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My Education Process To Becoming A More Effective White Ally

How to become a more effective White Ally
Photo by Mike Von on Unsplash

When I started researching resources for this blog post last week, I was under the misguided assumption I was already a White Ally. I thought because I simply wasn’t a racist person, and because I had shared my outrage about the continued disregard for the value of Black Lives in our society, and because I had been donating money to organizations like the NAACP, and to local Bail Funds, that I was doing my job as a White Ally. The truth of the matter is:

what I thought White Allyship was, and what it actually is, are two completely different things

I was brought up in New York City, in a liberal household, attending schools that prided themselves in diversity. My friends and family are a diverse bunch, and I have spoken a lot to my friends in our small Connecticut town about my concern that my kids are not growing up in an environment that is as reflective of the country’s (and the world’s) diversity as mine was growing up. We moved here because it is Kyle’s Hometown, and we had a dream to renovate a historic home. Having these conversations with my friends made me feel like I was doing something. Speaking out against racism (when media-covered racist events happened) made me feel like I was doing something. Choosing to end friend or family relationships with people I discovered held racist beliefs made me feel like I was doing something. Donating money made me feel like I was doing something. 

How to become a more effective White Ally
Photo by Donovan Valdivia on Unsplash

What those things DID NOT do was open my eyes to the work I should have been doing all along, which was educating myself about how I could have been unknowingly upholding systems of white supremacy by allowing my own privilege to go unchecked and unacknowledged. What loving, and caring about, my black friends and family members DID NOT do was to make me truly understand the context of their daily experiences, or how my white privilege was benefitting me – and oppressing them.

And for that I am truly, deeply sorry. 

I have spent the past week researching and trying to better educate myself on how I can become a real White Ally for my Black friends and family, and for the readers and followers of this space. I have decided to share the important information I’ve learned during this process, here, so that anyone here who is White and calls themselves an Ally can take a long hard look at whether or not that’s actually true, and what we all can do to do better. 

Consider this my Syllabus for my own journey, one that won’t be completed in a week, or a month, or even a year.  And it should take a while – this should be a process we as White People (and especially me as a White Woman) should do and continue to re-examine for a long time. I invite you to go on this journey with me, to challenge yourself, and the ways you thought you were doing enough. This process is not easy. It is introspective and humbling, and uncomfortable, and shameful. But our discomfort in doing it is one minuscule sliver of the discomfort felt by BIPOC in our country every single day.  When I feel the shame and discomfort of this work, I pause and sit in it.  I feel that feeling, and I learn from it. Then I’ll take that education and apply it to the choices I make moving forward.

WHERE I’M STARTING:

IDENTIFYING MY PRIVILEGE

Photo by Mike Von on Unsplash

I’ve now realized that it’s not enough for me, and other white people, to simply not be racist. We must be actively ANTI-racist, and the only way to practice anti-racist allyship is by doing the work. The uncomfortable work. Reaching deep down into our hearts and laying bare the ways in which we, as White people, have benefited from a system of oppression and deep-rooted systemic racism – despite the fact that we may feel great empathy, rage, and sadness for our Black friends and family.

DESPITE THE FACT THAT THE THOUGHT OF THESE BENEFITS MIGHT MAKE US SICK WITH SHAME.

It is true nevertheless and demands to be investigated and reckoned with. By doing this work as White people, we become better educated, better equipped, and more conscious about our inherent biases, and thereby more capable of dismantling institutions of oppression. 

This video was so helpful for me in terms of understanding White Privilege:

Deconstructing White Privilege with Dr. Robin DiAngelo

NEXT UP:

Educating Myself, And My Children

Photo by Mike Von on Unsplash

Listening To Black People, POC and BIPOC:


Here are some accounts I’m following to listen to, to better understand my White Privilege, and to learn what I can do to be a true Ally. I’ve learned it’s imperative that I not ask Black people to educate me or do the work for me. I go to these accounts to consume and learn from the content they already have up. If I have a question, I google it or ask another White person who might know the answer.

Photo by Mike Von on Unsplash

Podcasts & Media:


Black Feminism & the Movement for Black Lives: Barbara Smith, Reina Gossett, Charlene Carruthers
Photo by Donovan Valdivia on Unsplash

Essential Articles:


Photo by Donovan Valdivia on Unsplash

Books I’m Reading:


Here are books I’m committing to reading in order to further my education. I’m linking to black-owned bookstores whenever possible, to local booksellers when not, and to larger retailers only when the book in question isn’t sold elsewhere, but please try to buy from your own local bookstores if you can!

