This has been an overwhelming, draining year for everyone. From the results of the election to the countless violent outbursts to the number of legal injustices, this year has been devastating to say the least. And though no one wants to openly admit it, I have no problem saying that people of color were the ones who experienced a majority of these devastations. And, while I think that many people of non-color are looking to be supportive with making New Year's Resolutions if you want to be a better ally to people of color, I don't necessarily think that I agree with it.
As a young, black, and educated woman of color, having the support of my white friends is amazing. To be honest, when Trump was elected president, a few of my white friends mourned and apologized on social media about the injustices that that were on the way to women and — more notably — people of color. The other few white friends I had were supportive of the new presidency and were vocal about that, which is OK because everyone has to believe in something.
With the support from my friends came questions like, "What can I do to help you?" or "How can my people better understand what you're going through?" Although the gesture is both noticed and appreciated, there is no one answer to those questions. Being an ally to people of color is not just something that should happen for a moment or because we get a new calendar year, it should be something that happens daily. Racial Equity Tools noted that educating yourself and your children on racism is a good way to start the support for people of color, and I'd have to agree. You can't jump into something with understanding what it is or why it's happening. Likewise, Alternet encouraged those who are not of color to work amongst their own people to create more allies, which I think is an amazing suggestion, too. However, people who are not of color just simply cannot stop there.
As a black woman who has dealt with both racism and prejudice more often than I'd like to admit, there are a few things that white people must keep in mind if they're willing to support us, our fight, and assist in the building of our future. Too often I believe people say that they want to support what people of color go through, but when the going gets tough, the fearful get going.
If you're looking for a few ways to help people of color out, here are a few tips to bring into the New Year with you, and hopefully, make them lifelong.
1. Be Consistent
Though I truly understand that calling this a New Year's resolution may seem like a good effort to do right, think about all of the other resolutions you gave up on or weren't consistent with. If your plans are to be a better ally to people of color, you have to be consistent with your care, your assistance, and your respect. Being on the side of people of color shouldn't be something that you want to do because the year is new. Start now and keep it going.
2. Stop Telling People Of Color How To Feel
So many times this year I opened up my social media platforms to see someone not of color telling black people how they should feel about an injustice that occurred. Not everyone hurts in the same way. Stop telling people of color what they should be saying or how they should be feeling. Some internalize the pain or may be numb to it — depending on their personal encounters.
3. Reach Out, But Don't Force Them To Converse
People of color understand that the allies who are not of color want to talk about what's going on and want to display support. However, you can't force people of color to have an opinion just because you want to talk about it. Conversations can become exhausting. So, if your friends don't want to talk about it in the moment, it may just be because they're literally drained from it. Be mindful of what the other person may be feeling internally.
4. Address Inappropriate Situations When They're Happening
I often see white people discuss the injustices of people of color through a post on Facebook or in a response to a Tweet. But, the biggest question is: are you addressing these same issues when you see them happening in public or when there's not a crowd around to like or comment on your status? To be a better ally to people of color, you have to be willing to address and correct the inappropriate situations and instances of harassment while they are happening — no matter who's responsible for them.
5. Don't Quit Just Because Things Have Calmed Down
Just because it's not being talked about in the news on a daily basis doesn't mean that you should quit your decision to support us. Have patience. People of color have to deal with these unfortunate instances whether or not it's in the media consistently for a day, month or year. If you're looking to show support, don't only do it when everyone else is or when the cameras are rolling. It will be more genuine, appreciated, and reciprocated when it's done while the magnifying glass isn't over it.