How To Be A ‘Black Lives Matter’ Ally

It is fair to say that we are all still recovering from the shock of recent events with George Floyd’s murder in the United States. The injustice of his murder has reverberated across the world and left us all wondering what we could do better to achieve equality for all people. 

So many of our members are asking how they can be allies of black women and more generally allies of diversity and inclusion in the workplace. 

We all have some experience of how it feels to be marginalised in the workplace due to our gender. Still, I would confidently say that our experiences as women do not compare to the institutional prejudice that black and brown people more generally can be subjected to based on their race in the West. 

As a black woman in the West, I would also say that I encounter more instances of racial discrimination than I do of sexism. However, when I visit Africa, my main challenge is sexism.

I have found in all my travels and work that the challenge we face as women is not unique. Still, depending on your race, sexuality, religion and disability, it will intersect with other societal prejudices. 

So I’m delighted that as a diverse and inclusive community of women and some male allies, our members are asking us how they can support and be useful allies of the Black Live Matter campaign. 

Here are a few suggestions on how you can approach it:  

Self Inquiry
Most people are unable to be effective allies because they assume that all issues of discrimination are similar. Although the experiences of black and gay people may bear some similarities, they are not the same issue as they have their root in different societal constructs. So please make sure you are aware of the history of the black lives matter movement, the role of Africa and Europeans in a shared history of colonisation, to the ongoing racing profiling and workplace discrimination that particular races face in the UK. 

Ask your colleague what their experiences are
Try to ask them about their experiences in an open and non-judgmental manner with the onus on you to listen. The environment and setting this happens is crucial to get honesty and truth sharing. It is important to create a safe environment without recrimination or punitive consequences if voices are to be heard. Be prepared that your own values and beliefs may be challenged. 

Language Matters
Race is a complicated issue to talk about – period. Black people don’t like talking about race any more than white people do. Suppose you have had no prior exposure to the experiences of others outside of your social and racial circle, you must be open-minded and learn the dos and don’ts when it comes to talking about race. For example, some people are comfortable with the term Afro-Caribbean whilst others insist on being called African-Caribbean. Employers should give their people the training and tools to talk about race.

New mindset
Adopt a zero-tolerance mindset and attitude in your work and make a personal commitment to speak up – for yourself and others in ANY circumstance where prejudice and discrimination are being voiced and acted on openly. This should apply to our homes as well as our workplace.  

Everyone needs a voice
Seek viewpoints from different people in your teams. Some people have become used to being openly overlooked and discriminated that they find it safer for their self-preservation to lay low and quiet. So bear this in mind and actively seek to hear from those silent voices in the room. 

Speak truth to power
The most challenging thing to do is to challenge authority as we are all scared of the repercussions, but without speaking truth to our leaders and authority figures, we risk repeating the past.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the US Representative for New York gives us an excellent example of that in her speech below where she cites specific examples and offers a decisive corrective action.

We all have a lot to learn, and every one of us has an opportunity to be part of the solution. I hope you will take up the opportunity to use your voice to bring change where-ever you find yourself. 

Are you a member of FL, if not, we support our members with the skills and confidence needed to speak their truth. Join us to find out how HERE.

*Written by Griselda Togobo