How To Better Support Black People
08 Jun 2020
This post is a work in progress. While I educate myself more.
Once the protests have stopped and the outrage has fizzled out on social media, are we still going to care enough to take action? Or is it going to be left to Black people again to share horrific stories, personal traumas only to be ignored because we don't have access to videos of Police attacking white people, too.
400 years of brutality against Black people. Nothing has changed. 2 weeks of police brutality against white people too, and suddenly things are changing. The Breonna Taylor law was passed to limit no-knock warrents to all but the worse crimes. Protests across all 50 states of America, and in major cities across the rest of the world. Black voices getting amplified (for their Blackness rather than their inherent excellence). But for how long? And why now?
What happens when there are no longer videos of police shoving an elderly white man to the ground and leaving him to bleed out on the pavement, videos of police violently kicking a defenceless white woman crying on the pavement. When there are no longer videos of Black people being murdered on live TV. Notice the difference there in what triggered the outrage too, shoving white people vs murdering black people in plain sight, that's fucking terrifying. What happens when the system learns how to avoid pushing just the right buttons to avoid white outrage.
In Sydney for example, we had a peaceful protest. Originally, 10,000 people signed up to attend. The day before the protest went ahead, it was banned for breaching COVID-19 restrictions, even though football events with thousands of attendees were planned for less than 7 days ahead. Because of the ban, over 60,000 of us turned up, and a little way through the protest, the ban was lifted. The protest went well, it was peaceful, most everyone left feeling happy about it. Nothing bad happened. Or at least, nothing bad happened until most of the protestors had left, when the police forced around 100 protesters into Central Train station and pepper sprayed them. How do we know this? Because a white woman on crutches had to go to hospital. Yes, that is horrific, but what about the other 99 people? Don't they matter too?
Follow more Black people, act on what you learn from them
Since the protests have been going on, I have noticed a lot of my white friends on Twitter comment on posts written by Black people. They were horrified by what was going on and wanted to find out more about the experiences of Black people as well as how they could help. As soon as I saw those comments, I cringed because while I knew they meant well, I also knew that they were being unfair, asking Black people to recount traumatic experiences and do the emotional labour of educating them and others again and again and again.
Months before that, I was the white person who was asking to be educated. I couldn't understand why I got angry responses when all I wanted to do was help. My feelings were naively hurt. Instead of interacting further, I clicked on the profile of the person who had angrily replied to me, and saw they had a blog linked to their profile. I clicked on it and found countless blog posts outlining their personal, hellish experiences, including one about how they were sick of being asked by white people who didn't really care how they could help.
It was a shift for me. I realised that when I commented, I didn't actually have any intention on acting on advice I was given if it wasn't an easy thing to do, like a retweet or reading a post. I just wanted to be seen as caring, because I did care, just not enough to do the work myself. I'm sorry for that. I'm so, fucking sorry for that. That one post changed everything for me, and so I acted on the advice given in the blog posts, starting by following more Black people in my field (#BlackTechTwitter to start with).
As soon as I started following more Black people, I noticed a couple of things. First, I could see just how many times they were asked by others to educate them on racism. I could see how many times they were quote-retweeted by white people who erased them with their own experiences. I could see just how hard they had to fight to get any level of recognition for incredible work, whereas their white friends would get a ton of exposure for work that was half as impressive. I could see how often they were offered mentorship opportunities by people who assumed they were ahead of them, when in fact the would-be mentor would have benefitted more from being the mentee.
When you follow Black people, you start to see recurring themes. Once you can regognise those themes, you can start to figure out ways to help. This requires your investment. You have to educate yourself, so that you can educate others. It's draining, but it's nothing compared to what Black people go through. So don't even think about complaining about how hard it is to Black people, or asking for any kind of recognition, because we're not the ones being oppressed, we're not the ones being treated as less than human, we're not the ones being erased or gaslighted or having to watch our friends and family murdered whilst at the same time being asked what they did to deserve it. This is the LEAST we can do.
Support Black businesses
You might not have enough money to donate to Black organisations, but chances are you have enough money to do your grocery shopping at a Black-owned store. Or next time you want to order something off Amazon, research alternatives you can buy from Black stores. Same for Gyms, restaurants, freelancers etc. A quick Google search will give you a huge list in your area to choose from. If you're from a smaller town, then chances are you'd order a lot of stuff online anyway, so it isn't too hard to change who you order from.
When you do order from Black-owned businesses, write an honest, positive review for them. Recommend them to your friends (you don't need to push your agenda here and emphasize the business is Black-owned. Just say you got an awesome product from [shop name] Normalize it.
Follow Opposition (by keeping tabs, not actually following).
Just as following a lot of Black people will help you understanding how they experience the world and what opportunities there are for you to help, following racist people will help you learn how they think. Don't actually follow these people though, you don't want their voices to be amplified. You can create Twitter lists, or use Tweetdeck to follow typically racist hashtags like #MAGA etc.
Every time I see a racist post my blood boils and I want to fight them, but no one ever listens when they feel like they are being attacked. Your task then, is to identify the argument in the hate. What evidence do they have to back up their opinion? Are you able to objectively offer counterpoints without being in any way aggressive or patronising in return?
While this may not win the original poster over, your public conversation is going to get a lot of views. There will be people who held similar beliefs to the poster, who could be swayed by your level-headed arguments. They won't be swayed if you are coming from an attack mindset. As a white person, this is where your privilage can make a big difference, because your skin colour (sickeningly) makes it more likely for you to be taken seriously.
Set aside regular learning times (and generally consume content from Black creators)
Spending an afternoon reading up on racism whilst you are fired up from seeing horrifying police brutality videos is a good start, but it's not enough. As soon as the videos and the charged emotions dissipate, so will your motivation. Instead, think about what would be a reasonable amount of reading and learning that you are willing to commit to. Will you read a book on racism every month, follow race-politic blogs on your RSS feeds etc. Those are the things that might feel like work, but it really isn't difficult to stay educated. All you need to do is find ways to consume the content you usually like to consume from Black creators, who very often take everything they do to the next level. I dare you not to be inspired.