women fists raised in air

I Stand With You: How to Be an Ally

On May 25, 2020, George Floyd was handcuffed and forced to lie on the ground while white police officer Derek Chauvin planted his knee on Floyd’s neck for seven minutes until emergency vehicles arrived. Floyd was pronounced dead at the hospital. Since then people have been protesting, yet again, the unlawful death of another black man, chanting the same words Floyd stated in the video of his arrest: “I can’t breathe.”      

A plethora of information has been flying at everyone from both social media and the news, showing images of protests, videos of police in riot gear throwing tear gas at crowds and posts from black creators begging people to help out in any way they can. These cries for help can absolutely not go unnoticed, and even other people who want to see the heinous treatment of black people in America stopped can do something about it. 

Here are some ways to be an ally at this time:

First of all, allow yourself to feel uncomfortable. Nobody should watch the video of George Floyd, or any black person being arrested and assaulted, and feel absolutely fine. The feeling of discomfort is natural and utilizing that inherent empathy can be a powerful tool. Imagine that feeling like a conscience telling you “something isn’t right here.” Hold onto that feeling, for it can guide your choices going forward.

Second, listen to what people of color have to say. These people have experienced the cruelty of the system meant to protect us first-hand and their words can be useful in gaining insight. In these times, people come forward with their own stories of police brutality, and it is important to listen to them in order to inform your opinions later on. At the same time, do not rely on people of color to fully educate you on their problems. It is not their duty. Take time to educate yourself. Google is free. There are also dozens of books about the injustices committed by the police and government against communities of color. And do not be afraid to question your sources, especially if it’s written by a white author.

Third, if you can, donate to organizations working with Black Lives Matter. These funds go to aid protesters, support political and social campaigns and give money to the family of George Floyd to cover funeral and memorial costs. If you can’t donate money, sign petitions. They are completely free and only take a minute of your time. This is a bare minimum, keep in mind. If you’re dedicated and willing enough, participate in protests. Be warned, however, that protests can be extremely dangerous so only do so if you are absolutely sure. Prepare yourself and, if you’re expecting danger from the opposite side, cover your face and eyes.

Fourth, and this is extremely important, do not remain silent. While your privilege allows you to do so, your voice can be so useful in changing the immediate world around you. You can’t be shy about speaking your mind, especially if there are people in your life who talk ill of the Black Lives Matter movement. It is your responsibility to educate them and remind them that America was built on riots and protests. 

These things are great steppingstones. But the most important thing is to be consistent. Keep everyone reminded that black lives will never be safe until something has changed. Also, keep assuring people of color that allies are standing at their side. 

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