How to Be an Ally

in the fight against racism


Racism can be a difficult topic to discuss. With the turmoil we’ve been experiencing, not just in the US, but throughout the world, we may not be sure where to begin. We soul search. We talk to our family and friends, our colleagues, our neighbors. We may feel confused or embarrassed to think that we see ourselves one way when others may see the opposite. We fear making a mistake or offending someone, so we say and do nothing.

Racism is nothing new. We marched for civil rights back in the 1960s. We were influenced by TV programs like All in the Family and In the Heat of the Night, where controversial issues like racism were depicted and explored. We wonder how and why it is that half a century later we are fighting the same battles.

Sometimes we need to hear what the experts are saying, especially when white people want to be an ally in the fight against racial injustice.

Educator, writer and activist Paul Kivel is the author of Guidelines for Being Strong White Allies. He writes, “Over the years, people of color that I have talked with have been remarkably consistent in describing the kinds of support they need from white allies.” Included are, “Respect us, teach your children about racism, and find out about us.” Also, “Don’t assume you know what’s best for me, don’t make assumptions, and persevere daily.”

Kivel offers some general guidelines:

  • Assume racism is everywhere, every day
  • Notice who is the center of attention and who is the center of power
  • Notice how racism is denied, minimized, and justified
  • Learn something about the history of white people who have worked for racial justice
  • Don’t do it alone
  • Talk with your children and other young people about racism
  • Understand and learn from the history of whiteness and racism
  • Understand the connections between racism, economic issues, sexism, and other forms of injustice
  • Take a stand against injustice
  • Be strategic
  • Don’t call names or be personally abusive
  • Support the leadership of people of color

He reminds us, “You will not end racism by yourself. We can do it if we work together. Build support, establish networks, and work with already established groups.”
Erin Carson, a staff reporter for CNET, recently wrote a helpful article,

“In the fight for racial justice, here’s what white allyship looks like”

“The basic concept (of being an ally) relates to becoming educated about racial issues and supporting anti-racism efforts through action.” Her advice includes, “Listen more than you speak; don’t assume you know everything; don’t get defensive when you don’t know everything; apologize when you get something wrong; remember that being an ally isn’t about you or your feelings; don’t expect a gold star for not being racist. And that’s just to start.”

You may want to check out White Allyship 101: Resources to Get to Work at According to the website, “The Dismantle Collective desires to be a starting point for white allies to do the work and engage in analysis, education, and action on anti-racism.”

Further, “A white ally acknowledges the limits of her/his/their knowledge about other people’s experiences but doesn’t use that as a reason not to think and/or act. A white ally does not remain silent but confronts racism as it comes up daily, but also seeks to deconstruct it institutionally and live in a way that challenges systemic oppression, at the risk of experiencing some of that oppression. Being a white ally entails building relationships with both people of color, and also with white people in order to challenge them in their thinking about race. White allies don’t have it all figured out but are deeply committed to non-complacency.”
The best advice may be some of the oldest: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”  


Judith A. Rucki is a public relations consultant and freelance writer.


Books for Allies

Since the protests sparked by the killing of George Floyd on May 25, local and national booksellers have seen a surge of interest in titles on racism. Some independent stores have reported the majority of bestselling adult books pertained to the topic.

Jane Henderson, book editor of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, cites these popular titles:

The Fire Next Time by James Baldwin
Me and White Supremacy by Layla F. Saad
The Color of Law by Richard Rothstein
How to be an Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi
White Rage by Carol Anderson, PhD
So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo
White Fragility by Robin Diangelo
Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson
Stamped and Stamped from the Beginning by Ibram X. Kendi
Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria? by Beverly Daniel Tatum, PhD
The Broken Heart of America by Walter Johnson
Antiracist Baby by Ibram X. Kendi
Conversations in Black by Ed Gordon
The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander




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