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  • Writer's picturealaurafilbin

6 June 2020: How to be a Good Ally

Right now, there are so many crises occurring all at once, but these crises are catalysts for change. With COVID-19, the Black Lives Matter movement, and now Pride month, it is important for people in seats of privilege to act as allies to the groups struggling right now, and here is a list of ways to do just that:

  • Amplify the relevant voices - if you're focusing on #BLM, then you need to prioritize black voices and perspectives; if you're focusing on LGBTQ+ issues, give those people a space to speak. As an ally, it is important that the focus is not on you, but on the people and issues at the front lines of the battle.

  • Educate yourself on the issues - take the time to do the research, listen to the stories of the people you're standing with, recognize and unlearn the biases that you have internalized, and understand that you are not the authority on the subject. If someone tells you you're doing something offensive, you do not get to decide otherwise; educating yourself means facing the fact that you have made mistakes and will continue to make mistakes, but you need to do the work and try anyway.

  • Educate others on the issues - it's not enough for you to read up on something and agree with it. In order to be a good ally, you need to confront others on their offensive behavior when you encounter it, and whenever possible, direct them to teaching sources so that they may reform their ways of thinking. It's uncomfortable, it's difficult, it can sometimes break a relationship, but in order to be a good ally, you need to be willing to take a risk to support the causes you're passionate about. In any case, if a relationship can be broken over racism or bigotry, it's not worth saving.

  • Support local businesses - yes, capitalism is a broken system, but while we're still trapped in it, take the time to research local businesses and buy from them rather than from large corporations. I'm talking black-owned businesses, LGBTQ+ owned businesses, eco-friendly busineses, etc. Put your money where your mouth is, if and when you can afford to do so.

  • Contact your representatives - the easiest way to do this (in my experience) is to use Resistbot, an automated message service that helps you craft letters to your elected officials. You can text RESIST to 50409 to get started, or you can connect Resistbot to iMessage, Facebook Messenger, Twitter, or Telegram. You can craft original letters, or Resistbot can suggest local issues for you to write your officials about.

  • Sign petitions - this is the bare minimum for activism. Sign petitions for issues that matter to you, and to the communities you want to support.

  • Donate - again, put your money where your mouth is. Research the organizations or causes you want to support and, if you can, make a donation. It can be a one-time donation, but recurring donations are obviously the most effective.

  • Show up for protests - protests are dangerous right now, even for privileged protesters, but they are always dangerous for POC and LGBTQ+ individuals. If you can, go to the protests and show your support. Be peaceful, do not instigate anything with the police, protect the people around you. Do not take pictures of people's faces or name protesters, and if you post a picture, black out the faces and do not just blur them. Don't bring your phone if you can help it, but if you must, turn off GPS and change your phone password to a code longer than 8-digits and disable face recognition or fingerprint unlock. Wear protective clothing, bring plenty of water, and bring first aid materials (including face masks, gloves, hand sanitizer, and cotton balls soaked in vinegar placed in a plastic bag) if possible. Write the number of a local lawyer in permanent marker on your arm. Inform someone you trust that you will be attending the protest and give them your name, date of birth, any medical needs or conditions, and anything you'd need taken care of if you are held for longer than a few hours. If you are arrested or detained, explicitly say, "I am invoking my right to have a lawyer present and I am invoking my right to remain silent." Say nothing else until you have spoken to a lawyer.

Additionally, I have made a resource list to support Black Lives Matter that I periodically update with more resources as I find them, so please do whatever you can. At the very least, share the information around so that others may take action as well.

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