Photo by frankie cordoba on Unsplash

Educational Resources for kids:


It’s always been important to me to see all ethnicities represented in the books my children read, but I’m vowing to do better about teaching my kids through literature about racial injustice and the history of the Black Experience in our country. Here are some books I’m buying now:

Common Sense Media also has a great list of age-appropriate children’s books from the Coretta Scott King Book Award Winners which can be found here.

AMPLIFYING BLACK BUSINESSES & CREATORS:

Photo by Donovan Valdivia on Unsplash

My Instagram feed is primarily photos of me and my kids – and we are White. I understand that this creates a lack of diversity in my feed and that that isn’t ideal, even if it isn’t by design.

I also happen to live in an extremely White town and attend events with other White women who live in and around my town – which end up on my social media and stories. 

I fully realize that all of this “Whiteness” isn’t ideal in my journey to be more inclusive, even if it isn’t intentional.  And though my friend and family group from my life, as a whole, IS diverse, that isn’t represented in my day-to-day because it’s not my daily experience in Westport, Connecticut. 

I struggle with this because I would never want to tokenize my black friends, or family members, or actively seek out friends just because they’re POC and would make my IG feed more diverse to assuage the criticism of my “very White feed” (that would be insane).

What I CAN do is to do my part to ask event organizers hard questions about inclusion, to ask myself hard questions about my friend group in my town, and to absolutely be critical and antiracist in the conversations I have with the people around me. I can also continue to prop up creators and influencers who are BIPOC in an organic way, in the hopes that my respect for these creators can contribute more visibly to the diversity of the brand I promote and make BIPOC feel more included on my page.

These are some black-owned brands I love, but it’s important to me to continue my exploration with this – to partner with more diverse brands in the future, and with ones that celebrate diversity in a more vocal and visible way:

Here is a great resource to locate black-owned businesses!

DONATE:

Photo by frankie cordoba on Unsplash

Lastly, here are the organizations and causes I have donated to in the last week. Donating should never be where the buck ends with these types of social causes. It’s GREAT to donate what we all can, and is vital to helping organizations dismantle systems of oppression by working to change policy.  But educating ourselves and our children, in tandem with donation, is absolutely crucial to upending systemic racism:




Note: The resources listed in this post are obviously by no means comprehensive.  I know that. These are the ones I have found on my own, AND the ones that helpful people have shared with me in order to share with you.  I appreciate this sharing of information and encourage you to continue to share with me here should you feel so inclined.  I will add to this also if I come across additional pertinent information! Thank you for joining me here!

xo EA

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15 Comments

  1. Alexa Cato says:

    Eva, as a WOC, this post begs the question: how many black friends do you have? I have see not ONE on your blog or IG.

    06.04.20 Reply
    • Hi Alexa,
      Are you asking for a number of how many black friends I have?

      I addressed the whiteness of my friend group here in CT in this post (where I have lived for several years), however, if you do go back to the archives of HEA from when I lived in Los Angeles you will find blog posts that feature some of my friends of color (the ones who feel comfortable being publicly featured). Definitely read those if you like! They’re amazing women.

      06.04.20 Reply
      • Alexa Cato says:

        What you write in your reply to me directly contradicts what you wrote in your post:

        “I struggle with this because I would never want to tokenize my black friends, or family members, or actively seek out friends just because they’re POC and would make my IG feed more diverse to assuage the criticism of my “very White feed” (that would be insane).”

        Why mention how many POC you were friends with in LA?

        06.04.20 Reply
        • You asked me why I don’t have any POC on my blog. So I told you that I do, and if you are interested, you can find it!

          06.04.20 Reply
  2. Mary G says:

    Please share what makes you feel uncomfortable in this process of learning and change because you can help others identify similar feelings and address behaviors in their lives that foster inequity.Many people who would never express racist opinions still act as they are separated from the black community and would not easily hire, work with, befriend, marry or vote for a black person.Unfortunately it is not only a matter of color, it is a also a matter of poor and rich.It is complicated and that’s why it is so difficult.Poor black people are the true victims of racism, they are made to feel less than while wealthy and educated black people I am sure dont have such problems to the same extent.People who donate are usually wealthy and I guess they would never ever have any kind of equal relationship with the black people of lower socioeconomical background for whom they donate.Tell me please, as ancient and horrible and whatever it might sound, would you feel inside absolutely comfortable with your sons marrying black girls ?

    06.04.20 Reply
    • Hi Mary,
      So yes, first of all, I would absolutely be comfortable with my sons marrying black girls (or boys, if that is who they love). I also hope that the work I am now doing to identify and come to terms with my white privilege and educate myself would make any new or old member of my family feel more seen, understood, and loved in a way that is more self aware from me.

