7 Ways to Be a Better White Ally After Police Murder Black People

Editor’s note: This Care2 favorite was originally posted on July 7, 2016.

Hello, fellow white people! Let me start by saying that this list isn’t for the “All Lives Matter”¯ contingency. There are plenty of other articles you can read to get that silliness righted in your head.

These tips are for the white people who recognize that police regularly kill black people when lethal force is definitely not necessary. These tips are for the white people who don’t want to be complicit in a racist system. These tips are for the white people who say, “I wish I could help, but I’m not sure how.”

1. Call Out This Bulls***

Expressing your anger on social media is honestly probably the least you can do, but let’s start there anyway. These police killings are allowed to persist because the dominant white culture chooses to do nothing about them. By declaring that you, as a white person, will not stand for this racism, you’re at least playing a small part in disrupting the white silence that typically surrounds these murders.

So go ahead — talk about these deaths and discuss the lack of justice within the justice system. A lot of white people’s initial reactions are to reach out to black people to vent their frustrations, but, newsflash: Black people already know all too well that this is a problem.

Actually, you’re probably more productive talking about these issues with fellow white people. They’re the ones who typically make the excuses on behalf of the police or choose to overlook the deaths as inconsequential. Theirs are the hearts and minds that need to be changed, and if it takes a white person to put them on that path, accept the challenge to be that white person.

2. Keep Talking About It

This step is not a repeat of the previous point, rather it’s a reminder to continue to engage in these conversations in the days, weeks and even months following a high-profile shooting. Dropping the conversation is what allows the necessary hard work to fall by the wayside and for nothing to change.

The American public consciousness shifts quickly from one tragedy to the next. Consider mass shootings: The debate on this issue is fierce after a horrific incident, but it dissipates quickly, lying dormant until the next mass shooting arises. In the interim, change is not achieved.

If you say you’re outraged by the murders of black people, prove it by continuing to be outraged. Those initial cries of “I’m angry”¯ and “I’m heartbroken”¯ amount to squat without any follow through.

3. Be Vigilant About the Small Things, Too

While you’re having these conversations, don’t limit the topic to the most egregious, violent examples of police brutality. Institutional racism impacts our society in countless smaller, less visible ways as well. When authority figures murder people of color, it is in large part because these smaller and sadly normalized forms of racism implicitly tell them that black lives matter less.

We can’t ignore the little things if we want to put a stop to the big things. That’s why we need to research and discuss things like:

All of these things add up. All of these things help create a system that condones violence. However, even if they didn’t contribute to the deaths of black citizens, they’re still things that no one should have to endure, and should be called out anyway.

4. Join Your Black Neighbors in Protest

Take this anger you’re experiencing to the streets! Most communities will hold vigils and marches following a highly publicized shooting, so get out there and show that you’re willing to offer more than a sympathetic comment on the internet by devoting time and your body to the cause.

When the media does bother to report on protests, they love to give an estimate of how many people attended. Be a head that reporters can count. Don’t let them diminish the cause by announcing that only 50 people came out to speak out against injustice. Having white faces in the crowd signals to authorities that white people care about these issues, too.

Just remember that you’re there as an ally, not a leader. The black community is appropriately taking the lead on demanding that police and the government respect their humanity.

Now is not the time to have the loudest megaphone or to try to tell people how bad you feel about the deaths. Resist the urge to direct the protest; white people taking authority positions over black communities is what has led to these police killings in the first place. Simply support the cause with your presence instead.

5. Use Your White Privilege for Good

White privilege is that intangible thing that gives you the peace of mind that the police would probably never needlessly kill you. Maybe you didn’t ask for it, and you may not even want it, but you benefit from white privilege nonetheless.

That’s why it’s important to pay forward some of these unearned benefits to your black comrades. In general, police treat white people with more respect, so when you see the police interacting with a black person, stop and make sure they know you’re watching. Record them with your phone, while you’re at it, to ensure that the police will be held accountable for their actions – or, even better, start acting more accountably when they realize they’re being filmed.

