Ambassador voices: How to be an ally to the Black Lives Matter movement

Illustration shows three young people standing together. Behind them the text says; "How to be an ally"

My name is Rachel Elder. I am an English Literature student at the University of Edinburgh and a Young Ambassador for The Mix, most recently involved in The Body and Soul Club.

Societal racism is still a huge problem

Although the world may have come a long way in improving equality in the past century, there are still far too many people who believe that the abolishment of slavery in the 18 hundreds is enough to guarantee the fair treatment of minority ethnic groups.

The reality is that racism has been modernised and is still incredibly prominent today.

The past weeks have seen the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement take centre stage of worldwide media.

It’s refreshing to see people finally taking a stand against such a long-standing issue, however there is still conflict regarding how the topic of racial injustice should be addressed and how best to support the movement.

Watch The Mix’s documentary about the protests to find out what other young people think:

Racism is a white person’s problem too

Sadly, there are still people out there who present a barrier to the BLM movement. These people share a common view; that this just isn’t a white person’s problem.

Minority ethnic groups are not fighting against themselves for justice. They are fighting against the societal views and barriers constructed by a white majority.

Racism cannot be removed in areas that consist of a white majority if the white majority do not join the fight.

As a young white female, I often used to wonder how my efforts could ever be of any significance? Would anyone really want me to help or would I be seen as another part of the ‘white saviour complex’, swooping in to try and save the day?

Admittedly it can be difficult to navigate, and you need to be careful to approach things in a sensitive way. However, sitting back and doing nothing would absolutely be the wrong thing. It does not matter what your skin colour is: you are responsible for fighting for what is right!

There is a need for allyship in the BLM movement, and it is both possible and essential for those not directly impacted by racial injustice to support the cause.

More than “I’m not racist”

There is a huge difference between “not being racist” and being actively anti-racist. We know that allyship of the BLM movement is necessary in creating change, but someone who promises never to engage in racist behaviour will not create the same change as those who promise to work towards removing the racism still present in today’s society.

Another common issue is the claim of “I don’t see colour”. This phrase immediately removes this individual from the fight against racism. This person takes a back seat. Why? Because they have completely disregarded every ounce of culture, struggle and significance within the various races of ethnic minority groups.

If we fail to acknowledge a person’s experiences, we invalidate them. We ignore parts of their identity and, in the case of racism, pretend that there was never a problem.

Instead, it is essential to acknowledge the inequalities around us so that we can not just overcome or move past from them, but so that we can completely transform the various societal systems that put these inequalities in place.

How to learn more

Yes, social media has been an incredible tool to bring attention to the current issues of racism and to the BLM movement, however it is also important to remember that this isn’t just a media trend!

This is a real issue for real people, and so looking for resources and information in your own time can be helpful to gain perspective and wider knowledge.

The news coverage in recent weeks has been helpful in keeping up to date with current events, although it’s always helpful to remember that some videos and articles can be manipulated to only present one side of an issue, so looking at several sources can be helpful in forming a more accurate representation.

There are also various podcasts, TED Talks and online accounts that provide an incredibly insightful and informative presentation of the BLM movement (see below for some recommendations). Looking at statistics of current racial violence and inequalities can also be a useful way of understanding the true gravity of the situation.

Personally, I have found it incredibly insightful to read books that cover the topic of racial injustice and the BLM movement. In recent weeks I worked through ‘Why I’m Not Talking To White People About Race’ and I’m currently reading ‘They Can’t Kill Us All’ and I would thoroughly recommend!

How can we be allies?

  • Learn, learn, learn!
  • Donate (time or money) to causes that need support
  • Sign petitions
  • Look at the politics of your own country and use your vote wisely!
  • Attend a protest (keeping social distancing in mind)
  • Support black creators and businesses
  • Diversify your social media feed
  • Speak up – don’t be afraid to have conversations with people who have different opinions; these conversations are often the most essential!

Useful Ted Talks

Social media accounts to follow:

  • Firstly, look for local Black owned small businesses in your area! (Most will have social media accounts and I love to support local businesses).
  • @ajabarber has some incredibly informative Instagram posts that I would recommend to anyone looking to support the BLM movement and better educate themselves on more complex issues.
  • @wildsuga shares her incredible art on Instagram so for all my fellow artists out there who’re looking for inspiration; look no further.
  • @morganharpernichols has one of my absolute favourite accounts on Instagram and shares the most wonderful art and poetry!
  • @veekativhu has influenced me from both her YouTube and Instagram platforms from a young age. She is a study-tuber working to inspire the next generation and you’re definitely missing out if you haven’t checked out her videos (whether you’re a student or not)!

Read Faith Kachikondo’s self-care guide for those experiencing racism.

Read about Saffron’s mission to create a black-owned vegan beauty brand.

Next Steps

By Rachel Elder

Updated on 10-Jul-2020