6 Tips to Support your Family, Colleagues, and Friends through Racial Abuse
Written by: Cheryl Ingram
Everytime a viral racist tragedy happens that harms a Black person, I feel it in my soul. I find those videos hard to watch and forget once I experience them. I still can’t get the murder of George Floyd out of my head. I find it hard to go to work and prepare myself to sit through the thoughts of my non-Black colleagues. I prepare myself to engage with people that want to compare their racial oppressions and subtly or blatantly disregard the historical racial harms that have occurred to people who share my racial identity. I find myself thinking, “why is this always the norm?” Recently, I witnessed the racial abuse against the 3 Black professional soccer players of England, Marcus Rashford, Jadon Sancho and Bukayo Saka, fueled by White led rage. It is traumatic to watch as a Black bystander, and triggering for Black/African communities across the world.
I found myself asking what I could do to help support these players while also trying my damndest to maintain my own sanity. Writing this article is a piece of my solution. As a Black professional I want my non-Black, especially my White colleagues, to read this article with the intention to act. In honor of the intention I hope that you feel I am providing tips for supporting your BIPOC friends to navigate racist abuse and tragedy.
Tip #1: Stop Trying to Get It and Get with It!
Understand that many Black people, or any BIPOC (Black and Indigenous Person of Color) for that matter, wants to hear you say “I get it.” We’re tired of hearing you say you get the problem. We need you to solve it. The thing that you need to get is that this is not just a one time event for us, it is a trigger of past, present, and future events. We don’t need you to just understand the incident, we want you to understand the history and then help us dismantle the systems that make this a recurring issue. Your job here is not to say I understand, we want to hear you say, “I have a plan.”
Tip #2: Stop Telling BIPOC People to Bring their Whole Selves in this Moment
Trust me when I tell you that our whole fucking self has probably gone to a dark place and had terrible thoughts that are the result of our trauma. We’re working daily to make sure we don’t ignite while at work, dinner, etc. When racial abuse takes place we find ourselves managing and controlling our anger, pain, and reactions in general. The reason we control this anger is because we know that if we don’t, we can fall victim to racial abuse due to our reactions witnessing it! Your job here is to create an authentic space for expression for your BIPOC populations to speak freely without consequence. Also, understand that these spaces may exist and not include your White presence.
Tip #3: Stop Trying to Identify with Us and Rectify the Problem for Us
We need you to come with solutions. There’s enough academic resources about dismantling racism and becoming ant-racist to give you a foundation to use your imagination and find creative solutions to dismantle racist systems. You have historical and present literal works such as Critical Race Theory, Ibrahim Kendi’s Anti-Racist work, Patricia Collins, Black Feminism, Queer Theory, James Baldwin, Malcolm X, and more to reference. Pick up a book, read it, believe it, receive it, and create change. It’s not our job to fix your systems, it is a chosen responsibility that often results in hopelessness because we get exhausted, dismissed, and punished on our activist journey. Help us help you in a way that doesn’t come at the expense of our existence and right to live a quality life. Many of us find ourselves repeating what has already been said and has gone willingly unheard by the masses.
Tip #4: If We Tell You not to Bother Us Leave Us Alone Until We’re Ready to Talk and Accept that it Might not be to You.
Understand that when we experience racist based trauma that we may not want to engage with you, do not use your position as an ally in order to push us to speak our truth. This is more for your benefit than ours. It is not our job to make you all feel better about listening to us if that’s all you’re intending to do is listen. We get that you want to be supportive, that you want to create a “safe space.” What if I told you that confronting racism requires an uncomfortable and sometimes unsafe space? What we need is for the perpetrators of racism to be put in an unsafe space. What this means is learning to sit with our uncomfortable silence, our loud ass voices, and making equitable opportunities to pursue different choices. Also, understand that we may never come to you and want to discuss a racist tragedy at work or at the dinner table. Don’t force your friends, co-workers, children, or affiliates of any kind who have been directly harmed by racial trauma to talk to you! Encourage them to seek out safe spaces where they feel comfortable voicing their painful experiences and even create them for them without you having to be present. Decenter yourself by accepting that a BIPOC person doesn’t owe you a summary of their racialized experiences because you “want to know” more about it.
Tip #5: Be Radical and Irrational in Your Ability to Build a Solution
Racism is irrational and has to be met with irrational solutions that we’ve never tried before. You have to think a bit unsafely and all the way out of the box if you really want to solve it. This means different approaches in our personal and professional spaces that are completely outside of our comfort zone and norm. I am not telling you to do anything malice but I am saying that we must try what hasn’t ever been done in order to reach results we’ve never had.
Tip #6: Support and Advocate for Systemic Change
Defunding the police, dismantling government policy, positions, and processes, voting historically stigmatized identities into political office, diversifying your personal and professional spaces, and redistributing long term sustainable funding for community led projects and initiatives. It is going to take drastic measures to undue drastic racist outcomes. We need you to work to hold offenders of racist abuse accountable, especially the ones unwilling to change. Report offenses, create and pass policies that support racial equity and equality and enforce the consequences of breaking them. This must also happen in professional sports to fans who perpetuate such ugliness and hate. Arrest and sentence racial abusers for their crimes, fire them, etc. do all the things that let them know that racist behavior is unacceptable.
We are in a time of heightened awareness to racial abuse and it’s time to heighten our actions for change.