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A Guide for White Allies
This guide (created 6/2/2020) was created and edited by white staff members at OutFront Minnesota following the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis, MN. The purpose of this guide is not to be exhaustive or perfect. In fact, we recognize that there are gaps in the knowledge within this guide, but we hope the resources given here help provide a jumping off point for white allies, who are both just starting out and those who are expanding their knowledge. Much of the resources provided below gear white allies towards topics of decolonization, environmental racism, anti-racism, and police abolition.
If you are a person of color, and have other resources or information that you may believe will help white allies learn, or even critiques on the resources provided, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
We also have this guide also available as a google document, which you can find here.
It should also be noted that this guide is geared toward anti-blackness and racist narratives around Black people in the United States.
This guide may be shared, duplicated, and reprinted for other uses.
Much of this guide includes links and resources gathered by Black and Indigenous people of color and put into other resource guides (which are linked in their respective sections). Part of our work as white allies is to not only vocally support our Black and Indigenous communities, but to support them monetarily, too. If you’re unable to go to protests and are looking for another way to support our leaders and freedom fighters, consider donating to the organizations listed in the donate tab.
A NOTE ON LANGUAGE and ALLYSHIP
Some of the language below may be new or confusing to you. So here’s a brief guide to understanding some language you may see over and over again during the current uprising:
- BIPOC: stands for black and Indigenous people of color. This is used to emphasize black and Indigenous struggles.
- POC: stands for people of color. This refers to all people of color, and does not distinguish certain groups like BIPOC does. Do not use POC if you specifically mean Black people. POC is not a stand-in when you specifically mean issues that affect certain groups.
- AAVE: African American Vernacular English. This article can help explain what it is. This is a must read. AAVE is a dialect, and one that many white people consider to be ‘bad English’ because of racist beliefs. This is especially important for English nerds and people that are crazy about grammar and are prone to correcting others.
- Code Switching: Watch this video for a good definition of Code Switching.
- De jure: (This is more legal and governmental terminology, but it will be helpful to explain to your white friends and family) De jure is anything that happens according to laws. For example, slavery was De jure in that it was supported by the laws set in place. It was legal.
- De facto: Opposite, in a way, to De jure. De facto is based in reality. Example of this would be the segregation of white people and Black people in schools in housing, which continues post-segregation despite being illegal. This happens because of the history of legal segregation such as redlining which made certain neighborhoods Black and certain neighborhoods exclusively white. De facto racism can also happen inadvertently, which often occurs in all-white or majority-white governmental systems. In short, De facto happens in practice, whether intentional or not, and it doesn't matter if the practice in question is illegal or not.
- Systemic racism or institutional racism: The definition of systemic, or institutional racism, is best given by Kwame Ture, who created the phrase.
- “When terrorists bomb a black church and kill five black children, that is an act of individual racism, widely deplored by most segments of the society. But when in that same city – Birmingham, Alabama – five hundred black babies die each year because of the lack of proper food, shelter and medical facilities, and thousands more are destroyed and maimed physically, emotionally and intellectually because of conditions of poverty and discrimination in the black community, that is a function of institutional racism...It is institutional racism that keeps black people locked in dilapidated slum tenements, subject to the daily prey of exploitative slumlords, merchants, loan sharks and discriminatory real estate agents. The society either pretends it does not know of this latter situation, or is in fact incapable of doing anything meaningful about it.” (p.4 of Black Power, 1992)
- Environmental racism: Environmental racism is when, intentionally or not, Black people and people of color are placed in areas with intense ecological degradation, pollution, and more. Examples would be East Saint Louis, Illinois, where the Viola incinerator is located. The incinerator burns chemicals from pharmaceutical companies, meth and drugs confiscated by police, and more. This has had intense and irreversible health effects of the Black people in East Saint Louis, with 99% of the population there being Black. Another example would be the treatment and struggles many Indigenous communities had once placed on reservation land, which was almost always unfarmable and unsuitable for sustained life. This happens politically, too. Environmental racism also looks like the DAPL pipeline, and the Keystone Access pipeline. You can read more about environmental racism here.
So, you’re trying to be a good ally to Black people and people of color in your community. But, as you’ve likely found out by now, there are a lot of different ways to do that.
