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10 Ways You Can Use Your White Privilege to Empower Black Women and the Black Community

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at FIU chapter.

In a world where black women are continually spoken over, discriminated against, and treated unequally to their white counterparts, it is important to acknowledge and address the issue of racism by using your platform to empower. In true allyship, recognizing and expressing one’s white privilege is the first step in using your advantage in society to empower the black community.

As a white individual myself, I thought about what it is that I could do to uplift the black women in my life and the black community, and compiled the following list for anyone who is wondering some ways they can help. Attached under each reason are some inspiring black female owned small businesses that you can shop from to support.

Educate and inform yourself on racism and the history of discrimination 

In order to truly empower black women or the black community, acknowledging your privilege does not suffice. While it is the first step in recognizing your advantages, understanding the deep seeded historical precedent that fuels white supremacy and prejudice is necessary to fully realize one’s privilege. This begins with reading literature on the Civil Rights movement, slavery, and the effects of colonization. 

Racism is not a simple topic, rather it is the effect of centuries of discrimination and the invalidation of the black community. Understanding the complex history behind it is increasingly important and necessary for the next step. 

Interrupting conversations with racist undertones or ideals

As mentioned before, understanding the history behind racism is necessary to step into conversations that may disenfranchise black women and the black community. Many times, these conversations may come from racist family members or friends, but in order to fully recognize your privilege, speaking up in situations like these is the principal part of truly understanding the issue of racism. 

Understanding the historical precedent will allow you to be informed enough to educate others on how acknowledging the issue and why having conversations that are racist or carry racist undertones is wrong, even in private settings.

Start conversations about racism

While interrupting conversations that are racist in nature are important, confronting the people in your life with a conversation about racism is also necessary. Many times, one may avoid having those awkward conversations with people in their life in an effort to avoid confrontation. However, confrontation is increasingly necessary in acknowledging and beginning to address the issue of racism. 

It does not suffice to step in, but to also open the door for communication on the topic. The more people are educated about the history and dangers of racism the more you are using your white privilege to empower black women and the black community. 

Do not speak over black women who are telling their experiences, instead use your platform to elevate their voice

Many times, in aligning oneself with the black community, many may speak over black women in an effort to address the issue. However, interrupting or overshadowing a black individual is part of the problem. Instead, give the space for your black friends, family, and people in your life to tell their story and experiences uninterrupted. 

Support black owned businesses

When deciding where to purchase a product, making the decision to support black businesses can help the platform and outreach of black businesswomen. A purchase from a small business can make a huge difference, especially when given the option to support a black woman over a multi-million dollar corporation that may discriminate against black employees or individuals at certain levels of the organization. Throughout this article are businesses that you can purchase from and support.

Do not tell a black woman how to feel about the issue of racism

One very important way to empower black women is to not tell them how to feel in regards to racism. As a white person, you have never truly experienced how it feels to be in the place of a black individual; therefore, you must completely stay away from trying to tell a black person how to feel when they are prejudiced. Instead, listen to their experiences and as mentioned earlier, do not interrupt. 

Stop excusing the behavior of racist family and friends

While many may consider themselves allies of the black community, they may make excuses for racist family members and friends. Truly empowering black women and the black community begins with acknowledging the issue; thus, continuing to make excuses for people just because they are a loved one is contributing to the problem. That means calling our your racist uncle’s, mother’s, or sister’s racist behavior or words and refusing to make excuses for them in conversations with other people. Just because someone is family does not mean they cannot be racist. 

Vote for officials in local and state government that will support black women and the black community

The power of voting in the United States continues to be the foundation and pillar of Western democracy. Voting for candidates who wish to empower the black community is increasingly necessary to ensure not only social progress, but legislative changes that empower the black community. This also means giving a platform to black elected officials in your state or county, and acknowledging the issue of racism in doing so. 

Stop using racist terminology and educate others who do

A big issue that prevails in modern society is the normalization of the use of racist terminology that has years of abuse and prejudice attached to it. Normalizing it has contributed to the problem, as people are less likely to acknowledge that it is an issue due to the historical precedent and consequences that it carries. If you are not black, you are not in the place to use a word that had been weaponized against the black community for centuries. Instead, educate yourself and the people around you into realizing the dangers of normalizing words that carry a racist connotation. 

Be consistent

Do not pick and choose when to use your privilege or step in, instead, use your platform whenever there is an opportunity for you to empower black women and the black community. Black women do not get to choose when they are prejudiced against, so do not choose when you want to be an ally or not. 

Racism is a complex topic that has affected the lives of black people for centuries. Whether or not you feel that you have done harm to a black person, refusing to acknowledge your white privilege is a harm to the community in itself. As a white person you can do better, and the centuries of oppression on the basis of race will not be erased; therefore, do better and be better, set an example for the people around you.

Sheila Martinez is a Cuban-American immigrant currently residing in Miami and attending Florida International University. She is studying International Relations and Political Science with a concentration in human rights and political transitions and is uniquely passionate about empowering women in her community. In the future, Sheila hopes to leverage her passion for representing the underprivileged through a life-long career in the public sector. Some of Sheila's hobbies include reading, going to the movies, and visiting museums.