“In a racist society, it is not enough to be non-racist, we must be anti-racist.” – Angela Y. Davies.
Privilege means power, and with power comes great responsibility. By understanding and identifying the advantages given to you by your privilege – notably, a voice and a platform – you can empower others.
You can become a valuable ally in overcoming racial injustice. Here’s how:
Acknowledge and accept the problem exists
As highlighted in my previous blog, the concept of privilege makes people feel uncomfortable and therefore it is difficult to accept. It calls into question inherent belief systems, turning the spotlight inwards and exposing how the advantages afforded to you as a white person has been at a disadvantage to others.
However, acknowledging racial inequality and accepting that it exists is the first step in bringing about change. It gives levity to the problem – it cannot simply be ignored.
Education and awareness
In order to overcome racial discrimination, we need to understand its origins. Systemic racism is a result of a history of oppression. However, it is also important to understand its origins within ourselves. This involves looking inwards and challenging the ways in which you yourself have implicit biases that result in subconsciously upholding inequalities and belief systems. And, with this newfound insight and understanding, we can in turn help to educate others – our children, our parents, our friends and our colleagues – to enable them to also become effective allies.
Actions speak louder than words
Change requires commitment – a commitment of time and a commitment of action – not just paying lip service. How many people have stood up for justice? Signed a petition, made a donation, written a letter of complaint? How many people have challenged injustice? Confronting a member of the public, confronting a friend, confronting an employer? How many people will keep the conversation going beyond the next few weeks?
Engage in difficult conversations
Listening to another person’s story about the injustice, oppression or brutality they have endured is incredibly difficult – as is the realisation of the role you may have played in upholding systemic structures that allowed these incidences to have occurred. But these conversations and experiences are essential for increasing understanding of racial inequality and for giving voice to the voiceless.
It is also important to accept that you’ll make mistakes or say the wrong things during these conversations. Similarly, there will be an overwhelming temptation to jump in with your own experiences as a means to empathise or as a defense mechanism, but as writer Matt Haig recently said, “You don’t need an opinion on everything, sometimes you can just sit and learn.”
Amplify the voices of others
As an ally – and an ally with privilege – you have the ability to amplify the voices of others, rather than speak for them. Your voice can offer a powerful contribution to the conversation because you have the privilege of being heard. As such, use your voice alongside and in unison with those of the oppressed. Together we are louder and therefore stronger.