As thousands show their support of Black Lives Matter, many of us are asking: how can we be better allies? We share the influencers, authors, and public speakers who are helping us learn
The world is on fire right now. 2020 has been the very epitome of ‘may you live in interesting times’. While lockdown and the coronavirus pandemic may be at the forefront of our minds, the deaths of hundreds of thousands of vulnerable people across the world aren’t the only tragedies to strike this year.
Footage of George Floyd being killed in police custody began to be shared on social media on 25 May. Marches, protests, riots, and looting has followed in the US. #BlackLivesMatter protests took place in countries across the world, with hundreds gathering in London to show their support.
It’s easy to take a step back, and to watch with the privileged eyes of an observer. ‘We don’t have a racism problem like they do in the US’, ‘Our police/system isn’t like that’, But the thing is, we do.
We also have a responsibility to stand up and say when we see something wrong.
We have a system that has its flaws, that has seen black people die in police custody. In 2018, it was revealed the police custody deaths in the UK had hit the highest they had in the past decade. The US may be a loud, visible example of systematic racism, but its prominence and frequent media attention doesn’t lessen the impact of racism faced by individuals and communities around the world – including here in the UK.
Anti-racism isn’t about being quiet and comfortable. We need to challenge ourselves, our behaviours, and the behaviour of those we see around us. We need to educate ourselves – on our own privilege, and on the issues we may not even know others are facing. We need to speak up. We need to learn to be better allies.
When we remain silent, we risk sending the message that we do not see what is wrong with what is happening. When we fail to speak up, we put our own comfort before what we know is right.
If like me, you want to be a better ally, but you just don’t know where to start, we’ve put together some of the voices, influencers, authors, movements, and resources to help you get started.
A kind reminder: Please do not contact any of the influencers or individuals recommended below via direct or private message to ask questions. Many anti-racist educators are flooded with direct questions. It is not their job to take their time and emotional labour to teach us. We can all listen, learn, and do our own research. If you are able to, please also consider paying educators for their work. Many will have links to Patreons, Paypal accounts etc. on social media, or sell books/courses on the subject.
Influencers for change
Rachel E Cargle
Academic, writer, and lecturer Rachel encourages critical thinking and guides conversations through her social media platforms. Her academic work and activism centre around provisioning the resources and tools needed to explore the intersection of race and womanhood.
Teaching students about the racist histories of different American systems, she has featured in publications ranging from The Washington Post to Harpers Bazaar, as well as making an appearance on the TEDx stage.
Grace F Victory
Blogger, YouTuber, mental health advocate, columnist and podcast host Grace is an award-winning creator. Talking about the problems that all young people face, her work has covered everything from plus size fashion to therapy, sex to diet culture, trauma to self awareness and spirituality.
Together with Simone Powderly, their podcast, The Sister Space Podcast, is a remembrance of power and a safe space to be. Looking at important, relevant, and often difficult topics, the focus is on healing, and how open conversation can help us to get there.
Comedian, talk show host and New York Times bestselling author Trevor Noah is perhaps best known for his debut book, Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood as well as more recently, for his role as the host of the award-winning The Daily Show.
Born in South Africa to a black South African mother and white European father, Trevor’s book shares a collection of personal stories about growing up in South Africa as apartheid came to an end. Known for his social and political commentary, Trevor is a captivating and heartfelt speaker who blends comedy with impactful, thought-provoking stories and news to engage audiences worldwide.
Award-winning journalist, author, and podcaster Reni is perhaps best known for her critically acclaimed debut non-fiction book, Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race. Exploring her frustration with the way race and racism in Britain were being led by those not affected by it, her book explores issues ranging from whitewashed feminism to the link between class and race, eradicating black history to white privilege.
As Reni says in Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race, “When I talk about white privilege, I don’t mean that white people have it easy, that they’ve never struggled, or that they’ve never lived in poverty. But white privilege is the fact that if you’re white, your race will almost certainly positively impact your life’s trajectory in some way. And you probably won’t even notice it.”
Uncomfortable but essential reading, her work is an eye-opening reflection on experiences of racism in Britain. Reni’s podcast, About Race looks to take the conversation a step further. Featuring key voices in anti-racist activism, you can listen to the podcast for free now.
Mireille Cassandra Harper
Writer, assistant editor, publicist, and contributor to @girlsletstalk__ – a place for womxn to learn, educate, inspire, and connect – has created a 10 step guide for those who actively want to support and by an ally.
Challenging readers to create a long-term strategy, stop supporting organisations (including media platforms) that promote or fund hate, check in with black loved ones, and understand what optical allyship really is, Mireille is passionate about diversity and inclusion.
Campaigning and fighting for equality, Mireille uses her learned experience, skills, and compassion to offer advice to allies. You can check out her further recommended reading through these Twitter and Instagram accounts.
Mental health therapist, author, and self-love promoter Alishia speaks frequently about black feminism, race, body justice, and anti-diet culture. A guest on the Be Well, Sis podcast, Alishia spoke about her journey and experiences as a black therapist, as well as the racial disparities in diagnosing eating disorders in marginalised communities, and the importance of having (and enforcing) mental health boundaries.
Follow Alishia @blackandembonied.
Layla F. Saad
Writer, speaker, and host of the Good Ancestor podcast Layla speaks frequently on the topics of race, identity, personal transformation, leadership, and social change.Her bestselling debut book, Me and White Supremacy is all about recognising your privilege, combatting racism, changing the world, and becoming a good ancestor.
Originally published as an Instagram challenge encouraging people to open up to and share their racist behaviours big and small, thousands took part in the challenge which led to her expanded and updated work. Working on the idea that awareness leads to action, and action leads to change, Layla’s writing highlights to us that we should make the step from reading and learning, to do something that makes a difference.
Dr Dwight Turner
Dr Turner is a psychotherapist and senior university lecturer. His upcoming book is set to link the intersectional theory of privilege and otherness to counselling and psychotherapy. In a recent blog for BME Voices Talk Mental Health, a platform where BME therapists share good practice and research, Dr Turner shared his personal experiences as a black man with fear, therapy, isolation, and activism.
You can read his article, Black Steel In The Hour Of Chaos for free on BMEvoices.
Follow Dr Turner on Twitter.
Show your support
Join the global movement, find out more about how you can show your support, or to donate, visit BlackLivesMatter. Originally founded in 2013 in response to the acquittal of Trayvon Martin’s murderer, the Black Lives Matter Foundation has made it their mission to eradicate white supremacy and build local power to intervene in violence inflicted on Black communities.
To find out more about how you can be an ally, visit Guide To Allyship. An evolving, open-source guide to help readers become more thoughtful and effective allies, the guide was created to help encourage readers to take action.
As explained by the guide: “Saying you’re an ally is much easier than actually being an ally. Saying you’re an ally looks good on paper, if you’re never taken to task for doing nothing.”