11 Ways To Be A Better White Ally

11 Ways To Be A Better White Ally

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I have been privy to more than a few conversations with white people who are totally against racism and want to consider themselves allies though they don't really know where to start. I've been one of these people, too. And I've seen others, like myself, bog down every POC they know with questions about what we can possibly do to be less awful than all those other, awful white people.

But that's not a productive conversation to have, for reasons that I do not have the space to address in this article. Instead, here are eleven ways to be a better white ally. They're simple, and they're important.

One last caveat: as you will probably discover, I am not the first one to write all of this down. I did not come up with it, and I do not always carry out all of these practices perfectly. However, it is important to reiterate these concepts so that they reach as many people as possible. That's part of how we'll make progress.

1. Educate yourself.

Read widely and deeply to inform yourself. Google is your best friend here, as you are not the first person to ask questions about privilege, oppression, race, etc. The answers are just a few keystrokes away.

Remember: It is not the job of POC to continuously explain themselves and the entire social justice movement to white people who just don't get it, and we can not expect this of them. However, many people have already shared their lived experiences, and there is a lot of academic work done on systemic racism and other systems of oppression at work today. The best part: they have put many of these resources online so that you can learn, too.

2. When you get called out, change.

Part of the way that institutionalized prejudices work is that they are ingrained in the way we think, speak, and behave. We all will behave incorrectly at some point, and we cannot take it personally when we are corrected. It is not an attack on your character or when someone points out something racist you did, so try not to act like it is. Instead, it’s best to seek an understanding of how the behavior was offensive or otherwise appropriate and then not repeat that behavior. Simple!

3. Call others out. Try to do so kindly.

If we want to call ourselves allies, we cannot be passive. Micro-aggressions occur with startling frequency, and they perpetuate racism and racist thought patterns. Once you've done all the googling you want (a lá number 1), that new knowledge can be put to work. Challenging people on their backward thinking promotes their growth, and of course, we want the people we care about to grow.

Now let me explain the second part of this: try to be kind in your corrections. It is often difficult to be tactful, or even calm, in the face of blatant racism. My understanding is that it is even more difficult for POC, who are the direct victims of this racism. As someone who is not directly affected in this way, take a second to phrase things as kindly as possible. You'll catch more flies that way, you know.

4. Listen, when appropriate

Part of having privilege is not necessarily noticing that the privileged group receives more attention than other groups. In terms of gender, studies have been done that a room occupied by 50% men and 50% women will be perceived as being mostly women by the men in the room.*

The same sort of logic (well, really illogic) applies when white people enter conversations about race. When the representation of a topic becomes equal between POC and white people— or (gasp!) even dominated by POC— white people often begin to feel underrepresented or even silenced. For a reality check, take a look at number 8 on this list. And then remember that we need to listen and learn; we cannot know exactly what POC experience, and we can’t talk over them or ignore what they’re telling us. Instead, try trusting what you hear.

*This example is, of course, not inclusive of trans people. But that’s a topic for another article.

5. Speak up, when appropriate

On the other hand, people of color should not have to bear this burden alone. Silence is often unproductive, especially when something really needs to be said. We need to participate in conversations about race, as well as conversations that consider the way that race intersects with other identifiers. Groups with privilege should be exercising that privilege to call attention to those whose voices aren't amplified quite so loud.

6. Know the difference between #4 and #5

It takes time and finesse to understand exactly when it is best to step up in a situation versus when it is best to stand back. I definitely mess up when it comes to these situations though I keep on trying to do the right thing. And that's the only way to get the balance just right: keep trying.

7. Find a way to join others in this. There is power in the collective.

As we become more capable and informed as allies, it's often more productive to be around others (of all races!) who are striving toward the same goals. There are groups dedicated to social justice and activism on your campus, in your city, and even online. Most of these will allow you to just sit in at first and observe. And as you become more comfortable, you can take on a more participatory (or even facilitative) role.

Plus, we all need to be around people who will call us out when we mess up.

8. Remind yourself constantly of the way that these institutional imbalances affect your life.

This is me trying to rephrase and refocus the oft-repeated order to “Check your privilege.” Though this catchy phrase is often used as a snappy, dismissive response when someone is behaving in a way that obviously ignores others' perspectives and lived experience, it is also an important reminder of the way that privilege can blind us to our own ignorance. By stopping frequently to consider how our social conditioning and perceptions could be coloring our thoughts and actions, we become better equipped to think and act effectively.

