Black History Month is here, which means that it’s the one month of the year where most Americans celebrate the numerous contributions Black people have made to American society. From mailboxes to blood banks, Beyoncé to Barack Obama, from building many of your favorite monuments to, y’know, building our whole damn country, Black people have done a hell of a lot for America, so it’s only fitting that we have a month to celebrate these achievements. Of course, it’s not enough to just pat yourself on the back for knowing a few facts about famous Black inventors, musicians, politicians, and authors. As people of color (particularly Black people) work to combat police brutality and other forms of oppressions, we need help from those who consider themselves allies. Read on to learn 5 ways to be a better ally to Black people around the world, not just in February, but every month of the year.
1. Educate yourself
Before you can successfully participate in any form of activism, you must educate yourself on the issues marginalized people face and determine how best to support them without talking over them or committing any other faux pas. One great resource is this article on 9 Important Things to Consider As An Ally, which outlines some ways that allies can utilize their privilege to fight for the oppressed.
2. Don’t ask dumb questions
While this is definitely an integral part of educating yourself, I still feel as though it needs its own bullet point. Remember that Black people are not here to slowly explain everything you need to know about their experience(s) of oppression and being Black. Take the time to Google all of your basic (and sometimes offensive af) questions such as, “Why isn’t there a White History Month?” (There is; it’s every month) or “How can I be racist if I have a black friend/SO/family member/mailperson?” (your black [insert relationship here] is not a card for you to play when someone calls you out for racist behavior, and actually reemphasizes it so stop it). By not asking your Black friends to do the emotional labor of explaining the ways in which they are systematically oppressed, and taking initiative to educate yourself, you are not adding any additional burden to your friends to have to deal with.
3. Buy black
One of the best things that anyone can do is put their money where their mouth is. No matter who you want to support, from queer artists to Native musicians to Black entrepreneurs, you have the ability to do so, rather than giving your money to racist, homophobic, or straight up evil corporations, support Black businesses. A quick Google search turned up some excellent resources from Etsy to online marketplaces like this one and this one, but you can also do more digging for black-owned shops to invest in.
4. Call out racists
This one you can only do when it is safe to do so, but it’s important to exercise your privilege in a positive way. When your family member or friend says racist (and untrue) things, make sure to stand up for Black people, even if no one else is around. Even if you can’t change a racist’s mind, there are still a few benefits to calling them out on their bigotry. Not only will it educate them, just a tiny bit, but it also shows Black people that you are not a performative ally.
5. Remember those history has forgotten
So much of black history has been erased from our collective memories. Many of the people integral to the Civil Rights Movement were pushed aside and forgotten, some because they were poor or dark skinned, some because they were women or they were queer, and some because their significant contributions went unnoticed. Take some time this February, and every month, to learn about the Black people who have made the US and the world what it is, rather than just learning about the same people we learn about every February.
It is absolutely critical for those who consider themselves feminists or activists to stand up for the marginalized. This also includes checking yourself whenever necessary to determine whether your words or behavior contribute to the further marginalization of Black people and make you complicit in racism. Give yourself the space and grace to grow as an ally and better fight for the Black people you do and do not know, and take some time to tell the Black people in your life how much they mean to you and how much their life matters to you.
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