste as needed. Be okay with the potential backlash that comes with educating people on racism, understand that they are coming from the same place of fear that we all have inside of us. Thank them, mute them & move on. Support your local BIPOC businesses & creatives. Shifting the distribution of wealth is going to be a huge part in the black community being treated with equality & fairness. Monetary support is always appreciated however, word of mouth is often just as good. Leave honest reviews for your favorite places. Suggest BIPOC services when your friends make that ever present “Hey, does anyone know of a good ______” post. Listen to more BIPOC artists on your music streaming accounts, support black podcasts. Follow, like & share on your Facebook & Instagram. Align yourself as a financial support, even without spending a dime. If you are concerned about being perceived as parading your support for the black community, a nice rule of thumb is for the 1:2 ratio. For every public action, find space and time for two (or more) silent actions. Send a text or meal to an African-American friend. Let them know you are here for them, ask how you can offer support, thank them & move on. Make an anonymous donation to organizations supporting minorities. Write letters to your local officials & implore for a safer black experience, starting with police reform, equitable giving & awareness training in schools. Teach your kids to see color & to use their privilege as protection. Lead by example.

We don’t need you to be perfect. We just need you to be with us. My mother, my father, my brother, sisters, cousins & friends need you. I need you. Your voice is too powerful to remain silent.

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