Let me start by saying I am not an expert on Social Justice issues. I, like many of you may be, am on my own racial identity path and allyship journey. I’m striving to be an ally to my neighbors, friends, and colleagues of color. I am striving to listen, educate myself, speak up in my white spaces, and take action towards change. This is not easy and it takes intentionality. The important part is not letting the fear of getting it wrong prevent me from doing something. Hence, I share my thoughts in this blog even if it is not perfect.
Racism and racial inequity are not new issues in our country. Our history is laced with horrible acts of social injustices. Many of the systems in place are based on racist practices and beliefs. These systems have put people of color at a disadvantage for hundreds of years. And while this issue is not new, Social Media has made it more visible.
This new awareness has caused a movement within our country demanding change. Even with new awareness, white privilege keeps white people, myself included, from taking action. We white people do not always feel the urgency or need for change because our whiteness protects us from feeling or understanding the severity.
Even when we do see the needs, we become paralyzed with how to help. It is not uncommon for white people to also experience feelings of guilt or shame as our awareness grows. These feelings can further complicate the matter.
White privilege is not a choice but rather a reality. If you are white you have privilege. What we do with the privilege is a choice.
White allyship is also a choice white people can make to use their privilege in a positive way. It is a way to support and join with our friends, neighbors, colleagues of color, and e
According to Merriam Webster, allyship is a “supportive association with another person or group.” Specifically, an “association with the members of a marginalized or mistreated group to which one does not belong.” What does this look like in real life? How can we build on our awareness to become allies?
White allyship starts with awareness but there is no end to the process. It’s not a final destination. Rather, it is a lifelong active joining with those who are different from us.
On the lifelong journey of white allyship, there are both big and small things we can do.
Awareness is gained by listening to those around us. Listening to stories of people from different cultural groups will strengthen our awareness. We need to listen more and speak less to people of color when they want to share. Do less talking and more listening to those who are the experts and have experience on the issues. Seek out and follow people of color on social media and other public spaces where they are speaking out.
If you are like me, you’ve probably had a very whitewashed version of US history in school. Take time to re-educate yourself. Read about the racial history of our country. Look at public policy and laws currently in place. Ask yourself, “how are these policies perpetuating or helping to stop the systemic racism in our country?” How are they helping us move toward equity? Do not expect your friends or colleagues of color to educate you. It is not their responsibility and can be exhausting for them. Instead, read a book, watch a documentary, or seek out other sources to educate yourself. Consider who, where, and why you get your resources and whether different resources would present a different perspective.
I know I just said to do less talking and now I am saying speak up. Both are needed and it is important to know when to listen and when to speak up. The context for each is very different. Speak up about social justice with your white friends and family. Do not be silent on issues of social justice in your white spaces. It is all too easy to be silent in our relationships with white friends and family. Push against your comfort and stretch yourself by speaking up.
There are many ways people can get involved and take action on social justice issues. It could look like writing a letter or calling your local politicians. Let them know these issues are important to you. Teach your children how to be anti-racist. Actions can start out as big or as small as you feel comfortable. Continue to seek out and grow in your action steps as you continue to move along the journey as an ally. The important thing is to do something, don’t let yourself be paralyzed!
Use Your Money Powerfully
Donate to causes that support marginalized communities if you are otherwise unable to be present. Buy from black-owned businesses. Consider how your patronage and participation in capitalism support the systems meant to elevate those with privilege and keep those without…. stayin without.
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. often spoke about complacency. He called out those who did nothing and those who stayed silent. He saw the silence of many as a greater threat than the overtly racist acts of a few. This quote stood out as an encouragement to me as I was writing this post.
“If you can’t fly then run, if you can’t run then walk, if you can’t walk then crawl, but whatever you do you have to keep moving forward.” ― Martin Luther King Jr.
The call is to do something no matter how small. Make the intentional choice to listen, educate yourself, speak up, and take action. Together we can move the mountain one rock at a time.
Are you looking for a space to talk about your own whiteness?
Have you experienced powerful emotions when you think about social justice issues and current events in our country? If so, Montgomery County Counseling Center’s Aspiring towards Antiracism Group is a great place to continue the conversation. This monthly group seeks to create a space for white people to discuss their own emotions surrounding their journey of racial identity development. We strive to be a space where you can explore your own emotions to build awareness and move towards white allyship.
About The Author
Kelli Carter is a Clinical Mental Health Intern at Montgomery Counseling Center, in Rockville, Maryland. Kelli is a graduate student working toward her clinical mental health counseling masters degree. This training training has given her experience in a variety of evidenced based counseling practices. Kelli is currently completing Training in Level 1 Gottman’s Method.
Through counseling she explores how to build relationships with others and yourself that will help you in your daily life. She aims to help clients gain more self-awareness and give resources to be your best self and grow in healthy relationships with others. Kelli is currently accepting new clients at MCCC at a reduced-rate. Kelli is directly supervised by MCCC founder Laura Goldstein, LCMFT.