Good morning everyone!! I am overjoyed to welcome today’s blog contributor … drum roll, please … Raia ‘Coach’ Carey! Raia and I connected a few years ago at a virtual Atelier conference. I was so captivated by Raia’s session, their positive energy was contagious and the discussion was captivating! At that moment, I knew I had to reach out to see if they would be willing to share their wealth of knowledge and positivity with all of YOU! After a few emails, we convinced Raia to contribute not just one post, but a series of them (published in 2020 and 2021), which you can find here! Raia is taking over the blog today to discuss how to become a better ally and why it’s so important! Please note: this blog post was originally shared in 2020. However, with Raia’s permission, we have decided to re-share it today.
So, without further adieu, I’ll let Raia get right into it!
I’ll never forget the day I found out the colour of my skin made me different from my peers. I was in 2nd grade, hanging out with the kids that lived on my street. We often walked over to the nearby high school to play capture the flag and soccer. On this particular day, there were a few more kids from the neighbourhood who showed up. The words I heard that afternoon continued to ring in my mind for years.
“Why are you playing with Raia? She’s Black.”
I knew from that moment, that some people may not accept me solely because of my skin.
The realization that the colour of your skin determines how you’re treated before someone even gets to know you are not exactly a feel-good moment, especially when you’re the only Black person in most of the spaces you enter. Dealing with covert racism throughout my life taught me why allies must exist in the first place. At some point, I became desensitized to the injustices happening to people that look like me. I became numb after coming face to face with racism at such a young age. I’m grateful to have allies support me and stand up for me, but I want every person that is ever in a similar situation to be able to say the same.
To those wanting to become better allies and those new to allyship, I see you and thank you. In order to be a better ally, you first need to understand what it means to be an ally. You need to understand that racism is not just another country’s problem, it exists deep within the systems and lifestyles of everything surrounding us. You’ve likely seen a multitude of ways to show up over the past few months on social media, from diversifying your social feed to signing petitions. Online activism is an effective and free way to support this movement but it shouldn’t be the only way you show up.
Don’t resort to defensiveness
Part of being an ally requires a willingness to accept that you may have done or said something hurtful to someone unintentionally. Having racial bias or saying a microaggression does not mean you are automatically a racist. It’s critical to acknowledge that everybody processes, feels and grieves differently. The way one Black person feels may not be the same way another feels. If someone is open enough with you to explain a situation that may have caused harm, be open to hearing them out, apologize and commit to doing better.
Actively seek to learn and understand
To put it simply, be prepared to do the work. Nobody is going to hold your hand through allyship, however, there are hundreds of people creating collections of resources to give you a great head start. Allocate time to researching on your own so you can truly understand how we got to this point as a society.
Get comfortable with being uncomfortable
You’ve likely heard this phrase a lot lately. Racial bias stems deep within our communities in a multitude of ways that you may not even be aware of. To address what’s happening out there, we need to address what’s happening in our own inner circles. Having conversations with family and friends that may not agree with you off the bat can seem daunting, but it’s necessary. Instead of calling them out, call them in. Hear what they have to say and talk them through what you’ve learned.
Make meaningful donations if possible
This is an extremely difficult time for so many of us, and while monetary donations are certainly encouraged, there are other cost-free ways you can donate. For example, consider donating your time to an organization that you believe in. If you’re unable to make a contribution in those ways, support organizations that you would like to donate to in the future by sharing their platforms on your social media. Encouraging your friends and followers to get involved and take action is a domino effect.
Create an action plan for what you will do moving forward
Ask yourself what changes you’re willing to make in your daily life to support this movement. While it’s crucial to amplify Black voices, support Black-owned businesses and continuously educate yourself, creating a sustainable and long-term plan is equally important. Rather than leaping into allyship full-force, ask yourself how you can stand with the Black community long-term. Whether it’s allocating a monthly donation to a cause that means something to you or starting a book club within your friend group, there are countless ways to engage in this lifelong commitment.
Lastly, this list is just the surface. We all must continue to hold ourselves and the people around us accountable. There is no “easy way” to combat racism, but starting the work of being an ally is the only way to move forward. It’s okay to make mistakes, provided that you’re willing to learn from them.
Until next time!