The pain felt by black communities after three recent tragedies is all too familiar.
Each time these incidents happen, many of us are left wondering what we can do to support our African-American friends beyond anguished online posts – and in real, meaningful ways.
Being an ally – a person who is not a member of a particular marginalized group but seeks to help end the oppression of those in the marginalized group – is a constant process. Allyship can mean different things to different people, and it can be tough to know where to start.
This is by no means an exhaustive list, but here are some ways that you can support marginalized communities.
(For this list, we consulted resources and recommendations compiled by Soujourners contributor Courtney Ariel, activist DeRay Mckesson, writer and activist Paul Kivel, organizational change consultant Frances E. Kendall, Everyday Feminism and the grassroots organization Hollaback!.)
Offer support and comfort.
Check up on your friends who don’t look like you when a high-profile tragedy or incident takes place. Affirm that you are there for them in whatever ways they need.
Educate yourself and others
Do your research.
Do what you can to educate yourself before you ask others to explain things to you. There are a wealth of resources available to you online. Google is your friend.
Ask questions when needed.
We’re all learning, and it’s OK to ask questions.
But be mindful of who you’re asking, says writer Courtney Ariel. Don’t lean too heavily on people of color or other marginalized groups to be your “experts.”
It’s best if the person you’re asking is someone you already have a solid relationship with. And be prepared to accept that some people may not want to discuss those things with you.
Brush up on history.
Asking “How could something like this happen?” when another police encounter turns deadly can come across as tone-deaf to communities who have long been dealing with entrenched systems of oppression, Ariel writes. Make sure you’re up to speed before you weigh in.
Influence people in your own group.
Talk to the people in your own life, particularly those that share the same identity as you, Jamie Utt wrote for Everyday Feminism. Educate your friends and family about how systems of oppression affect marginalized groups. Hold them accountable for their words and actions, as well as the roles they may play in those systems.
Teach your children.
It’s never too early. Talk to your kids explicitly about racism and other forms of discrimination. Don’t teach them to be “colorblind,” says author Jennifer Harvey. Let them know it’s important to notice differences, and teach them to stand up for others.
Own up to your mistakes.
Allyship is a process. Along the way, you’re sure to do or say the wrong thing now and then. Don’t get defensive. Take responsibility for slipups. And do better moving forward.
Acknowledge your privilege.
A critical part of being an ally is recognizing the benefits and power you have in society because of the identity you were born with, says organizational change consultant Frances Kendall. Be self-aware and be willing to go against others who share your privileges.
Racism and other forms of oppression are everywhere, even if you don’t experience them yourself. Train yourself to notice them on personal and institutional levels, says writer and activist Paul Kivel. Take note about what is being said (and what isn’t) and who is there (and who isn’t). Recognize how prejudice, discrimination and oppression are being denied, minimized or justified.
Know when to talk less.
This isn’t about you. You don’t need to comment on every situation with your own perspective, or go out of your way to prove how aware or educated you are, Ariel says. Uplift others without speaking for them. Let others have the microphone for a change.
Understand others’ experiences.
Instead of offering up your own thoughts, listen to people who are marginalized when they tell you about their experiences, frustrations and emotions. Sit with that for a while.
You can’t do this work alone. Find other allies who you can work with, and hold each other accountable. Partner with organizations that are doing the same work as you. Support people of color who are leaders.
Use your privilege to help others.
It can be scary, but take risks, Kivel writes. Call out injustice or discrimination when you see it. Intervene when you see instances of racism or other situations that looks unsafe.
Use the 5 D’s of bystander intervention. That includes de-escalating the situation, calling others for help, checking in with the person involved, speaking up and documenting what’s happening.
Know your rights when you are videotaping.
You are allowed by the Constitution to film police on duty, as long as you’re not interfering with their activities. Keep a safe distance. Capture signs or landmarks that help identify the location.
Voice your concerns to those in power.
Know who your local legislators and politicians are (go here to find a full list of your elected officials), and know how to get in touch with them. Here’s a great Twitter thread from a former Congressional staffer about how to actually get politicians to listen.
Stand in solidarity.
March alongside people from marginalized groups in protests and demonstrations.
Donate your time and money.
This could take many forms, says Ariel. Offer to help people who could benefit from your expertise. Help a family pay off their bills. Identify organizations whose work aligns with your goals, and give what you can.
Make sure you’re registered. And do it in every election, not just the big ones.
CNN’s AJ Willingham contributed to this report.