You can directly support protest efforts, lending your skills as a medic, firefighter, a human shield between Black people and police, or driver for local community efforts. You can help clean up after protests. You can donate directly to BIPOC, or to BIPOC led organizations (which you should do even if you participate in the aforementioned activities), you can pick up and deliver supplies to communities in need, or you can talk to your friends and family about whiteness and white supremacy. If you can, you should do all of these, especially educating your white friends and family, as well as yourself. While these are good ways to do all of this, there are also bad ways that can have negative effects on the community you’re trying to help, and the antiracist person you’re trying to become.
Here’s an ongoing lists of do’s and don'ts: both at protests, on social media, and for your ongoing allyship to your communities
- Don’t post how you’ve been such a “good ally” on social media. Why not? Because your efforts will be, and likely are, performative and egotistical. What does performative mean? It means you are, literally, putting on a performance for others, mostly other white people in the hopes of being seen as a ‘good person’ for doing that “work.” Posting updates on protest efforts, and trying to utilize your platform to educate white people is an excellent way to use your platform and speak out on social justice. So here are some examples of performative actions you should avoid:
- You posted a black square on #blackouttuesday, but said nothing about police abolition, antiracism, before or after. You haven’t donated any money to Black people directly, or to Black-led organizations. You also haven’t been to a local protest site, to either support protest efforts or to help clean up.
- You post constant updates about how you’re “leading protests,” or “on the front lines” of protests. White people that engage with this work often, either as a protestor, organizer, medic, driver, etc. don’t act like this. You are not leading anything, and to frame yourself as a savior because you were “on the front lines” centers the struggle around you. This struggle is not for you to make a name for yourself. It’s to end white supremacy and the murder of Black people. It's your role to follow the lead of Black people and Black organizers, and support in whatever way they ask.
- You’re constantly centering your emotions and feelings on the issues at hand without elevating any experiences from BIPOC.
- Do not ask your BIPOC friends and family to find books or resources to help educate you. You are more than able to find them on your own, and there are hundreds of guides online. If you have asked and received resources, don’t ignore these resources and decide not to read them. This is performative, and overall obnoxious and rude behavior.
- Do not share images or videos of black people being murdered. This includes the footage of Amaud Arbery, George Floyd, Michael Brown, and so many more. This is retraumatizing and tiring for Black people. If you do share images of police brutality, or videos that may contain images of police brutality, include content warnings (or cw’s for abbreviation) that state what exactly is in the video so people can choose to engage with the content you’ve just posted.
- Throughout this guide, you will see that ‘Black’ is always capitalized. This is done because, after we spent some time reading more, it’s clear that Black is the proper way to discuss Black lives, Black people, and white allyship. Like Indigenous or Native, Black should also be capitalized because it jumps off the page, but also because it emphasizes that this is referring to a group, a culture, and people.
- When interacting with accounts run by Black people, and by people of color in general, do not engage (e.g., liking, commenting, sharing) with posts that are by BIPOC people critiquing their community. You, as a white person, do not have a say in how communities of color, especially those that are having conversations on anti-Blackness, conduct those conversations. You also don’t get to weigh in on certain critiques someone of a certain community makes about their own community. Focus on white people and white communities.
- When engaging with social media accounts run by Black people, and POC, don’t demand emotional labor, or argue with their feelings and opinions on white people, institutions, or political ideologies. If you’re going to follow BIPOC, your job is to learn from what they’re saying, and actively read the materials they put out for their followers. Don’t self insert yourself into conversations, or demand things that you can, once again, find on your own.
- No matter how educated you feel, you do not get to speak on issues impacting Black people in Black spaces. What does this mean? Just because you feel educated on a topic like police brutality, when Black people are having discussions on it, or any topic, you as a white person do not get to self-insert yourself into the discussion. This includes protest and organizing spaces, but also on social media. Your job is to speak to white people, and educate them on white supremacy.
Here are some do's and don’ts when trying to further your education
- Don’t demand emotional labor from people of color. What is emotional labor? Emotional labor is when you demand someone explain traumatic or information you could easily find yourself by utilizing books or the internet. An example would be asking your Black family and friends to explain why police brutality is wrong, or explain a time when racism hurt them. By asking these questions, you’re demanding that they explain events that other BIPOC have explained in detail already in books, movies, podcasts, and news articles (many of which you can find below!)
