Yes, you can and should support Black women. Some of you, especially White women, are wondering how. With protests around the world and a renewed focus on Black Lives Matter, civil rights, police brutality, and trauma, many enlightened non-Black women are wondering how they can support Black women and their families in their racial injustice, social equality agendas.
As non-Black woman, you can support Black women by becoming their sisters and supporting the causes that matter to them. In this article, there are guidelines that may be helpful for everyone.
Weaponizing the police to make race-based 911 calls… Questioning whether your neighbors really live where they claim that they live… Threatening Black people, even children, to assert social dominance and an air of superiority…
Racism can be overt or subtle. It is always painful and marginalizing. Often, racism can be deadly. You must accept responsibility for the roles that you play in accepting and perpetuating this racist system. And understand the benefits of White privilege.
Check your own behavior. Do better by also checking the behavior of your White friends.
As a human being in the world, you have an obligation to learn. Don’t expect Black women to be your Racism 101 teachers. Study the resources available to you and do the best that you can.
While we may sometimes try, we have no inherent obligation to teach you about things that you do not know. And most of us are tired from the macro- and micro-aggressions that we encounter every day.
Understand and practice the value of diversity. Try to have more than one Black female friend. Avoid tokenism and fetishism.
Pay attention to your internalization of Black women stereotypes such as the angry Black woman, Mammy, and Jezebel. These stereotypes are confining, insulting, and demeaning. If you buy into these beliefs, you have become part of the problem and must first reprogram your thoughts about Black women to see them as the diverse, complex, and beautiful women that we are.
Keep reminding yourself to listen more than you speak and recognize that this issue is not about you. Limit your sharing, disclosures, and your story-telling to take the focus off of yourself to give your time, attention, and energy to Black women and the cause.
Practice empathy. Putting yourself in another person’s position can give you a new perspective. It is also a sign of emotional intelligence.
Read more about the lives of Black women. As a non-Black woman, accept the fact that the system that you have relied upon your whole life to protect and provide for you has failed the vast majority of Black women.
Women of color have unique challenges. Their lense is what matters. Accept how Black women define their various experiences and how they define themselves.
When you understand this, you can fully validate the experiences of Black women. And this validation is important to being a sister.
Don’t be hypocritical. Be the change. The foundation of authentic sisterhood is love.
Real sisters support each other, care for one another, and look out for each other’s best interests.
From the book, Girls Guide: How to Be a Sister:
“To empower ourselves individually and collectively, we must first recognize who is on our sister-team and who is an enemy, recognizing the fact that the enemy is often disguised as a sister-friend. We must choose our female company with high standards and specific guidelines. It is not easy, but this awareness can prevent a lot of disappointment based on failed expectations.”
Be patient with yourself, each other, and this process. It is like waking up for the first time and finally seeing the world the way it really is. It can be confusing and frustrating, even frightening.
Understand that, even after your best efforts, you just might not “get it.” But recognize that “it” is real, powerful, and impactful. Black women need understanding, compassion, access, justice, and peace.
Family and community
Black women do not exist in a bubble. We are part of family and community units, systems that can be loving, supporting, traumatizing, dysfunctional, and enduring. We do not exist alone. If fact, many of us are integral, centralized members of our families, existing in the center, like the eye of a storm. We are often counted on and relied upon to hold our families and our communities together: financially, emotionally, spiritually. To truly understand and support Black women, it is helpful to understand her family needs.
Of course, these are generalizations to facilitate supportive intentions. Black women are not one monolithic group-we are all individually different. We have strengths, as well as vulnerabilities, and it takes time and effort to really get to know someone. Women supporting other women: that is what sisterhood is all about.
Photo credit: William Stitt, Unsplash