Being an Ally - Photo by Sam Walker via Flickr

Black History Month is a time for Black and/or African Americans to celebrate the history and heritage that defines our livelihood and presence in the United States. It is a time of remembrance and honor toward our ancestors, the process we have made as Americans and the persistent fight to reach a point of equality.

In the current political and social climate in the U.S., there’s still a clear vision we want to achieve — the point to where Black history is recognized every day of the year and the U.S. normalizes the Black narrative.

Yet, there’s still racial and social tensions on the rise in the nation following the COVID-19 pandemic, Black Lives Matter protests and the 2020 presidential election.

2021 hasn’t made the tensions much better, with recent cases of racism toward Asian Americans and cases of harassment towards Black Americans during a time of celebration.

In light of these recent tensions, here’s a few ways to be an ally to the Black community:

Understand what it means to have privilege

Privilege is a term that has been discussed for quite a few years, and with reiterating the term, it is important to recognize the racial privilege an individual has in the U.S., and across the world. As a Black woman with lighter skin, I have privileges that my darker-skinned family, friends and peers do not. Recognize privilege for what it is — a structure where some advance in a society where others are not provided the same advantages. Black people are striving for equality, but there’s still the existence of racial privilege that still needs to be recognized.

Learn about Black history

February is a significant month to learn about the history of Black Americans and the long process that has led us here today. Our history is expansive, yet it is lessened and the only part of our history that is spoken of is slavery and the Civil Rights era. As important as those aspects are to talk about, there’s more to Black history than simply those two eras. I recommend looking into Black history from the start of the Transatlantic Slave Trade to the beginning of the Black Lives Matter movement. Black history is American history so start researching the untold narratives.

Ask questions, but don’t rely on Black people to be your teacher

Questions are an important part to understanding, learning and growing in one’s knowledge of a subject. The same goes for Black culture and history; questions are a vital part to understanding and learning about the experiences of Black people in the U.S. But, sometimes questions are overbearing when a Black individual is the sole source for answers. Black people are not the source of information for each question, that’s the point of researching. Overreaching questions can lead to anxiety- or trauma-inducing responses for Black individuals. If you have a specific question you’d like to ask, check first to make sure a Black individual is okay with answering it. If not, Google is your next resource where you can find written articles, essays and other resources to account the Black experience.

Show up and support your Black friends

At the end of the day, the support of non-Black individuals is the key to amplifying Black voices and the Black narrative. It also feels great to know others are supporting me as a Black individual, and that they’re wanting to understand my experience without invalidating it. Listening, learning and supporting your Black friends helps to move towards the utopic future idealized for the U.S., where all Americans are represented, because liberty and justice is for all.

If you are looking for specific resources on being an ally to the Black community, get started here.

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