So what is the BIPOC community? It stands for Black, Indigenous, and People of Color. You’ve read my blog post about Loving Day, Racism, and being Anti-Racist. The big highlight of that post was to take action to better social and political infrastructures for marginalized groups in your community, and eventually, the world.
Since the devastating loss of George Floyd, people have been claiming the “ally” title. For the benefit of the doubt, they may not know how to be a true ally, but want people to know they support the BIPOC community – if it was only that easy, but it’s not, and just claiming to be an ally is not enough.
What being an Ally entails
- take on the struggles as your own
- use your privilege and it’s benefits to those who do not have such
- amplify the voices of the oppressed – do this before adding your own thoughts
- realize that this fight is not about you – you can feel their pain, but let me repeat this: the conversation is NOT about you.
- stand up for the oppressed, even if it means cutting ties with those close to you.
- acknowledge your mistakes, own up to them, and learn better.
- understand that BIPOC do not owe you anything – this includes education, it is up to you to learn and teach yourself.
The best definition of “ally” comes from author Roxane Gay in her article for Marie Claire, “On Making Black Lives Matter.” In it, she states:
Black people do not need allies. We need people to stand up and take on the problems borne of oppression as their own, without remove or distance. We need people to do this even if they cannot fully understand what it’s like to be oppressed for their race or ethnicity, gender, sexuality, ability, class, religion, or other marker of identity. We need people to use common sense to figure out how to participate in social justice.
In short, being an ally does not mean you understand oppression and what it feels like – it means you are going to take the struggle as your own, educate yourself on the issues, and take action.
Taking action comes in many different ways. Sometimes it is going to feel easy and natural, but the majority of the time, it’s going to be uncomfortable. Especially when you have to listen and accept criticism on your behaviors, thoughts, and patterns. When a BIPOC peer shares their experiences or concerns, realize this is not a vindictive attack against you, but rather an opportunity for you to grow and become a better ally.
Education is key. This being said, do not run to BIPOC asking for them to educate you on every issue of systematic racism, oppression, and disadvantages they face – this only will create an extreme emotional burden on them. There are so many resources that are easily within reach. With such research, you can educate others on the struggles of BIPOC (and remove the emotional burden from them!). A few books I started with are: So You Want To Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo, White Supremacy by Layla Saad, Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race by Reni Eddo-Lodge, The New Jim Crow Laws by Michelle Alexander, and How To Be An Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi. There are a ton of BIPOC voices on the internet, you just have to look for them.
Understand your privilege: you need to acknowledge that you have privilege and you may (unintentionally) contribute to systems that keep BIPOC oppressed. Privilege is also intersectional – wealthy, white cis-men tend to be on the top of this latter, and then breaks down by different identities (for example, race, gender, class, education, sexuality). By understanding your privilege, you will see how you personally have benefitted at the expense of others. I never truly understood this since I grew up low income, fat, and disabled, but once I read White Fragility by Robin DiAngelo, I am now aware and able to check my privilege.
With such privilege, you need to take a step further and amplify the voices that are underrepresented. By elevating the voices of the BIPOC community, it creates a movement towards equity in systematic institutions. While you cannot speak for others, you can disarm obstacles they face and allow them to speak while standing side by side.
Lastly, you need to be committed. This is a process and not a magic fix all for the BIPOC community. Tragedy experienced by BIPOC lives is not a one time thing, but an ongoing crisis to the community that can only be correct with dismantling old systematic infrastructure and creating new ones. You are not going to be perfect all of the time, but remember to acknowledge your mistakes and to learn from them, to only do better next time.