The United States is at an inflection point. The status quo will not hold. In the wake of the death of
George Floyd, a man killed by Minneapolis police last month, activists have risen up to call for reform not just in policing but in how people of color are treated in this country. As Black Lives Matter protests spread all over the world, you might be wondering how, as a white guy who’d like to think of himself as woke, you can get involved without stepping on any toes. That’s why we’ve put together this Mandatory guide to being a supportive white guy.
Cover Photo: Hollie Adams / Stringer (Getty Images)
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Supportive White Guy
Acknowledge your white privilege.
Racism isn’t your fault, but fighting it is your responsibility. And you can’t begin to do that until you acknowledge how you (and generations before you) have benefited from white privilege. From the ability to walk through a wealthy neighborhood unwatched to being able to browse in a store without suspicion to being offered jobs and admission to college even if you’re not the most qualified candidate to being able to interact with the police without fear of death, you’ve reaped rewards solely based on the color of your skin. Even your option to get involved or to simply ignore the worldwide protests going on is symptomatic of white privilege.
Accept that you don’t understand what it’s like to be a person of color. You may have heard stories or witnessed the struggles of communities of color, but you will never fully “get it.” That’s where listening comes in. Keep your thoughts, opinions, and comments to yourself and just be fully present with people of color with your listening ears on and your mind open.
We don’t mean ask people of color to explain racism to you. But you should be curious about people of color’s experiences. What are the obstacles they’re facing? What systems are holding them back? How are institutions failing them? If you only have one good question in your arsenal, it should be, “What can I do to help?”
We all know you personally didn’t create racism, so stop apologizing for it. Saying “I’m sorry” doesn’t change anything for people of color and instead of sounding compassionate, it comes off as tone-deaf. Your white guilt serves no one -- and it doesn't let you off the hook. Rather than acting like being white is a burden you must carry, ask yourself how you can use your white privilege to benefit others.
Quit your crying.
Yes, you’re scared and sad about the state of the world right now. Who isn’t? But posting your emotions online or, worse, crying on the shoulders of people of color is not only insensitive, it’s selfish. However down you’re feeling, it’s minuscule compared to how people of color feel all the damn time. Keep your emotional outpouring to the pages of a journal.
Read and research.
People of color are under no obligation to unpack racism for you. And earnest though your inquiries may be, it can be exhausting explaining things to well-intentioned white people all the time. That’s why there are books. Read as much as you can about racism, culture, and how to be an ally. We have some suggestions to get you started
Put your money where your mouth is.
Money makes the world go ‘round. Your dollars have power, so put them to work. Donate to organizations that support people of color. (A few to get you started: the ACLU, NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund, The Legal Aid Society.) Other ways to use your money as a form of social change: frequent POC-owned small businesses. Eat at POC-owned restaurants. Buy clothes from fashion designers of color. Purchase books from bookstores owned by people of color. You’re spending money constantly anyway; now start paying attention to who you’re supporting financially.
Do the work.
You can talk a woke game all you want, but to truly be an ally to people of color, you need to get out there and do something. That can mean participating in protests, volunteering, donating goods, calling your representatives, lobbying, and voting.
Keep at it.
At some point, the current protests instigated by George Floyd’s murder will end, but racism won’t. Rather than just participating in anti-racism efforts when they’re trending, make fighting for equality a daily practice. Do one thing, no matter how small, every day.