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Beyond the Black Square – Meaningful Things you can do to be a Better Ally

The killing of George Floyd and other recent instances of violence against Black people has shocked many around the world as well as highlighted that racism is far stronger in our society than many of us realised. If, like me, you wanted to help out but weren’t sure how to do so in a real and meaningful way, you may have been desperately looking around for advice and guidance. After a couple of weeks of looking, learning and listening, I’d like to share with you a few things you can do to start being a better ally in the fight against racism.

(Image from pexels)

Educate yourself on the realities of being Black in modern society and how to be a better ally

If you’ve recently found yourself shocked at how prevalent racism is in our society then chances are, like me, you’ve been living in a bit of a bubble and it is going to be a long journey to getting fully informed. There is a lot of reading that can be done into how deep routed racism is in our society and learning about it can help you to spot it and putting you in a better position to do something about it. I’d recommend this article on Racism at the heart of respectable society as a good starting point.

It’s also worth having a look at your own privilege. If you’re white and don’t identify with being racist, it can be easy to be blind to the privileges your skin colour affords you in our society. Here is a Privilege checklist to check yourself against and an article on White Privilege to give you further insights into everyday ‘casual’ racism that restricts and puts down Black citizens. Truly understanding these issues will be a long journey. You may never fully get there and you will continue to make mistakes along the way and get called out on it. But all these things will enlighten you and will make you a better ally.

(Image from Pexels)

Support organisations that actively fight racism

There are many organisations, new and old, that are working hard to improve society for people of colour and who are strengthened by public support. Here are just a few of the more notable examples:

The National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People (NAACP) – a Civil Rights group who lobby and campaign against discrimination and for equality.

Black Lives Matter – A global movement committed to defending Black citizens from racial violence and ending White Supremacy.

The Minnesota Freedom Fund – A fund for disadvantaged people who cannot pay bail or immigration bonds and would otherwise face imprisonment.

Know Your Rights Camp – A movement that uses education, self-empowerment and mass-mobilisation to support Black and Brown communities.

Equal Justice Initiative – An organisation that provides legal support for the vulnerable in American society as well as informing education, law and policy through their research efforts.

Stand Up To Racism UK – A UK-wide movement that organises public demonstrations and other events against racism.

Stephen Lawrence Charitable Fund – A UK organisation formed in the memory of Stephen Lawrence, who was tragically killed in racist attack. This fund honours his memory by supporting disadvantaged young people and their communities, whilst also pushing for diversity and inclusiveness in businesses.

There are many other worthy causes but these are the ones that most struck me. You can help them achieve these goals by donating, either as a one-off payment or as part of a regular instalment if you want to support the organisation long term. If you can’t donate, sharing and promoting their causes can also help massively. If possible, doing a fundraiser can also be a great way of turning a small donation into a much more sizable one and raising awareness for the organisation as well. With the organisation’s permission, you can do this relatively easily through website like GoFundMe or through their own fundraising platforms.

(Image from Pexels)

Sign and share important petitions

Many organisations ask for signatures for petitions in order to lobby individuals, organizations or governments for important changes. However, anyone can start a petition that can bring about changes if enough people sign up to them. Here’s a few important petitions going around at the moment aimed at promoting racial justice and reducing police brutality:

Justice for George Floyd – whilst the officer who killed George Floyd is currently facing justice, this petition aims to have charges pressed against all the officers involved in his death.

Justice for Breonna Taylor – Breonna Taylor was a nurse from Kentucky, who was killed by Louisville police back on March 13th. The investigation into her murder has been slow and recently some progress has been made but there is still a long way to go and your support will help keep things moving.

Stop the export of riot gear from the UK to the US – It has become apparent that a lot of the riot gear that has been used heavy-handedly by the police against protesters in the US has been imported from the UK. This petition aims to have this investigated and ideally stopped.

Make Black History Compulsory at Schools – All too often, when learning about the history of Western civilization, it’s the history of White civilization. Making sure schools cover black history will not only allow Black students to learn more about their heritage, but give other students a more fully-rounded education and better frame the society they are being prepared for.

Take down all statues of Slave Traders in the UK – You may well have heard of Edward Coulston’s statue being toppled into Bristol harbour. This petition aims to continue to put pressure on British institutions to remove all other statues of Slave Traders in the UK and end their glorification.

As I said before anyone can start their own petition and so if there is a cause that you would like to pursue and gain support for you can follow this link to petition the UK government or this link to start a petition on change.org.

Better represent Black figures and organisations in the content you share

Part of the reason our society still has a big race problem is due to stereotypes that exist around race. Most of us are guilty of this at some level. If I were to say words like ‘doctor’, ‘writer’, ‘pilot’ or ‘bird-watcher’ you are probably imagining someone of a certain race filling that role. Many professions, industries, or even past-times are stereotypically seen as inherent to being a certain race.

There has recently been a push in the outdoor activity community and the gaming community to try and amplify Black voices, figures and organisations. Doing this will not only help people become aware of the diversity within these industries but also give young people, who might feel side-lined because of their race, something to aspire to. This is happening across many industries, I only use these as examples, because they are ones I’m familiar with.

(A signed statement from a collective of prominent content creators in the games industry.)

If you are a content creator, you can help by sharing and promoting Black figures and anyone can help by making more of an effort to seek out and support these figures – in particular pay attention to what unique content they’ve got to offer and their stories of discrimination they face. Here’s a few inspiring individuals and organisations I’ve found recently:

Elle Osili-Wood – TV Presenter and Games Journalist, formerly of PlayStation Access. Elle is a champion of the many positive aspects of video games and has been a great source for researching what can be done to fight racial injustice in our society. Her recent Gamesradar article: Black Lives Matter: What You Can Do To Help is very much worth a good read!

BlackAFinSTEM – A collective of Black scientists and naturalists. At the start of this month, they launched their Black Birders Week which was enormously successful in showcasing the amount of avid Black birders and connecting them joyfully with one another.

MCFixer – A Game-streaming personality with a down to earth and engaging style. As well as his regular streams, he also does a number of features on giving advice to any aspiring streamers. His feature on 5 Mistakes All Streamers Make has given me a good few things to think about myself!

Rahawa Haile – A Eritrean-American writer and outdoorswoman currently working on a book about America’s Appalachian Trail. As her book’s not out yet, I would recommend having a look at this interview she did for Atlas Obscura about her experience on the Appalachian Trail as a Black hiker.

Time Out With Joselia – Joselia is someone I know in real life with a real entrepreneurial spirit. She is very dedicated to creating a platform where she can share positive advice to do with self-development, wellbeing and lifestyle and has done just that! She has also volunteered to help me with that article so thank you very much for that Joselia!

Be an active anti-racism role model

If you are a parent, educator, role model or anyone else for that matter, people may well be looking to you as an example of how to behave in society, especially young people. Whether you’re at work, in public or online, your actions can normalise institutional racism or challenge it and show others that it can be challenged. Institutional racism has continued to exist in large part because people grow up seeing examples of casual or overt racism and thinking it’s normal, whether they’d define it at racist or not. If you’re unsure of your own actions, a good way of looking at it would be to imagine having to explain your actions to a young child, one who has none of the preconceptions that you have. Will that office joke you make to try and fit in still seem as appropriate when viewed this way? What do you think would set a better example for that child?

(Image from Pexels)

So there you have it. This is far from an comprehensive guide, but hopefully enough to give you an idea of what you can do and spur you into your own research and action. I recognize I’m very much at the start of my journey to being a good ally and I am keen to learn and be called out if I’m off the mark with any of these suggestions. Please everyone take care and be kind to yourselves and others.

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