How to be an Effective Ally

Regardless of your individual perspective, background, or politics  –  the current conversation and world events surrounding unarmed black individuals being killed by the police is sure to cause all of us to feel some stress and leave us with unanswered questions.

With all of the dialogue and news coverage of Black Lives Matter and police brutality/violence that has been dominating our social media and news feeds, more and more of my clients are coming to me with this question: What can I do as a non-black person to be an effective ally to my black neighbors?

That question is inspiring, and was ultimately the inspiration for this article. Providing resources to your family and friends to be an effective ally is one of the many ways you can help. I hope to provide you some here that you find helpful.

First, it is important as an ally to the black community to uplift the voices of those in the community who have already been discussing solutions. As such, you may learn more about how to do this by reading these articles:

https://nmaahc.si.edu/learn/talking-about-race/topics/being-antiracist

www.tinyurl.com/anti-racismresources

Next, it is important to understand the cultural context in which we live. It is important to examine our own cultural background and figure out how our personal lives and cultural heritage fits into current events. It is highly important for us to learn what white privilege is, and how it affects all of us. It’s important to remember that we all suffer – but “white privilege” means that people with “lighter” skin tones aren’t held back by the color of their skin. Here’s another article to learn more about this topic:

https://nmaahc.si.edu/learn/talking-about-race/topics/whiteness

Reading the aforementioned links and beginning to learn more about what it takes to become an effective ally is the first step! Remember to approach these topics with sensitivity as well as an open heart and mind. Many people in our communities have years of pain and anger about what has happened to them because of the color of their skin, and thus it is important to have a dialogue, but also acknowledging that we may unintentionally trigger emotional reactions. Start with a plan to listen to the pain and anger before responding; it is the first step in opening our hearts, and becoming effective allies.

Keep up the great work!

-Joshua Nave LLMSW and the Health for Life Team

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