[Amplify a Voice: Turner Armstrong]
Over the past few days I read a request from a person of color to white people – to amplify their voices instead of our own. That resonates. Please read what Turner wrote. If you’d like your voice amplified, anonymously or with citation, my blog, my social accounts, and everything I am is yours. #BlackLivesMatter #NotOneMore
Yesterday, someone asked me how they could be a better ally, and I surprised myself to find that I had an answer for them. It’s not exhaustive, but it’s also not intuitive, so here are my tips:
1) Don’t walk away from racism.
2) Don’t lose your temper.
So here’s my reasoning: say you know a racist… a friend, a family members, a coworker… and they say something racist in front of you. You yell at them, you tell them that you don’t stand for that, and if they continue that behavior, you will cut them out of your life. If they do it again after that, then you tell them they’re dead to you and cut all ties. Problem solved, right?
Wrong. What you just did was hide the uncomfortable presence of racism from yourself, while confirming a racist in their beliefs. After all, if “those dirty (inset slur here)” hadn’t gotten to you then the racist would still have your respect and love/friendship. It’s irrational, but racism is irrational. Now you made yourself feel better by taking a stand for equality, but that doesn’t help me when said unreformed racist sees me walking through their neighborhood, or pulls me over for speeding, or is my boss.
“But it’s a lot of effort!”
Yes, it is.
“But I don’t know how to convince them!”
Then take a communications class. Educate yourself on the issues, and how to express them.
“But I can’t ignore my righteous fury!”
I get angry too, but if I let my anger go unchecked when dealing with a racist I could get fired, or killed. At the least, it reinforces the racist’s opinion that I am out of control and uncivil.
“But they are a bad person, they don’t deserve it!”
You aren’t doing it for them, you’re doing it for me.
“But it hurts me to face that kind of ugliness!”
It hurts me too.
So if you want to be a better ally, challenge racism where you see it, engage the person with patience and gentle understanding. Don’t threaten or yell. Don’t drop the subject because they promise not to do it around you, keep bringing it up, even in uncomfortable situations. And don’t leave that person a racist, because you may have that luxury, but I don’t.