9. Use your privilege and your passions.

If you've got privilege, there's no use denying it, ignoring it, or feeling guilty. Instead, you can use it to mobilize yourself and others. There are times when POC aren't being listened to or even allowed to talk, but white people saying the same exact things will be heard clearly. Take, for instance, this article I am writing. Everything here has been said by others, many of them POC, but it stands that I will be effective saying it again because not everyone has heard these ideas yet. Plus, I'm white, so I will automatically listen to more by certain people.

But it is also important to consider the other aspects of yourself. We all have talents and passions, and these can often be utilized as we make progress as anti-racist allies. Again, I'll reference myself writing this article. I write all the time, and I'm usually pretty good at it. So it makes sense to bring my identity as a writer into this work. We all have talents that we can bring with us-- what are yours?

10. Don’t be too hard on yourself.

Sometimes, you will slip up. You’ll be too intimidated to stand up to that racist professor, or you’ll find yourself behaving in a way that. Rather than decide that this is all too hard and you’re just going to stop caring, remember that you’re human. We're all human. And we'll keep getting better at this the longer we keep at it.


11. Don’t quit. Because some people don’t have that option.

Now here's the correlative to my previous point: The fact is that you could, if you felt like it, decide to just pack it up and ignore the presence of racism and other forms of oppression. That is part of white privilege; we are not tied to the same level of racial implications in our every move.

But not everyone can decide to just throw away considerations about racism, sexism, heterosexism, etc. And if we're really going to be allies, we can't throw these concerns away, either.


Cover Image Credit: Flickr

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I'm A Christian And I Have A Tattoo

Stop judging me for it.
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Like most people, I turned 18 years old during the course of my senior year of high school. I’ll never forget the months prior to my birthday, though, because I spent hours making a decision that would be with me forever, the decision of where I would go to get my first tattoo and where that tattoo would go, and of course I spent a lot of time deciding on the font, the colors, and all of the other aspects of the tattoo I wanted. Throughout this time, two things stood firm 1) the fact that I was going to get a tattoo, and 2) the six letter name that it would consist of.

Now, three years later, I’m 21 years old and I still get the occasional dirty look at church on Sunday or in line at Walmart, and more often than not this look is accompanied by the following words: “Why would you do that to your body when God says not to?” A few weeks ago at a new church, a woman came up to me and said, “How can you consider yourself a Christian when you have that blasphemous thing on your foot?”, I simply smiled at her and said: “God bless you, have a good week.” I let it roll off of my back, I’ve spent the past three years letting it “roll off of my back”… but I think it’s time that I speak up.

When I was 8 years old, I lost my sister. She passed away, after suffering from Childhood Cancer for a great deal of my childhood. Growing up, she had always been my best friend, and going through life after she passed was hard because I felt like even though I knew she was with me, I didn’t have something to visually tribute to her – a way to memorialize her. I, being a Christian and believing in Heaven, wanted to show my sister who was looking down on me that even though she was gone – she could still walk with me every day. I wanted it for me, for her. I wanted to have that connection, for her to always be a part of who I am on the outside – just as much as she is a part of who I am on the inside.

After getting my tattoo, I faced a lot of negativity. I would have Leviticus 19:28 thrown in my face more times than I cared to mention. I would be frowned on by various friends, and even some family. I was told a few times that markings on my body would send me to hell – that was my personal favorite.

You shall not make any cuttings in your flesh for the dead, nor print any marks on you: I am the LORD.
Leviticus 19:28

The more I heard these things, the more I wanted to scream. I didn’t though. I didn’t let the harsh things said about me and my choice change the love I have for the Lord, for my sister, or for the new precious memento on my left foot. I began to study my Bible more, and when I came to the verse that had been thrown in my face many times before – I came to a realization. Reading the verses surrounding verse 28, I realized that God was speaking to the covenant people of Israel. He was warning them to stay away from the religious ways of the people surrounding them. Verse 28 wasn’t directed to what we, in today’s society, see as tattoos – it was meant in the context of the cultic practice of marking one’s self in the realm of cultic worship.