      The discomfort through this process (so far) has been the embarrassment and shame that I was very unaware of my own position within a framework that I have been criticizing for years. It makes me feel stupid to realize that doing what I was doing was never enough and that I have been contributing to what I see as a very very wrong system. That’s not easy to realize since it goes against my heart and my intentions. But it’s important to realize how we have been hurtful when we have, in my opinion, even if that isn’t comfortable to feel.
      It’s even harder to admit to these things in a public way, by writing about them on a blog post. But I am happy to do it because I think it’s a necessary part of the process xx

      06.04.20 Reply
      • Mary G says:

        Eva, thank you for your reply! It is important that you choose to become part of a process that educates and encourages people to step outside their comfort zone and DO something rather than just discussing and fuming about racism.

        06.04.20 Reply
  3. Kym says:

    Hi Eva!

    Thank you for all the work and obvious thoughtfulness you are putting into the process of becoming a true ALLY! This past week has truly been painful and horrifying as a POC. I am doing a lot of soul searching and checking my own privilege as I have not struggled in any of the ways that we are seeing so prominently now. It’s a gut punch, for sure. And yet, I feel HOPEFUL. I feel as though we have turned a corner. Real and meaningful change is FINALLY in sight – you can feel it’s electric charge in the air…

    It’s never too late for change and to educate yourself. I very much appreciate your vulnerability and transparency in doing so. This is not easy, and nor should it be. I read a wonderful and uplifting true story this evening that truly solidified that for me and will share a link here – please read the entire thread:

    https://mobile.twitter.com/KennyDeForest/status/1268288525234876416

    Don’t be discouraged on your journey. Keep doing the work and keep pushing forward, despite any negativity and criticism from any direction. Let your past actions or perceived inactions rest in the past – you are part of the solution now. And that is what truly matters.

    I wish you and your beautiful children (and future allies!) love, health, and wealth. Best wishes, my friend!

    06.04.20 Reply
  4. Sue Williamson says:

    Where did you get this absolutely CRAZY idea that all white people are racist in the U.S. or that systemic racism exists in the U.S. today.As a professor of U.S. History, I must explain that SYSTEMIC RACISM was a govt program implemented by the Nazis in Germany prior to W.W. II. It is a POLITICAL STRATEGY that targets a race FOR ELIMINATION and then systematically MURDERS those people to destroy the race. THERE IS NO SUCH GOVT SYSTEM IN THE U.S. To think so is preposterous and very WRONG! You’re thinking is distorted.

    06.05.20 Reply
    • Mia says:

      whoopsie sue — your whiteness is showing. To think the US government, or US city’s police have not been molded into eliminating the black race you need to be a better person and history professor…. I truly hope you take the time to look at what is going on in this country and see that there is a systemic issue of race. Live in understand & leave in love.

      06.08.20 Reply
    • Hi Sue,
      I highly recommend you watch the Ava DuVernay documentary The 13th. I’m linking it here.

      06.08.20 Reply
  5. H says:

    I believe in lifting and helping black people in this country and getting rid of injustices and unfairness. I believe that what happened to George Floyd was wrong and never, ever should have happened. But, I will not lift him up as a martyr and a hero. I won’t wear a shirt and celebrate him. He has a rap sheet a mile long, he and 5 other black men broke into the house of a pregnant black woman under the guise of being employees of a local company and then held a gun to her stomach and threatened to kill her baby and her if she moved. He was high on meth and other substances when he used counterfeit bills to purchase goods when he was arrested. He should have been arrested, but not abused and killed. Is he a good person? No. Is he a martyr and a hero? No. Is he a man that should be the face of a civil rights movement for all black people? NO. Let’s lift our black brothers and sister up and call for fairness because we should. Not in the name of someone who is a violent criminal. When I see injustice of black people, I will use my white privilege to speak up and level the playing field. I protest, I support, I contribute to the cause. But George Floyd was not a good man. He’s not a martyr and he’s not a hero.

    06.08.20 Reply
  6. H says:

    Everyone, go watch Candace Owens video on George Floyd. The facts, and the real problems need to be heard.

    06.08.20 Reply
  7. Calley says:

    Thank you for this! Well researched, well written and appreciated.

    07.01.20 Reply
  8. Margo Tomsey says:

    Thank you for this syllabus. It shows that you put a lot of time and care into compiling this “list”. It’s a great place for me to start and I will continue to visit this page to look for resources to deepen my knowledge and understanding.

    07.01.20 Reply