How to be an ally when I see LGBTQ people killed in a mass shooting in Orlando? How to support the Black Lives Matter movement and the black community as black men and women are killed by police?
As a straight, white woman, I’ve grappled with the ally role. In the hopes of evolving as an ally, I sought advice. In this post, I want to share that with you. This post is about listening to and amplifying the ideas of people in the thick of it (because it’s not my place to try to articulate ideas). It’s also about what allies are saying to each other.
Many thanks to those who offered their advice and shared their experiences.
While this post focuses on how to be an ally to the LGBTQ community and the black community, I acknowledge and mourn for law enforcement officers who have lost their lives in the line of duty.
Readings to start
- From LGBT people to straight allies: Here’s how to talk about Orlando, by Mary Emily O’Hara
- Death in Black and White, by Michael Erik Dyson
I recently asked my Facebook universe, “What is the best advice for allies of the LGBTQ community and black community? Feel free to share readings and your own thoughts.”
Bold below added for emphasis
The first that I can think of is for non-POC [people of color] members of the LGBTQ community to use their privilege in being vocal advocates for all the Trans women of color who have been murdered (and continue to be murdered!). Definitely supporting and advocating for policies that protect them.
You can find information on policies against violence from the National Center for Transgender Equality. This also addresses the intersectionality of being trans and a person of color. GLAAD addresses more subtle forms of violence with resources for allies and for journalists.
Also from Facebook
As a “person of privilege,” the thing that’s seemed most appreciated is asking communities what I can do, rather than assuming I know best.
- Dear Straight Allies, Please Don’t Come to Pride Until You’ve Understood These 6 Things, by Ten Eyck
- How Religious Leaders Are Responding To The Orlando Shooting, by
- What happened when an Orthodox Jewish congregation went to a gay bar to mourn Orlando, by Shmuel Herzfeld
- This is what white people can do to support #BlackLivesMatter, by Sally Kohn
- Note to self: White people taking part in #BlackLivesMatter protests, by Vonn New
- Advice for White Folks in the Wake of the Police Murder of a Black Person, by Justin Cohen
Especially for white women
A friend recently shared White Women’s Tears and the Men Who Love Them, by Robin DiAngelo. That concept led me to White Women, Please Don’t Expect Me to Wipe Away Your Tears, by Stacey Patton. These pieces carried uncomfortable but but important messages for me.
From a friend of a friend on Facebook
A colleague and friend recommended I look at Sami Schalk’s posts, which included the one below.
Note: The author made this Facebook status public to share. I’ve removed the names of people mentioned in the status because I haven’t obtained permission from them.
I want to take a moment to acknowledge white and non-black allies. Here are some things allies have done for me recently that are meaningful. I share these not so much to give these folks their anti-racist cookies but more to demonstrate ways that ally behavior can occur. Note that these are ally behaviors I have been direct witness to but equally important are the things white allies do among other white people with no people of color to witness their acts.
Today, after a traumatic day yesterday for national and personal reasons, [JW] sent me a simple text telling me they were thinking about me and love me. (This immediately made me cry)
Today, when I commented on posts by [LM] and [SG]asking them to edit so images of violence against black bodies would not appear in people’s news feeds, they each immediately responded simply and directly with: thank you for telling me. I’m sorry. I will change it. No qualifiers. No arguing. No self flagellation or self congratulations.
Today, after I posted several suggested reading links in the comments of one of my posts, [CO] reposted them all and gave me acknowledgement for gathering the information she shared.
Yesterday, after my first post about recent events, [LR] messaged me privately asking if she could share my words, with or without my name attached, so she could center black voices on this matter.
Earlier this year when I was getting a lot of online harassment, [JN]and [MK] monitored my Twitter account and blocked people for me until things quieted down so I didn’t have to read any more racist attacks against me.
Over a year ago (but it was a nice moment that sticks in my head), I was at a party where a white woman I didn’t know came up to me and first asked me if I sang gospel and then proceeded to touch my hair without permission. This occurred in front of three white friends and afterward, [MPB] said he never knows what to do in situations like that and asked what I would want white allies to do when that occurs. I said I personally just want someone to get me away from that offending individual as quickly as possible and continue to keep them away from me. I don’t need white allies to fight battles for me in front of me, but there are ways to deflect and protect that are hugely useful. (note this is my personal feelings on this, other POCs may want something different when racism occurs in front of them)
Allies, show your support, be willing to learn, apologize when you hurt someone (even accidentally), educate yourselves, ask the POCs around you what they need, acknowledge and center POC voices and labor. Every action matters. Every silence is not merely a missed opportunity, it is violence. Resist complacency even when you are scared. Even when you don’t know what to do. Even when you have made mistakes. Keep trying. It matters.
This is Rhea again. If you’re still reading, thank you. I hesitate to paraphrase or summarize these sources. A message I see over and over, though, is that hate and inequality manifest in microscopic and monumental ways. I also get the message that allies can help to chip away at these problems. I hope that’s true.