How to stand against racism: from ally to anti-racist advocate
Guidance on taking action against racism and racial inequality.
This guide has been inspired and informed by Black voices and writings including those of Amélie Lamont, Mia McKenzie, Kayla Reed and Roxane Gay.
Please do engage with the ‘Understanding Race and Racism’ learning resources provided in the ‘Educate yourself’ section.
Listen to what people of colour are saying. And listen to a range of voices rather than relying on a single story or opinion, such as that of your closest Black friend.
When a person of colour tells you that something is racist, do your very best to listen and hear. When offering support you should centre the conversation on their needs, rather than make a performance out of your allyship. This is not the time to share stories of your own struggles.
You’re going to make mistakes. Be open to feedback and accept criticism as an opportunity for self-growth, understanding, and doing better in the future.
Take responsibility for your own learning and do your own research. Learn more about the history of the struggle in which you are participating. Be proactive in your education, every day. You should not expect people of colour to educate you or to provide the solutions to the ongoing problem of systemic racism.
A learning resource list to support your understanding of race and racism is available at:
Acknowledge and respect difference
Our life experiences are shaped by all aspects of our own identity including our gender, race, sexuality, religion, class etc. To say “I don’t see race/colour” is to deny a fundamental part of an individual’s identity and invalidate the experiences that this identity brings. Instead, acknowledge individual differences and seek to understand the lived experiences of colleagues and students.
Understand that systemic racism and socioeconomic disadvantages have brought greater health risks to people of colour during the current pandemic, and make every effort to follow safe working practices on return to campus.
Understand and use your privilege
Understand that, as a white person, you have a privilege that is not available to people of colour. You may have additional privilege based on other aspects of your identity and/or the position you hold.
Observe the dynamics of power and privilege and notice who does and does not get positive attention, support and resources. Recognise the places and spaces in which your privilege operates, and seek to use your privilege to disrupt power imbalances and create meaningful inclusion.
Understand the importance of giving up some of the advantages your privilege brings, to ensure that opportunities and resources are distributed more equitably.
Amplify the voices of people of colour
Central to allyship is the work of creating space for suppressed voices, and yielding the floor.
Consider how much space you take up in conversations and interactions, and seek to make room for other voices to be heard. Create a safe space for diverse voices to share their experiences and perspectives.
Use your privilege, such as your connections and your platform, to amplify the voices of people of colour and support community projects. Always ensure that you properly credit the labour of those who did the work before you stepped into the picture.
Black people do not need allies. We need people to stand up and take on the problems borne of oppression as their own, without remove or distance. Author Roxane Gay in her article “On Making Black Lives Matter”.
Seek to progress from being an ally to becoming an effective anti-racist advocate and agent of change.
Talk to others who are engaged in the work of allyship, discuss how you can be better advocates, and identify ways to pool your efforts to maximise their effectiveness. Accept that change may not be immediate, and your advocacy will require ongoing effort and attention.
Volunteer your time, talent and resources to organise and support community projects and events, and to educate colleagues and students on race and racism.
Do the inner work to identify and acknowledge how you participate in racist systems. And do the outer work to participate in changing these racist systems.
Recognise that a process of unlearning is key to your learning. Identify your own ‘in-groups’ and ‘out-groups’ and seek to unlearn your own exclusionary behaviours towards your out-groups. Identify common microaggressions and eliminate them from your words & actions.
Be empowered to intervene when you observe discriminatory or bullying behaviour, or injustice in action. You can find training resources to support you on the Respect at Edinburgh webpages.