I’m a white nearly-thirty woman wanting your advice as a woman of colour as to what I should do. The death of George Floyd has woken me to the reality of racism. I feel regretful that it has taken until now for me to realise how bad it is, but I want to make amends for that by doing what I can to help the #BlackLivesMatter movement and to support black people.
The truth is, I’m scared that in my efforts to help I might say or do something counterproductive.
So I guess what I’m asking is, what can I do to help?
Thank you for your email.
I am pleased that you recognise that it is not right that this is the first time that you have realised the reality of racism. This will be the same for many white people right now, which does in itself highlight the gravity of the problem. It is easy to ignore your own privilege when you do not realise the struggle facing those different to you. However, now that you have realised it, the fact that your reaction is a want to help, is a sign that the #BlackLivesMatter movement is gaining ground and educating white people on the change needed.
Some people would say that it is not the job of ethnic minorities to educate white people on racism. This is a view point which I can understand and in some ways agree with, however in cases like that which we are seeing at the moment, where there are white people seeking to make active changes and are looking to black people for information on the best way in which they can do this, I feel personally that it is something I want to encourage.
Firstly, you are going to make well-intentioned mistakes and you are sometimes going to say the wrong thing. If people of colour call you out on these mistakes, listen. Listen to what they are telling you, learn from it and use it as a lesson on what not to do next time. Remember, in the current situation it is the voices of black people who need to be solely steering the narrative.
With this in mind, the most impactful way in which you can make a difference is to support Black Lives Matter. This can be in the form of self-education, thus reading books such as Why I’m No Longer Talking To White People About Race by Reni Eddo-Lodge and Hood Feminism by Mikki Kendall. Even fiction such as Queenie by Candice Carty-Williams will give you an insight into the systemic problems which exist for black people in current society. These have all been widely recommended as publications which, especially in light of the George Floyd tragedy, are educative to those seeking to better understand the experiences of black people.
You can also donate to The Minnesota Freedom Fund, an official non-profit organisation that provides funds for protesters who have been arrested and need to pay bail in order to avoid being imprisoned. Similarly, The Bail Project provides funds to pay bail “to prevent incarceration and combat racial economic disparities in the bail system”.
In a broader sense, to fight institutional racism you need to recognise where your colour has enabled you to walk through doors which are shut to black women, then open it for them yourself. There is some pushback against the term ‘white privilege’, however I feel that this resistance comes from those who do not fully understand the concept. White privilege does not suggest that just because you are white, you are privileged. It makes reference to the fact that there are privileges from which white people can benefit that others cannot. Utilising your white privilege to support people of colour will be one of the most impactful ways of supporting movements such as Black Lives Matter. For instance, if you’re invited to speak on a panel where there are no people of colour included, why not suggest to the organiser that you’d feel more comfortable taking part if voices from a wider spectrum of ethnicities were present. It is acts like these which can effect change.
I am pleased that you are seeking to support the Black Lives Matter movement. Continue with this hunger for change, even when it feels impossible.