#BLM newbieism for white people
Ok so you said "Black lives Matter" for the first time ever and you feel empowered, perhaps you've already had some backlash but you are now ready to launch a lifetime of black activism.
On behalf of all black people: Thank you! but not so fast, Let me just make you aware of a few helpful pointers to navigate the turbulent journey ahead.
1) This zeal doesn’t mean you can’t still harbor racist views and support racist policies.
Sometimes it’s easy to get ahead of ourselves when we have an awakening moment of racial awareness. Black people appreciate when white people advocate for them using their privilege and influence, but we equally appreciate when our white friends interrogate their own lives for perspectives and decisions that still uphold white supremacy. Call yourself out, admit your own complicity as an ongoing commitment to anti-racism. There will always be internal anti-racist work to do which can influence your thoughts, words and actions toward a better society for black people.
2) This new found zeal doesn’t mean you don’t have a journey yet ahead of listening, learning and dismantling racist miseducation.
Start a journal where you document your moments of enlightenment from a conversation, a book, a podcast on the subject. Most white people have been miseducated about race and racism and there will be a lifetime journey of re-programming to undo the ignorance.
3) This zeal doesn’t mean you are now an expert to critique black civil rights organisations or figure heads that you only learned about 5 minutes ago.
Resist the urge to misquote or critique complex or controversial black civil rights icons or organisations as this often comes off as presumptuous. Recognize that it takes due care to interpret these fairly and contextually, trying to sift out propaganda and conjecture from truth. Most of the early figures were demonized in their life time, often assassinated by the state for fear of their growing influence. More recent figures and organisations have been maliciously mischaracterised as hateful and politically smeared to jeapordize their reputations and undermine the cause of justice for black lives terrorised by racism.
4) This zeal doesn’t mean you know ANYTHING about the black lived experience.
Never try to speak as an authority on the black experience, it’s better to highlight black voices that clarify several black perspective(s) on certain issues. It can be tempting to translate something you read about the collective black experience onto a black person you converse with but this is often very frustrating and will be interpreted as racial stereotyping even if that isn’t your intention. It’s so important to not centre your voice as the "voice of the voiceless" - we still have a functional voicebox. Platform and amplify the voice(s) on the margins.
5) Have you practiced your activism on your family who employ casual racism at the dinner table as a past time?
This may not apply, but so often does. Your white family should the first mission field you carry the message of anti-racism to. You have relationship which is often what helps to make these conversations more conducive and effective but clearly they can equally become very volatile in that setting - but don't give up. It looks rich trying to preach anti-racism to people who you don't even know when those in close proximity carry on unchallenged.
6) When talking about race, engage white people. We don’t need your advice about how to handle racism as that’s what being black is all about navigating.
In view of point 4), don’t try and tell black people how to navigate racism - ever. If you really think someone needs support because of racial trauma, then be a listening ear, perhaps if appropriate sign post them to formal/professional support, but don’t presume you know better than they do about navigating black pain or frustration.
7) If you are in it for the long haul, black folks will begin to trust you. — but this isn’t a guarantee.
Be honest and open with us and quick to own up when you drop the ball because we have a strained relationship with whites on racial issues based on the historical record.
This should need no further explanation nor justification but for the benefit of those unaware, there have been opportunists that use black advocacy as a means to earn political clout, score woke points or advance their own agenda that doesn’t include real justice for black people. If you lose steam, feel defeated by push back, just be honest and let us know where you stand.
8) Ok so you’ve lost some followers for saying black lives matter, try exchanging that for a year of racial abuse and not getting that promotion you worked hard for because you "don’t fit the culture of the organisation" - i.e. You’re black.
I won't downplay the cost of this. There is an ugly hatred for black people that you get partial exposure to when you chose to stand with us. That being said, it won't be worse than the experience of having black skin in a white world so don't lose perspective or focus. Count the cost of this journey but remember there is no liberation without struggle and pain.
9)When you say #blacklivesmatter, We won’t believe or trust your allyship if you have any caveats.
Black people are used to respectability as a means to earning or affirming dignity. We know too well the idea that if we are more educated, more culturally refined according to Western sensibilities, more Conservative, more Christian, more straight then we are considered more worthy of advocacy and justice. This has meant that those on the margins of black society don’t often get included in justice efforts for black people. Please don’t reinforce this same heirarchy of worth in your advocacy. From the priest to the prisoner, all black lives have dignity and are worthy of receiving justice.
10) Black people are resilient and conscientious but our labour is no longer free.
Free black labour was something the West capitalised on for a long time but this time we won’t be providing our labour in educating you on race for free. If you want black people to explain racism to you, or spend emotional currency on teaching you about their racialized trauma, be willing to compensate us for that exchange. If not then it feels like you are willing to reap where you have not sown. Don’t make unfair demands of our emotional labour and not expect us to demand recompense.
11) You are going to be tempted to recant your activism at some point and will have to make a difficult choice.
I’m already seeing this unfold, black people already knew the #blm bandwagon would bring on board those who were emotionally sympathetic but ideologically opposed to our liberation. The propaganda that has been used to demonise blackness and deem it unworthy to protect is relentless and innovates in so many surprising ways. Sometimes this anti-blackness comes with a black face and can seem very "intelligent" and compelling. We’d prefer you decided to quit now rather than pretend to be an ally only to let us down in the long run.