Dear well-meaning white friends

If you are outraged at the killings of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile, and other black men and women -

If you want to be allies in achieving the goals of the LGBTQ2S community and Black Lives Matter, and in particular the Black Lives Matter-Toronto chapter’s action at Toronto’s Pride Parade -

If you are a white person who, like me, is outraged, devastated, made sick by how black people and other marginalized communities are continually, violently oppressed by this system built on fear, power, and racism — by the system that we are part of, and complicit in -

Dear well-meaning white friends, if this is you — as it is me — this is what we need to do.

1.Educate ourselves

As Ijeoma Oluo said so well, after Walter Scott was shot in the back by a cop in 2015,

“Dear well-meaning white friends… Your black friends are busy working through their own grief while trying to stay alive — they don’t have space for your feelings and they don’t have time to educate you.
These conversations are rooted in a fundamental misunderstanding of racism and racial oppression in America: It’s not black America’s problem, it’s yours.”

We white people can and must educate ourselves, in order to take ownership of addressing systemic racism.

Learn about what happened at Pride 2016

Buzzfeed has a really good rundown of events. Go have a look at that. I’ll wait here.


Learn about the history and present of inclusiveness at Pride

  • Pride is rooted in radical political action, sparked by the June 1969 protests at Stonewall Inn that were led in large part by queer and transgender people of color. Listen to Dave Isay’s radio documentary about the Stonewall riots, which was also recently featured by 99% Invisible (we white people love podcasts and Roman Mars’ leathery voice).
  • Several groups have and still critique the Pride movement for its lack of inclusiveness. For example, the Dyke March exists “because we [queer women and dyke-identified people] are not fully represented in the Pride movement or in mainstream society”.
  • Some white members of the LGBTQ2S community are acknowledging that many of the victories of the gay rights movement privilege middle-class white men, and as a result are seen by other members of this community — such as black folks — as only partial victories, because they don’t include all members of the community. John Ibbitson wrote a piece from this perspective.
  • It’s also important to use respectful language when speaking to or about the LGBTQ2S community. This glossary of terms by TransWhat? is a great resource, for example if you’re wondering things like, what’s the difference between ‘gender’ and ‘sex’ “, or “what gender-neutral pronouns are best to use?”

Learn about Black Lives Matter-Toronto and their action at Toronto Pride 2016, by listening to people of color

Learn about systemic violence and racism by the police force against black people.

Learn through the stories of black people who have been targeted and killed by police. Speak their names. Bear witness.

These are only a few of the many:

  • Alton Sterling was shot and killed by a police officers on Tuesday July 5 in Baton Rouge, while pinned down by two police in a parking lot.
  • Philando Castile was shot and killed by a police officer on Wednesday July 6, 2016 in Minnesota, while he and his girlfriend were in their car after being pulled over for a routine traffic stop.
  • Andrew Loku was shot and killed by a police officer on July 4, 2015 in Toronto, while in his apartment.
  • Jermaine Carby was shot and killed by police on September 25, 2015 in Brampton, during a routine traffic stop.
  • Also, learn about the contentious practice of police carding in Toronto, which disproportionately targets black people. A good place to start is with this, this, and this series.

Learn how to respond to people who try to take down Black Lives Matter by saying “All Lives Matter”

Start with this guide to debunking the need for “All Lives Matter” and its rhetorical cousins.

2. Set ourselves up to learn more

Join Black Lives Matter-Toronto on Facebook and Twitter.

I think this is the best way to keep in touch with what’s happening in real-time. Note that Black Lives Matter-Toronto will at times lead events or discussions specifically for people of color only. It is important for us to support and be respectful of the need for a community to make plans with community members, and as allies our role is to support — not create or be represented in — those plans.

3. Help other well-meaning white friends, parents, colleagues learn

It’s shitty to acknowledge, but a white person is in a better position to influence the perspectives of other white people. This is where we need to use our privilege for change.

It is not black people’s job to educate white people about racism and oppression. It’s our job to educate ourselves and each other. Start by:

  • Sharing the any of the links above, or this post, on Facebook, Twitter, email. Tag people who you think would be especially interested or could benefit from the info.
  • Contributing to conversations about the issue — speak up especially when you sense a racist tone (even a subtle one). People are talking about this on street corners, around water coolers across the country. You’ve educated yourself, so use that knowledge to get people to recognize when they’re speaking from a place of bias and help folks see issues from different perspectives. There’s a great chance you’ll influence people’s thinking or even change minds, especially among friends and family.

4. Support with money

There’s at times a weird resistance to donating cash to support a cause, but giving money is often the most effective and helpful action you can take.

By giving money, we’re enabling the leaders of a movement or the family of a victim to focus on the most important work— creating change and/or caring for their loved ones — instead of finding supplies or putting food on the table.

This is vital and important.

5. Write our representatives

You have more pull than you might think with political and other representatives.

If you believe Black Lives Matter-Toronto should be heard and have their demands met, or have other thoughts to share, please tell:

Originally published at Sam Burton.