Black and white general Collegian column graphic

As I continue to follow and support the Black Lives Matter movement and protests, I’ve noticed that within the beautiful chaos that is people coming together to make change, some non-black “allies” of the cause seem to end up doing more damage than good.

Literally and figuratively.

As a white person, I will never understand what it is like to be a black person in America. I will never fully understand the effects of racism — no matter how much reading I do — because I’ve never lived it. In no way do I consider myself to be a “perfect” ally to this cause. I am still learning and trying to understand my own privilege and what the realities of race are.

But as more videos of protests and marches pop up on Twitter, I’ve started to notice some black Twitter users pointing out the flaws in the ways that many non-black people are attempting to help. Or, pretending to help.

I’ve compiled a few of these examples in a list below in an effort to amplify the black voices who know what they’re talking about and to inform other non-black protesters. I have done my best to track down the original tweets that inspired me to write this.

Here’s how to be a productive ally to the BLM movement:

Do not talk over black voices

It’s so important (though, really the bare minimum) that there are non-black advocates for the BLM movement. Especially as white people, it’s important to know the difference between supporting black voices, and talking over them.

We should not be speaking for black people. We have never endured the prejudice they have. We will never truly understand.

Instead, we should be listening. We should be retweeting, promoting and sharing the words from black individuals themselves. We should be citing black researchers and writers on social media when needed. We should be using our privilege to lift up black individuals, not speak over and act as though we know more.

I think of the videos I’ve seen of white protesters breaking storefront windows while black individuals stand behind, begging them to stop. By inciting violence, white people are creating a narrative that will undoubtedly be used to label the movement as a whole, hurting black people.

Which segues to the next point:

Use your privilege to help others

If you’re denying white privilege at this point in the game, you’ve got some incredible reconsidering to do.

White people don’t have to be afraid for their lives solely because of their skin color. This is privilege, and it infiltrates every single aspect of our lives.

There’s many ways to “use” this privilege to help others, but one thing that comes to mind is the post below.

I’ve seen several posts on social media suggest white people stop whenever they see a black person pulled over by the police. You don’t need to necessarily insert yourself into the situation, but use your privilege to hold law enforcement accountable by recording or speaking up if necessary.

Social media has been an integral part in many people finally acknowledging police brutality. Record and post to hold officers and non-black protesters accountable.

Start productive conversations with family members and friends about BLM. Be willing to educate yourself in order to educate others, even when uncomfortable. Especially when uncomfortable.

Be willing to admit you’re wrong

Pride is so often detrimental to education, especially when it comes to matters that might be sensitive, or make you uncomfortable.

Yes, it is uncomfortable to realize that despite whatever your intentions are, you, as a white person, profit from the very system that kills black people. No one wants to be seen as the bad guy, and people are often quick to jump in with excuses when corrected.

Black Lives Matter Facebook comment

Instead of trying to justify yourself, just listen. As someone who doesn’t experience racism, you don’t get to decide what is and what isn’t offensive. As an ally, it is your job to be willing to learn and adapt your actions to best support the movement.

Also, protests are not a photo op for your Instagram.

Silence is violence

It’s cliche, but silence really is violence.

I think it’s easy to underestimate the importance of even just showing your support on social media.

That said, posting a black square with a hashtag isn’t somewhere to stop. I specifically wasn’t a fan of the Instagram story “challenge” where a user posted a black screen and tagged 10 other friends to do the same. What does that do besides turn this into a game?

Instead, provide information that allows viewers to take action themselves. Share links where people can donate, share videos in which watching raises money, share petitions to sign, share the phone numbers of government officials to demand justice, share copy-and-pasteable email templates to send to local officials.

And if you can:


“How will money help fix racism?”

Money helps free and cover the bonds of arrested protesters. Money helps families of black people who have died from police brutality. Money helps plan protests and marches. Money helps black creators who are themselves funding and supporting the movement.

See tweets with donation links below.


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