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Black History Month - How to be a good ally

Emma-Lee Davidson
In her community story, social work student and member of the RGU Black Liberation Network, Emma-Lee Davidson, looks at how to be a good ally and support the BIPOC community, both at university and further afield.

Black Lives Matter has been a movement since 2013 and seven years on we can see that there is still vital work to be done to tackle anti-Blackness globally. The global protests show that there are hundreds of thousands of people all over the world who want to stand against racism. While this work should always be led by BIPOC communities, allies can and must provide support so that the burden of dismantling oppressive systems does not fall to those who are oppressed. As an aspiring social worker, I am passionate about practising in an anti-discriminatory manner. To me that means educating myself about social issues and taking direct action to promote positive social change.

Listen first and amplify Black voices

Committing to standing against racism as an ally means never centring ourselves.  However, it can be helpful to use our platforms whether as a student in class, in our friend groups, or as part of a society, to make sure that Black voices are amplified Black activists are more visible and accessible than ever before through social media. Engage with their platforms respectfully, always listening first. If we learn something from a Black activist or writer, we should think about how we can support their work, for example by sharing their page or by buying their book. 

Educate yourself

Learning about anti-racism empowers us to take action and to discover what being an ally means in our immediate contexts. As Black Lives Matter as a movement has taken on great prominence in the cultural conversation, many of us have been embarrassed by our lack of knowledge. But this is an opportunity to gain a deeper understanding of the world and how we can help to change things to create a more just and equal society. It isn’t helpful add to conversations about racism with “But I don’t see colour.” For a lot of us, this simply means we have been fortunate enough not to be on the receiving end of racism, and therefore have not had to understand how racism is embedded in every level of society. More importantly, this statement erases the experiences of many BIPOC, whose lives may be deeply impacted and enriched by their racial identity. When approaching issues of race, we should always lead with compassion. We can use the resources at our disposal, like social media or the RGU library, to investigate how racism impacts our fields and areas of interest. 

Get comfortable with being uncomfortable

Being an ally also means holding ourselves accountable for the ways in which we have personally contributed to racist systems. If we are called out for a comment that we’ve made, we should consider the impact it has had before getting defensive. How many times have you been hurt by someone, only for them to tell you they didn’t mean it like that? Too often we place more emphasis on our intentions than the consequences of our actions. And these situations are opportunities for us to learn, grow, and do better moving forward.

Be proactive

Becoming more aware and more knowledgeable about anti-racism is fantastic, but it won’t help move us forward unless it is coupled with action. There are so many things we can do right now to be actively anti-racist. Talk to our friends and family about racism. Encourage respectful discussion, where it is safe to do so. Support Black creatives and businesses by following on social media and sharing them within our communities. Join groups in our area that are actively engaged in anti-racist work, such as RGU’s Black Liberation Network. To find out more about how to join, get in touch at blackliberation@rguunion.ac.uk

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