- Avoid reading too many books and articles on race written by white people. Below, you’ll find we’ve intentionally included several books written by white people for white readers, but most are written by Black people. Research authors before reading books, and ensure you’re getting the best information possible. Several reading lists have circulated the internet recently on antiracism, and they often include books written almost exclusively by white
- This is language you will hear over and over again in this guide and others like it, but remember this: your antiracism education is never over. You will never be “done” learning. As a result, you will never be a perfect ‘ally.’ We believe one of the most important things for you to remember, too, is that being an ally isn’t just an end goal. You will begin to see language like ‘we don’t want allies, we want accomplices.’ This is what you should aim for. Are you willing to get arrested for your Black neighbors, friends, and family? Are you willing to put yourself between Black people and the police? Will you show up for Black people and Black communities when they ask for your help? Will you donate to Black organizations and Black people? WILL YOU CORRECT YOURSELF WHEN BLACK PEOPLE TELL YOU SOMETHING YOU DID WAS WRONG? Even if you're willing and able to support Black people in these ways, you still need to continue your education.
GUIDELINES FOR TALKING TO OTHER WHITE PEOPLE
- Go in easy. White people are extremely sensitive and defensive around this stuff - it's called white fragility. BIPOC have no obligation to coddle them, but we do. Even if the person is saying some egregious shit, if they're listening to you, do not rush in with a terse accusation. Be firm on the principles but gentle on the delivery. Always remember, the goal isn't for you to win an argument, it's for this person to move towards anti-racist thinking and way of life.
- Don't immediately cut people off just because they're racist. Sometimes this is necessary, but not always. Don't make it a knee jerk reaction. You might be their only access point to anti-racism. We have a duty to keep coming to the table.
- Take nothing personally. Remain calm always. This is not about you. Keep the end goal in mind.
- Choose your battles. This doesn't mean give up when it's hard, it means be strategic. What is your relationship to this person? Are they willing to listen? The closer you are, the more likely they are to listen, and the greater your responsibility to hold them accountable. Gauge the energy you invest based on whether or not the person is listening but don't forget about all the others who can hear or read the conversation. Maybe the person you're talking to is totally vitriolic and beyond help -don't waste your energy battling for days, but still say or do SOMETHING because other people will see that. Always send the message that the right thing to do is to stand up against racism.
- Something is better than nothing. Don't be silent. Take a stand. Push past the fear. Accept now that you're going to fuck it up. Accept now that you will be critiqued and welcome that as a learning opportunity. Anti-racism is a life long learning process that starts inside of you.
- Explain terms. Explain history. Don't assume shared understandings. Continue to educate yourself if you’re confused or unclear on concepts, terms, or history.
These articles were added on 6/2/2020, and may be outdated by the time you read them. However, these were included because we felt they pertained to the situations unfolding across the country, and the implications that came with them. Some of the articles may have been from years prior, but still ring true today. Please keep the date in mind when reading these articles, especially if they have news items within them that relate to events that have since changed. If you’re someone that likes to write in books as you read, or save thoughts for later, the chrome extension Hypothesis may help you.
Thoughts on Performative Allyship by C. Terrance Anderson
If you’re struggling with where to start on antiracism work, this section is intentionally listed as a reading list that will, hopefully, progress with the reader. 1-9 are books that are considered foundational, coming at antiracism from a perspective of sociology (study of groups of people, laws, etc.), Black voices both nonfiction and literature, and historical perspectives. 7-14 are books meant to continue to build on these themes, as well as introduce new concepts that you may be unfamiliar with, such as police abolition and decolonization. 15-23 are books that provide a jumping-off point into other forms of literature, including theology, anti-capitalism, decolonization, and so on.
You will notice that few of these books are written by white people. This is intentional. Books included that are written by white authors were deemed necessary because of their accessibility, but also because their content is on whiteness itself. Readers should be wary of any antiracism lists collected that utilize mostly white authors and do not center BIPOC voices. We highly recommend avoiding fiction books about the lives of BIPOC written by white people (The Help written by Kathryn Stockett is a book and movie we'd recommend avoiding). We believe that you will not get the full scope of racism, the historical aspects of race in America, and how racism and race impacts America today by reading exclusively white academic authors.
It’s important to remember that, even if you feel you’re conceptually ready for more, starting at the first book will also benefit you. Feel free to pick and choose which books to read, but also don’t be afraid to return to the foundational reads at the start of the list. All of these works are vital to gaining a fuller understanding of whiteness, colonization, antiracism, and white allyship. Even if you think you can jump into heavier reads, but haven’t read some of these more foundational texts, please consider going back and reading them anyways.
As white allies, our work is never done. You will be reading, learning, listening, and educating other white people, for the rest of your life. You will also, no matter how much you learn and grow, will always have racist ideas, tendencies, and biases. Learning, listening, and most importantly, acting is what we can do to support our communities, friends, and families. As a reminder, this list is by no means exhaustive. If you see other guides for white allies like this that list a different set of books, those are also worth reading.
