20+ Ways White Writers Can Support the Black Community

How to use your privilege for some honest good.

Shannon Ashley
Jun 4, 2020 · 14 min read
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GTorres | Pixabay

1. Educate yourself on the realities of racism.

Dr. Kendi recently published “The American Nightmare” in The Atlantic and on testified last week at a US House of Representatives hearing about the pandemic’s disproportionate impact on people of color. You can follow the professor and historian on Twitter for an informative feed.

2. Research the roots of American law enforcement and mass incarceration.

Law enforcement has never been friendly to the Black community. This is never more apparent than in the baseless murders of men like George Floyd and Philando Castile, or, in the school-to-prison pipeline. The ACLU has done a good job of explaining how we fail Black students in school and how those failures lead to higher incarceration rates. This morning, The New York Times opened its daily newsletter by looking at the ways mass incarceration has shaped Black lives in America.

It is sobering, and you can read the full Briefing here, but I’m including a lengthy screenshot because it’s far too important to miss.

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Your Wednesday Briefing by David Leonhardt at The New York Times

3. Swallow the pill of white privilege.

But as soon as you feel like your back is against the wall because somebody brought up your privilege, that’s the time to ask yourself what’s really going on. You’re having a strong emotional reaction for a reason and the simplest way to put it?

The truth hurts.

4. Read more Black authors.

If you’re not reading the work of many Black writers, you are likely to miss the diversity among those voices.

5. Watch more Black programming.

A lot of people might think it doesn’t matter, but by doing so we perpetuate the notion that Black people are “other,” and somehow, inferior.

As you expand your horizons with entertainment, be sure to check out educational videos about life in America as a Black person. On Amazon, you can rent Rondo: Beyond the Pavement, which might help you better understand some of the anger in the Twin Cities (where I was born and raised). Warner Bros. recently made Just Mercy available to stream for free.

6. Write about what you are learning.

You are also not here to tell Black people how to react or how to feel. Unless you’re voicing an honest apology and sincere promise to do, you are not writing to the Black community about racism. Our job as white writers is to learn how to do better, and then encourage other white people to also do better.

By all means, please be open and honest about your journey. Other white people need to know how you went from insisting that white privilege didn’t exist to demanding reparations for Black people. We need to make it okay for people to change their ways. And we need to cover such journeys... without drowning out Black voices.

7. Stop complaining about things like “reverse racism” and “the race card.”

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8. Let your audience know where you stand on Black Lives Matter.

I’m in a Facebook group for mom entrepreneurs, and it’s got more than 50K members. Recently, the white leader began deleting posts that mentioned support for the BLM movement. When some members rightfully questioned this, she went on Facebook Live to explain herself and it was an absolute train wreck.

The video is filled with cringe-worthy (yet very common) white reactions. The group leader complains that all of this suddenly blew up and she didn’t get any time, as if it isn’t about another sudden murder of a Black man. She made the unrest all about her and her feelings. How she’s not a bad person. And she used lots of loaded language, including why she needs to “police this group a lot.”

She runs a Facebook group of more than 50 thousand women, yet she couldn’t bring herself to even say the words “Black” or “people of color.” And somehow, she wound up crying about how much folks hate her and that all of this is so unfair… for her. (We’ll talk about those white tears later).

The aftermath of her video has been intense. It’s horrifying to see all of the righteous white privilege flaring up in new posts and comments. An alarming amount of white women don’t believe racism or the hate the Black community faces “belong” in any discussions about business.

Frankly, it’s hard to see that stance as anything but racist.

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9. Fact-check the stories and images you share on social media.

If you do a Google search on that image, you’ll find out that the boy’s white mothers murdered him and his five Black adopted siblings. It is a horrifying murder-suicide that made national news. It also opened a startling history of abuse that was ignored by multiple states, including my home state of Minnesota. Apparently, the mothers made their children give out those “free hugs” for the photo ops.

The last thing we need to do is exalt images which have harmed the Black community for White gain.

Of course, there are other images being shared that have been fabricated or misattributed. The only way to reduce the flow of misinformation is to fact-check those posts before we like and share.

10. Understand that terms like “rioting and looting” are intentional and racially charged.

In his story, “Who Exactly Is Doing the Looting, and Who’s Being Looted,” David Sirota writes,

To really understand the deep programming at work here, consider how the word “looting” is almost never used to describe the plundering that has become the routine policy of our government at a grand scale that is far larger than a vandalized Target store.

When white people start complaining about rioting and looting, we need to ask ourselves why only certain thefts and certain murders upset us.

11. Advocate for Black writers.

As white people, we have shaped the American narrative for long enough. Now it’s completely filtered and biased through our eyes.

Just like white actors should keep their hands off of Black roles, white writers should be very careful about snatching opportunities which would be better served by Black writers.

So, let’s hold space for those who have been crowded out.

12. Write Black characters, but write them well.

Commit to writing real Black characters. Commit to building literary worlds that upend rather than support our existing racial biases.

13. Remember that you have the luxury of checking out in a way that Black writers can’t.

But let’s be honest. I’m a single working mom living 1,000 miles away. I get to avert my eyes. I get to live my life.

So, if things have been getting “too heavy” in the news lately, keep in mind that white people typically do have the privilege to close our eyes to all of it. Society doesn’t make us think about race when our skin matches “the standard.” But those with Black skin cannot get away and just ignore the oppression.

