My Instagram feed is constantly filled with dozens of pastel-colored, hand-illustrated posts saying things like “I may not be Black, but I hear you,” or “You don’t have to be Black to be outraged.” As a Black person, a part of me is filled with gratitude. But I can’t help but think about how social media has made it difficult to know whether people’s allyship and support are honest or not.
The biggest mistake some of my non-Black friends make trying to be allies is getting caught up with how they are perceived by others. Allyship shouldn’t be performative. It shouldn’t be for other people. For me, you don’t have to attend every protest, repost every infographic or make your profile picture black to be a good ally. As long as I know I can come to you for support, that is more than enough.
I remember being the only Black kid in my U.S. history class when the topics of slavery and segregation came up. I could feel energy and eyes shift towards me and though the teacher was teaching all of us about history, it felt as if they were teaching everyone about me.
It was such an uncomfortable feeling that after class ended I called my best friend, who is Latinx, to vent. My friend listened and empathized with my anger without any judgment. She provided me with support and comfort. That’s what an ally does.
Everyone can see allyship differently, but for me, you don’t necessarily have to be amazingly, aggressively and overpoweringly outspoken about your support for the Black Lives Matter movement.
You can just listen. It’s a more powerful action than you may realize.
I’m not saying it’s not important to spread the message of racial justice on social media. But when you do, be sure to check yourself. Just remember that even though social media might make you feel differently, in the end, being an ally isn’t about you.