26 "You shall not eat anything with the blood, nor practice divination or soothsaying. 27 You shall not round off the side-growth of your heads nor harm the edges of your beard. 28 ‘You shall not make any cuts in your body for the dead nor make any tattoo marks on yourselves: I am the LORD. 29 ‘Do not profane your daughter by making her a harlot, so that the land will not fall to harlotry and the land become full of lewdness. 30 ‘You shall keep My sabbaths and revere My sanctuary; I am the LORD. 31 ‘Do not turn to mediums or spiritists; do not seek them out to be defiled by them. I am the LORD your God."
Leviticus 19:26–31

The more I have studied my Bible over the past few years, the more I pity those who rely on one verse in the Old Testament to judge and degrade those, like myself, who made the decision to get a tattoo for whatever reason they may have for doing so. This is because, you see, in the New Testament it is said that believers are not bound by the laws of the Old Testament – if we were, there would be no shellfish or pork on the menus of various Christian homes. While some see tattoos as a modification of God’s creation, it could also be argued that pierced ears, haircuts, braces, or even fixing a cleft lip are no different.

24 Therefore the Law has become our tutor to lead us to Christ, so that we may be justified by faith. 25 But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor."
Galatians 3:24-25

In Galatians, we read that the Old Testament law was created to lead people to Jesus. However, we know that Jesus has come and died on the cross for our sins. He has saved us, therefore we are no longer held to this law in order to have a relationship with the Lord. Our relationship with Him comes from believing that Jesus came to Earth to die on a cross for our sins, and repenting of our sins – accepting Jesus as our Savior.

I am a Christian, I have a relationship with the Lord that is stronger than it has ever been, and - I HAVE A TATTOO.

I have a beautiful memento on my left foot that reminds me that my sister walks with me through every day of my life. She walked with me down the red carpet at my senior prom, she walked with me across the stage the day I graduated from high school, and she continues to be with me throughout every important moment of my life.

My tattoo is beautiful. My tattoo reminds me that I am never alone. My tattoo is perfect.

Stop judging me for it.

Cover Image Credit: Courtney Johnson

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Sorry, SJWs, But 'It's My Truth' Is Not A Real Argument And Not Always The Real Truth

Just because you believe it doesn't mean everyone else does.

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Last week, Steven Crowder, a conservative commentator with the podcast show Louder With Crowder, posted a new video to his viral web series Change My Mind. The topic of this video was "There Are Only 2 Genders: Change My Mind." Regardless of your belief on whether or not there are two genders or not, I wanted to call attention to a word phrase that was numerously said throughout the course of the dialogue in the video between Steven and the brave volunteers who disagreed with him.

Watch, and see if you can find the phrase I am talking about. Steven Crowder even points it out himself.

The phrase I'm referring to, incase you didn't catch it in the first 15 minutes is "My truth."

The first guest to sit down was Danielle Skidmore, a Transgender Woman running for Austin City Council this year. Consistently throughout her argument for the existence of more than two genders she keeps telling him that "her truth" tells her that there is more than two.

"My truth" is not a legitimate argument. Just because it is how you view yourself, the world around you, and what makes sense to you does not make it true for everyone else. That is called your experience. The better phrasing would be "in my experience, I have come to believe," not, "I'm living my truth. This is why I believe it and why you should too."

Steven Crowder points out that he wants "the truth" numerous times to combat her "truth." Danielle Skidmore tells him that the truth is her truth. This is not how problems get solved or how we advance society. If we all believe "our truth" and refuse to look at "the truth" with facts and statistics that back it up then nothing will get accomplished. Anything that does will not be concrete laws or rulings because everyone will have their own way of interpreting it.

It is time we start as a country to base our laws on facts.

There is so much calling for miscellaneous laws that we already have one for, the right to, or the need for a law has no foundation to it. If we actually began looking at the laws we have and the background of them, we would find that most, if not all, cover a lot of what Equal Rights Activists fight for.

The idea of "my truth" is tainting society's way of thought, and how we comprehend the world around us.

People's truth does not always contain all the facts because of their bias and their unwillingness to see the other side. I fall to this too sometimes, and I have moments where I say something should not be a way because I just think that. This is wrong, and it should not be how our country is run.

Laws and policies need to be thought out with all the facts, and with the complete truth. "My truth" is not going to get us anywhere because not everyone has the same experiences and thoughts as that one singular person. The truth is the only way America can be promised just and rightful laws and protections.

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https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WtftZPL-k7Y&list=PL3e1orPYt_4ZHGjuivZFsyJ81RL7j7_E1

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