I’m not saying that our mental health doesn’t matter or that taking care of ourselves and our families is wrong. We need to understand, however, that the breaks we take to “recoup,” “checkout,” or whatever, are the same breaks Black people simply don’t get.

14. Quit saying you’re colorblind.

To be colorblind is to say that racism doesn’t exist. It ignores the awful realities Black people face every day. We can’t afford to “see no color” — it’s killing the Black community and causing us as white people to never question our hidden (and not so secret) biases.

15. Admit that you don’t have the answers.

The myth of the white savior is destructive and insulting. It also drowns out the voices of folks who actually know what the hell they’re talking about.

Throughout American history, white people have rewritten reality to place themselves front and center. The best way to combat this propensity is to be honest that we’re not (and will never be) qualified to have all the answers.

16. Accept that this is not about you and your feelings.

In case you missed it, white tears are a part of “white fragility.”

"White Tears" is phrase to describe what happens when certain types of White people either complain about a nonexistent racial injustice or are upset by a non-White person’s success at the expense of a White person. It encompasses (and makes fun of) the performative struggle to acknowledge the existence of White privilege, and the reality that it aint always gonna go unchecked.

— Damon Young, White Tears, Explained, For White People Who Don’t Get It

In recent years, there’s been a vital conversation about the fact that white women, in particular, tend to use white tears as a weapon, typically against Black women. Or, at the very least, to shift responsibility away from themselves.

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BW = Black Woman, WW = White Woman

17. Confront racism in real life and online.

But who does?

When it comes to complicity, silence is violence. We’ve got to put on our big kid pants and stop letting racists go unchecked.

18. Think before you ask Black people for their help.

It’s not that you can’t or shouldn’t ask questions. But you need to be mindful and considerate. Black people have already done the work to educate white people. They’ve written the books and articles. They’ve spoken the word, shouted the words, and drawn the pain. Do your homework first.

Once you’ve done plenty of work and legitimately begin dismantling your biases, it’s natural for questions to come up. At that point, reach out to Black people but be sure to first ask them if they have the time and energy to help you. Everyone is in a different headspace right now, but Black people have been processing trauma at the hands of white people for hundreds of years. Have some common courtesy.

19. Donate whatever resources you can.

One post that’s making its rounds on Facebook with a request to copy and paste without attribution is this:

All. Hands. On. Deck.

‼️ PSA ‼️

Not everyone is made for the frontline, so don’t guilt trip yourself because you think you MUST be on the frontlines to support! This goes out especially to the disabled, chronically ill, their caretakers, nurses/doctors, grocery store workers, farmers, and all other essential persons.


💸 Donate to a BAIL FUND in your area or around the country

💊 Donate MEDICAL SUPPLIES to people working as medics at the protests

🥩 FEED PEOPLE - buy food and water, or make food, and donate it to those who are part of or affected by the protests

🥛 VOLUNTEER at non-hot zone areas to supply food and water

📢 Continue to EDUCATE the people around you - this is also emotional labor

🚗 PICK UP people from the hot-zone if they need it

🐥 Offer to WATCH KIDS if their parents are organizers and need to be on the frontline

🚨 CONFRONT RACISM wherever you see it, online and with family/friends

📲 SHARE LINKS to every resource for protestors you can find - bail funds, information for those arrested, safety precautions, updates for those in your area, etc

💰 DONATE directly to frontline people and organizations

🖋 WRITE articles and blog posts in support of the ongoing protests

📣 ORGANIZE on your jobs and in your communities for fair and equitable practices

🛌 REST is revolutionary and inherently anti-capitalist too, so do your best to rest when you can, and take care of yourself and those around you as much as possible.

*** COPY AND PASTE without attribution if you want to share ***

This is a great reminder of many things anyone can do to help support the Black community even when they feel like they don’t have a clue. Or even if they’re tired. Again, white people have the option to check out whenever we like, but these are some wonderful ways to check in and do something.

21. Place “making money” on the back burner for now.

During months where I want to do my best financially, I mostly stick to certain types of stories. But I don’t think I can continue to focus on making money right now.

Instead, I am deeply convicted to keep speaking out and voicing my support for Black Lives Matter. That doesn’t mean I won’t take breaks to write about other issues, but I’m certainly going to be mindful of the fact that I even get to weigh these options.

22. Realize this is just the beginning.

It’s okay to have feelings about this process, but we do need to be mindful that our feelings about racism and privilege aren’t the point. We need to accept that this is a fight for the long haul.

23. Be a better human.

We writers cannot remain silent.

Whatever we do for a living should be impacted by this fight. Human rights are not a matter of opinion or personal belief. At some point, we all have to stand up and decide where we stand. Looks like that time has come much sooner than plenty of white folks hoped.

We’d better get our shit together and start using our gifts for good.

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Shannon Ashley

Written by

Single mama, full-time writer, ex-vangelical. It's not about being flawless, it's about being honest. Top Writer. shannon.ashley.medium@gmail.com

The Startup

Medium's largest active publication, followed by +773K people. Follow to join our community.

Shannon Ashley

Written by

Single mama, full-time writer, ex-vangelical. It's not about being flawless, it's about being honest. Top Writer. shannon.ashley.medium@gmail.com

The Startup

Medium's largest active publication, followed by +773K people. Follow to join our community.

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