We recommend taking your time and reading through these, and also growing your knowledge in other ways like through podcasts, short news articles, and twitter accounts.
For all of these books, please consider purchasing them from local bookstores like Boneshaker Books, MayDay Books, Magers and Quinn, Daybreak Books, and Moon Palace Books. Bookstores like the Book House may have a number of these books for greatly reduced prices. All of these bookstores are offering some kind of online operation during COVID-19. Local Libraries have also been adjusting to COVID-19 pandemic. Check with your local librarian to find out if your library is still loaning out books.
Here are some additional resources and book lists:
- This is a google doc organized much like this one with resources on antiracism work for white people.
- Ibram X. Kendi has created a book list on antiracism with the Chicago Library that is worth checking out
- NoName’s Book Club offers a new book each month on race, gender, politics, history and capitalism.
- Verso Books, a radical publisher of some of the most prominent books on queer, race, class, and gender theory has a lot of handy book lists. One we’d specifically recommend is Verso’s booklist on antiracism and decolonization.Some books on this list you will find below, but many are not included other lists they’ve created that are also valuable is their list on abolition and black struggle, which was also referenced heavily for the list compiled below.
- If you want to find a book listed below, check out the Internet Archive’s National Emergency Library. They have thousands of scanned books for loan, including rare and hard to find texts. (NOTE: as of 6/12/2020, the National Emergency Library hosted by the Internet Archive was moved to a controlled lending model because of "Copyright Infringement." We believe that the National Emergency Library is an important educational tool that allows access to thousands of rare, hard to find, and out of print books that libraries often don't have the capacity for. If you'd like to support the Internet Archive and read more about this here is the Libraries blog post.)
- This is a Twitter thread filled with other incredible books worth a read, with PDF attached. Any books that are both on this Twitter list and on our list below have their PDF’s located within their descriptions.
Podcasts are an excellent way to relax and learn at the same time. These are often easy to listen to while cooking, driving, or doing your favorite activity. Some podcasts are hosted on Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, Spotify or Soundcloud. Keep this in mind when downloading and looking for podcasts to listen to.
MOVIES, DOCUMENTARIES, AND YOUTUBE VIDEOS
This may be an easier way to engage with some of the materials. Below is a list compiled of some movies, documentaries, and youtube videos you may find helpful. We recommend not watching movies like The Help, which was written by white people for largely white audiences. Instead, we encourage you to look for movies that were produced and directed by Black people. Kanopy, another streaming service we will direct you to below, is free through some libraries, and free for students at Universities. We will never recommend utilizing services like Amazon to find movies, videos, books, etc. Curious as to why? Read this article.
Here’s a key for which platforms you can find these videos on. Youtube videos or free videos online will always have the hyperlink in their title.
- Netflix→ (NF)
- Hulu→ (H)
- Google Play→ (GP)
- Kanopy→ (K)
SOCIAL MEDIA ACCOUNTS TO FOLLOW
Before we send you off to follow these accounts on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter, we want to reiterate that, as white allies, it is not your job to argue with these accounts, hound them for information, or even engage with their content beyond reading their posts. These people are not your friends, and do not owe you anything. We’ve listed above some more in depth do’s and don’ts when interacting with social media accounts online, and suggest you go and check those out before following these accounts.
@mnwfpc (Instagram and Twitter handle)
@Minnesota_Voice (Instagram and Twitter handle)
@ReclaimTheBlock (Instagram and Twitter handle)
@BlackVisionsCollective (Instagram and Twitter handle)
@blkwomenradicals (Twitter handle)
@Sonofbaldwin (Twitter handle)
@nowhitesaviors (Twitter handle)
@andraydomise (Twitter handle)
@angryblkhoemo (Twitter handle)
@itsWalela (Twitter handle)
@noname (Twitter handle)
@doitlikedua (Twitter handle)
Resources for Kids and Young Adults
Just as it’s important for you to unlearn racism and do antiracist work, it’s important to pass these values onto your children. Children ages 5-7 are already evaluating people in accordance to their race, and will pick up on racist actions unintentionally. Even babies and toddlers are starting to recognize race in ways either influenced by their parents, or by other guardian figures. Here are some resources that can help you parent, but also help educate your young adults, toddlers, and elementary schoolers.
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Updated at 4:00PM on Monday, June 8, 2020.