Are you a performance ally? A performance ally is someone from a privileged group who shows support for marginalized people in easy ways that make the privileged person feel good about themselves. The Black Lives Matter movement has gained millions of performative allies since the death of George Floyd on May 25th.
Being a performance ally for Black Lives Matter or for other BIPOC (black, indigenous, people of color) groups might mean sharing related links on Facebook or adding relevant hashtags on Twitter. Perhaps you attend a protest and take selfies to post on Instagram. Maybe you write a blog post about your own personal struggle to understand racism. I have done some of those things but realize now they weren’t that helpful. If you don’t want to be just a performance ally but do something more substantive here are some ideas.
My husband and his cousin listening to a Huron leader near Quebec City
Listen. Don’t talk about discrimination if you are white and privileged. But do listen to others who aren’t white and privileged talk about the racism they have experienced. When I first moved to Winnipeg, I had an indigenous hairdresser who had grown up in Steinbach, Manitoba like I had. She had been part of the sixties scoop and was adopted by a Mennonite family. She had good things to say about the people who adopted her, but the stories about the racism she had experienced in Steinbach at school, at church and on the street were heart-rending for me to hear. Listening to her made me realize that although we had grown up in the same town, at the same time, my white privilege had made our experiences completely different.
Learn. Read about racism. This last week books about racism have dominated bestseller lists. Clearly, people want to learn more. I have downloaded the book, So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Olua on my e-reader and ordered White Fragility by Robin Diangelo for our church library where I am the librarian.
Donate. Although many organizations have good programs that address racism issues perhaps what is most effective is donating money to local initiatives headed by people from the BIPOC (black, indigenous, people of color) community. Here in Winnipeg the Bear Clan, and Mama Bear Clan, an offshoot led by women, are doing important work. They walk the streets of some of Winnipeg’s most marginalized and dangerous areas at night, picking up needles, distributing food and blankets, and being a positive and helpful presence on the streets.
Shop. Find out what restaurants, grocery stores, hair salons, art galleries, bakeries, clothing shops and other enterprises in your community are owned by people from the BIPOC community and give them a try. I know during COVID-19 we have ordered food from interesting restaurants that serve cuisine from many different countries.
How diverse is your workspace? How diverse are the places you volunteer and spend time in your community? Photo by Retha Ferguson on Pexels.com
Step aside. Resign from something you are doing to give your spot to someone from the BIPOC community. I have taken a look at my work and volunteer commitments and asked some serious questions. The volunteer committees I serve on right now are all white. The part-time jobs I had before COVID-19 employed some people from the BIPOC community but employees were predominantly white. What can I do about that?
Speak up. Have the courage to engage in hard conversations. When you hear friends and family talking in a negative way about people from the BIPOC community say something. Ask questions about assumptions they may be making. Offer a different perspective.
The last few weeks have convinced many white privileged people to become allies for the BIPOC community. But we can’t only be “feel good” performance allies. We need to be true allies doing substantive things if we want to see a positive change in our society.
Are you a performance ally? What ideas do you have for changing that. I’d love to hear them.
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