George Floyd’s death brought the Black Lives Matters movement back into the media spotlight, causing a sudden influx of Black allies advocating for equality and posting on social media that Black lives matter. I also saw many Black people on social media sharing ways that allies can make an impact and promote change through petitions, donations and protests. While it's good that Black people are educating new allies, it is not an entire race's job to teach others how to have empathy for the Black experience.
With this newfound online advocacy, white people are still asking Black people to teach them how to empathize and understand white privilege and racism. The information and statistics about these issues aren’t new; they’ve been there all along. If you simply open your eyes you can see the disparity. Black people have lived so long in this oppressive, violent system that having a white person ask you how they can care now is almost offensive.
Black people have been protesting the unfair system and racial violence for centuries, but many people are just now opening their eyes as a result of the brutal killing of George Floyd. Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, Trayvon Martin, Eric Garner and Elijah McClain all died violent and unnecessary deaths. Why did it take a man dying with a police officer kneeling on the back of his neck for you to think that this needs to stop?
Asking a Black person “how can I care about the Black experience?” or “how can I understand Black people?” makes it seem like you are having difficulty viewing Black people as human or viewing them as equal to yourself. Because someone has brown skin does not make them less than.
Asking a Black person “how can I care?” also makes it seem as if you don't really understand the magnitude of racism in America or the lasting impact that it has on Black people. The question “how can I care?” displays the privilege and supremacy that white people have had over Black people for centuries.
If you finally are able to see the injustice, then I believe that the greatest way to help is to actually live your life as a Black ally. Speak out when you see something wrong, even if it feels uncomfortable, because Black people have been uncomfortable their entire lives.
Being anti-racist is work that will have to be done for the rest of your life. It's not a social media campaign or about donating to prove you’re a good person. It’s about your actions in everything that you do. It needs to become a part of you.
Acknowledging that as a white person you are privileged is the second best thing that you can do. Look at your life and think about how the color of your skin opens so many doors for you that are shut to people of color. Even more than this, use the privilege and power that comes with the color of your skin to advocate for the rights and lives of Black people. This can be monumental to changing the system.
Systematic racism and police brutality aren't trends, they are everyday experiences for Black people. The Black Lives Matter movement began in 2013 after the fatal shooting of the unarmed 17-year-old Trayvon Martin and the subsequent acquittal of his killer George Zimmerman. In 2014, Michael Brown was killed by a Ferguson, Missouri police officer named Darren Willson. The killing sparked outrage and demonstrations from the community. The police response to the protests was extremely aggressive, which stunned activists.
Just because systemic racism and police brutality are suddenly trending on Twitter and Instagram doesn’t mean that when it stops trending it's not relevant anymore. Being a true Black ally is understanding the plight of Black people, scrutinizing how white privilege and supremacy affect Black lives daily and advocating for equality in whatever way you can, even when it makes you uneasy.