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8 real talk tips for non-black people who want to be better allies.

'When we tell you how we feel, don’t just listen to respond. Listen to understand.'

Are you helping more than you’re hurting?

Ally(-ies) / noun (pl.) / A person who associates or cooperates with another; supporter.

A protest against police brutality in Berkeley, California in 2014. Photo by Annette Bernhardt/Flickr.


I’m an activist, and my main platform is Twitter, so I am constantly trying to help people be better to one another in whatever ways I can.

Recently, some of my followers asked me an important question: What makes a “good” ally?

Good intentions? Solidarity? No one truly has the perfect answer, but after a good hour or so, I came up with a basic set of guidelines. Here they are:

1. Don't divert the conversation.

Am I telling you that you’re not allowed to ask about other problems? Are you supposed to care about black people's struggles and only those struggles? Of course not!

What I’m saying is that, when talking about one problem, your answer shouldn’t be to ask about another. You wouldn’t go to breast cancer rallies asking, “What about brain cancer?” so please don’t do it about black lives.

2. Amplify us.

This has always been a problem with the ally-ship of the black community. It seems as though non-black people can never tell the difference between using their status to amplify our voices and speaking for or over us.

Photo via iStock.

I’m gonna be honest: We don’t need you to pretend to know our struggle because we know you don’t. Non-black people will never experience America like black people will, and that is just something you will have to accept. But we do need you to amplify our stories, to give us platforms to speak.

3. Please stop using black pain for attention.

There have been many instances in which non-black people have used our anguish for attention. This is also known as "black pain porn." It’s a tactic news outlets occasionally use when you see the overrepresentation of black people in tragedy, but it pushes the agenda that we are somehow always in turmoil.

4. If you know you have black followers on social media, be cautious of the stuff you share.

Exposure is so important in times like these when we can watch the death of black bodies like home movies anywhere, anytime. This has brought to light so many injustices, but it has also desensitized us.

Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images.

But consider how traumatizing it is to see people who look like you being murdered in the street, their bodies left to rot in the sweltering heat, glamorized and projected everywhere you look. Knowing that someone was killed for just looking the way you do and that their killer will likely receive no repercussions does something unexplainable to your psyche. So, when we ask you not to post anymore videos of black bodies dying, please respect that.

5. Join organizations that help us. Black Lives Matter isn’t the only source of support.

Listen, not all of us are big fans of the Black Lives Matter organization, but that’s not an excuse to not participate in our liberation at all. It is also not every black activist’s job to point you in the right direction. The internet is an amazing source of information — look up ways to get involved in your community.

6. When we tell you how we feel, don’t just listen to respond. Listen to understand.

Communication is important when it comes to social justice — but know the time and place for it. A perfect example is when we riot. As Martin Luther King Jr. once said, “Rioting is the language of the unheard.”

A riot is a symptom of extreme systemic problems. So hear us out. Don’t listen to my concerns to disregard them. Don’t listen to me to prove your own point. You may not understand or agree with what I experience, but that doesn’t give you the right to invalidate my feelings. You don’t have to condone our response to injustice to understand it.

Photo by Yana Paskova/Getty Images.

7. Talk to your family and friends.

If you know your surroundings are anti-black, try to fix that. Defend us when we’re not there to do it ourselves.

You’re no help to me if you’re only an ally to my face, but silent behind closed doors. All of this starts from within. Use your privilege to nip any injustice in the bud. Actions will always speak louder than words.

8. Check up on us. Our mental health is almost always overshadowed.

In the chaos that comes with movements and liberation, mental health is often pushed to the side for the sake of reaction. In fact, mental health has always been a taboo subject in the black community, so I can see how you might forget to ask, “Are you OK?”

However, it’s not fair for us to be subjected to this hate and injustice and still be expected to come out of it unscathed. Some might say, “Well, I don’t need anyone to check up on me. I’m not weak.” But that’s not the point at all, is it? It is not weak to have people care about your well-being. You’d be cheating yourself if you kept yourself from that. So ask, please ask: How are you?