Look, it’s ridiculous that white privilege allows you to be a watchdog in these instances, but when black people are literally losing their lives to the police, you should feel obligated to protect them however you can.

6. Demand Accountability From Authorities

Authority figures look at the Black Lives Matter movement as a “minority”¯ issue, but by being a white ally, you can help show that it is a concern of the majority. Don’t just leave it to the black activists to put in all the face time with governmental leaders.

You can get involved by:

  • Signing petitions
  • Telling the state attorney general that you’ll be watching to ensure justice is reached in specific cases where black people were needlessly gunned down by police officers
  • Reaching out to people running for political office in November to say that police reform is a top issue for you this election
  • Calling and emailing your legislators daily to demand new laws that enhance accountability of the police

Don’t stress about developing the ideas to fix a racist system yourself. Campaign Zero, an offshoot of Black Lives Matter, has already worked out some solid, comprehensive reform ideas that you can help advocate for, so refer to this resource frequently.

7. Don’t Give Up

Despite your best efforts, results are unlikely to come quickly. It’s easier for white people to throw their hands up in the air and say, “Well, I guess that’s not working, I give up”¯ because it’s not their lives on the line.

Racism has been a major part of this country since before this country even became a country! We’re not going to undo centuries of institutional racism overnight. For this struggle — and it is a struggle — to ultimately be successful, it’s going to take long-term commitment to the cause.

Care2 stands in solidarity with the #BlackLivesMatter movement, and against all forms of racism. It’s time to end police violence against the black community. 

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

405 comments

Georgina Elizab M

tyfs

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Lisa Annetta
Lisa Annetta10 days ago

The cycle of oppression does exist (see http://www.uas.alaska.edu/juneau/activities/safezone/docs/cycle_oppression.pdf ), but it also can be broken. We have to work hard not to become the injustices that were thrust upon us. Everyday, injustices occur in all cultures, races and religions. The way to deal with it is to keep talking about it, signing petitions and rallying together. I think your article would be more effective by addressing the individual collective, instead of lumping all white people into the same category, which causes division, not harmony. I understand the point you were trying to make in your article, but going about it by stating that all white people are the same and have the same privileges, only attempts to create further stereotypes.

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Margie F
Margie F10 days ago

Okay

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Winn A
Winn A10 days ago

thanks

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Danuta W
Danuta W11 days ago

Thank you for sharing

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Shelley w
Shelley w11 days ago

Since most blacks are murdered by other blacks, the black community needs to do some soul searching on what is driving their crime rates. Also there is a murder spree against the police this year driven by the Black Lives Matter rhetoric.Where are the marches against the deaths of these police officers?

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lynda leigh
lynda l11 days ago

Actually, you’re probably more productive talking about these issues with fellow white people.

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Janet B
Janet B11 days ago

Thanks

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Anne M
Anne M11 days ago

Dot A. - Amen to that.. xo

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Deborah W
Deborah W11 days ago

Hello fellow WHITE people. The guess-who author isn't even a guess anymore -- it's our friend Kevin. Until these tips become the necessary stepping stones to ONE PEOPLE, regardless of color or position in life, this situation will remain and escalate as it has daily for a very long time. People must recognize that police regularly kill people with lethal force, just as they must also recognize that people regularly kill police with lethal force -- both often unnecessarily. These tips should be for ALL people who do not want to be complicit in feeding a racially-promoted system. Tips that, in spite of the author's intent, could actually help the goal of a peaceful resolve. Centuries of institutional racism will not disappear overnight. For this struggle to ultimately be successful, it's going to take long-term commitment on BOTH sides. Seems we just don't have the stomach for long-term, opting instead for the quick-fix and blame game. How sad we've allowed ourselves to become. And the generations to come will pay for our ineffectiveness.

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