Violence and racism towards Black communities in Canada and the United States is nothing new. And these communities have always been vocal about the anti-Black racism they experience on the daily.
But non-Black people haven’t always been vocal enough around holding others, institutions and themselves accountable when it comes to tackling oppression, experts and advocates say. The violent deaths of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor renewed calls to fight racism and harm to Black people, sparking protests against police brutality.
For allies, actions are what matter in these moments — not just using the hashtag #BlackLivesMatter on social media, says Alicia Cox Thompson, a Toronto-based writer who has written about how to be a better friend to Black women for FLARE magazine.
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“While I appreciate the sentiments… what else are you doing? How are you actively living an anti-racist life? I don’t need you to tell me, just live it every day,” she said.
Supporting Black people in meaningful ways is important, and there are ways to do so without burdening them or asking them to educate you on racism and white privilege, Cox Thomson said.
Here are some ways on how to best support the Black community not only during this important social-political time, but always.
If you are not part of the Black community, it is important to listen to Black voices first and foremost. Every group of people should have self-determination when it comes to defining a social movement and responses to injustice, said Lisa M. Stulberg, an associate professor of sociology of education at New York University’s Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development.
“Black people have lived experiences with race that are diverse and that are very different from white experiences with race,” Stulberg said.
Stulberg, whose research focuses on the politics of race and education, says “allies to any movement need to always be paying attention to when it is the right time to speak and when it is the right time to just listen, learn, and follow.”
Renee Raymond, a registered psychotherapist based in Toronto, said at a time like this, non-Black Canadians may not know how to support their Black friends, family members or colleagues. Living with these experiences and seeing these experiences are two completely different things, she previously told Global News.
“We can only understand someone’s story so much, and that includes understanding the hurt and trauma that the Black community is facing,” she said.