What now?

Non-black allies, you don’t have to move mountains or give speeches.

Photo by Eduardo Munoz Alvarez/AFP/Getty Images.

But you can be considerate. You can listen. You can ask. You can act. You can refuse to be silent. We don’t get the luxury of ignorance. Neither should you.

All images provided by Bombas

We can all be part of the giving movement

True

We all know that small acts of kindness can turn into something big, but does that apply to something as small as a pair of socks?

Yes, it turns out. More than you might think.

A fresh pair of socks is a simple comfort easily taken for granted for most, but for individuals experiencing homelessness—they are a rare commodity. Currently, more than 500,000 people in the U.S. are experiencing homelessness on any given night. Being unstably housed—whether that’s couch surfing, living on the streets, or somewhere in between—often means rarely taking your shoes off, walking for most if not all of the day, and having little access to laundry facilities. And since shelters are not able to provide pre-worn socks due to hygienic reasons, that very basic need is still not met, even if some help is provided. That’s why socks are the #1 most requested clothing item in shelters.

homelessness, bombasSocks are a simple comfort not everyone has access to

When the founders of Bombas, Dave Heath and Randy Goldberg, discovered this problem, they decided to be part of the solution. Using a One Purchased = One Donated business model, Bombas helps provide not only durable, high-quality socks, but also t-shirts and underwear (the top three most requested clothing items in shelters) to those in need nationwide. These meticulously designed donation products include added features intended to offer comfort, quality, and dignity to those experiencing homelessness.

Over the years, Bombas' mission has grown into an enormous movement, with more than 75 million items donated to date and a focus on providing support and visibility to the organizations and people that empower these donations. These are the incredible individuals who are doing the hard work to support those experiencing —or at risk of—homelessness in their communities every day.

Folks like Shirley Raines, creator of Beauty 2 The Streetz. Every Saturday, Raines and her team help those experiencing homelessness on Skid Row in Los Angeles “feel human” with free makeovers, haircuts, food, gift bags and (thanks to Bombas) fresh socks. 500 pairs, every week.

beauty 2 the streetz, skid row laRaines is out there helping people feel their beautiful best

Or Director of Step Forward David Pinson in Cincinnati, Ohio, who offers Bombas donations to those trying to recover from addiction. Launched in 2009, the Step Forward program encourages participation in community walking/running events in order to build confidence and discipline—two major keys to successful rehabilitation. For each marathon, runners are outfitted with special shirts, shoes—and yes, socks—to help make their goals more achievable.

step forward, helping homelessness, homeless non profitsRunning helps instill a sense of confidence and discipline—two key components of successful recovery

Help even reaches the Front Street Clinic of Juneau, Alaska, where Casey Ploof, APRN, and David Norris, RN give out free healthcare to those experiencing homelessness. Because it rains nearly 200 days a year there, it can be very common for people to get trench foot—a very serious condition that, when left untreated, can require amputation. Casey and Dave can help treat trench foot, but without fresh, clean socks, the condition returns. Luckily, their supply is abundant thanks to Bombas. As Casey shared, “people will walk across town and then walk from the valley just to come here to get more socks.”

step forward clinic, step forward alaska, homelessness alaskaWelcome to wild, beautiful and wet Alaska!

The Bombas Impact Report provides details on Bombas’s mission and is full of similar inspiring stories that show how the biggest acts of kindness can come from even the smallest packages. Since its inception in 2013, the company has built a network of over 3,500 Giving Partners in all 50 states, including shelters, nonprofits and community organizations dedicated to supporting our neighbors who are experiencing- or at risk- of homelessness.

Their success has proven that, yes, a simple pair of socks can be a helping hand, an important conversation starter and a link to humanity.

You can also be a part of the solution. Learn more and find the complete Bombas Impact Report by clicking here.

via UNSW

This article originally appeared on 07.10.21


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