Earlier this month, it was announced that the NYPD officer who caused the death of unarmed Eric Garner would not be indicted for the actions that led to his death. This incident, coupled with the similarly baffling and upsetting grand jury decision not to indict Ferguson, MO police officer Darren Wilson in the killing of Michael Brown ignited hundreds of protests across the country.
People from all backgrounds have come out to protest against the injustices and danger that African American men disproportionately face in our country, sparking conversations about white allyship and how to support people of color during this tragic time in our nation’s history. Popular video blogger Franchesca Ramsey recently came out with a video that offers tips on how to be a good ally to any marginalized group of people. These are her five tips:
- Understand your privilege. Ramsey acknowledges the fact that lots of people get hung up on the word privilege. “All it means is that there are some things in life that you will never have to experience or think about just because of who you are,” she says, likening privilege to a horse with blinders on. She also provides great resources for further reading on privilege, including “White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack” by Peggy McIntosh.
- Listen and do your homework. “It sounds like a no-brainer, but it’s not possible for you to learn if you’re not willing to listen,” says Ramsey. She points to social media, where anyone can share their stories and experiences; if you are a straight or white ally, take the time to “do your homework” in order to better empathize with the experiences of others.
- Speak up, not over. Ramsey explains, “An ally’s job is to support. You want to make sure that you use your privilege and your voice to educate others, but make sure to do it in such a way that does not speak over the community members that you are trying to support, or take credit for things they are already saying.” This is one of the more difficult things for straight, white, and cis allies to do, but it is vital when it comes to supporting a marginalized group of people.
- You’ll make mistakes! Apologize when you do. Rather than get defensive if someone calls you out on your privilege, take a step back, acknowledge your mistake, and apologize. “Nobody’s perfect,” says Ramsey, “unlearning problematic things takes time and work, so you are bound to mess up, and trip and fall.” She also reminds her audience that “it’s not about your intent, it’s about your impact,” so when you make a mistake, simply apologize, commit to changing your behavior, and move on. You’ll be a better ally for doing so.
- Ally is a verb. Ramsey points out that this tip is the most important one on the list. “Saying you’re an ally is not enough,” she says, “you’ve got to do the work.” The work she is talking about pertains to taking tips 1 through 4 to heart, educating yourself, being aware of your privilege, and realizing that being an ally takes a lot of genuine effort and commitment.
What do you think about Ramsey’s tips for being a good ally? What have you learned on your own journey to becoming an ally to a marginalized community?