February is Black History Month, and given the events of the past year, it is more important than ever for allies of the black community to show our support. However, this isn’t just something that should occur in February – this is something we should be doing all year round, lifting each other up and showing our support for our friends of colour and their excellence. Here are some important things about being an ally to the black community:
1. Listen and Grow
This cannot be stressed enough: listen to the black community about their history, accomplishments and struggles. Understand why it is so important to celebrate Black history and lives as it has been so previously undermined. Be understanding of their previous and ongoing struggles and think about what you can do to help. As allies, there is so much that we do not understand because it is not something we experience firsthand; this is why it is so important to listen to what the black community has to say on these matters.
It’s important to show support for the black community, and not just on social media. Prevent yourself from engaging in performative activism (in where someone who is privileged shows disingenuous allyship with a cause – #blackouttuesday was a clear example of this) and instead show your allyship in other ways. Educate yourself about Black history and accomplishments, support black-owned businesses, sign petitions, donate (if you can) to Black organizations, or show your support in other ways rather than using a hashtag.
3. Amplify, not Overstep
As allies, it is our job to amplify persons of colour’s voices, not speak over them. Sure, you may have strong feelings and/or opinions about issues that affect the black community, but before you open your mouth to speak on these issues, ask yourself: “Is it my place to speak on this?” If not, or even if you’re unsure – don’t. Instead, listen to what the black community has to say on the subject, and help make their voices heard. No matter how you feel on the subject, how they feel is most important.
4. Speak Up
As an ally, you can use your privilege to your advantage. As I said previously, we should try to amplify the voices of persons of colour rather than speak over them; but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t circumstances that require action on your part. Speak up against prejudice that may occur in your daily life and use your privilege to challenge bigotry. Call out for more representation in media and understand why it so important to black youth and the rest of the community. Use your voice when it matters.
5. Remember: It’s Not About You
Black History Month is a celebration of the accomplishments of Black people in American history that exists as a result of much of this history being overlooked or overshadowed by white historians. There shouldn’t be a “white history month” because white history is already the majority of what is taught in schools. It shouldn’t be “All lives matter”, because all lives don’t matter until black lives do. Pro-Black doesn’t equal anti-White, and too many people refuse to understand that.
Being an ally, it is important to show your support while also preventing yourself from overstepping any boundaries. Take the time to understand what it is to be a good ally and celebrate Black excellence in February and all year round.