Skip to Content


Allies Please Keep Listening, Reading, and Posting… Also Continue Growing into Our Discomfort

Allies make mistakes almost perpetually because if we are doing this work the way we should be, we are constantly reflecting, growing, learning, unlearning, acting, and being accountable. We are first accountable to those we are in allyship to and we are also accountable to other allies – both those who have made it further on their journey and to those who are newer to the work. This past week I made a mistake in not being accountable to allies who are in different spaces in their anti-racism work and have had to reflect on how to use my knowledge given through the pain and investment of those I’m in allyship to as a way to move all of my fellow allies further and deeper into this work. I originally wrote my blog piece with the goal of accountability to those who have been doing allyship work as a verb, an ongoing action for years, but I wasn’t clear that my words were intended to be a conversation with those at a specific place in their efforts; thus, in doing so I could have harmed those who are newer to anti-racism work. I hope even those who are newer to working in solidarity and accountability to end racism and anti-Blackness can take something from this revised blog post; however, this is still a call to movement and accountability amongst allies who were engaged in working for substantial changes the last time “I Can’t Breathe” was a national call for equity, justice, and an end to entrenched, systemized hatred.  


 I have seen a lot of articles about allyship to people of color posted and shared in the past week; they appear every time an incidence of police brutality against a black person rises to national attention. They have steps, suggestions, requests, and pleadings for what white folx can do in response to the unspoken question of what our role and responsibility is during these moments. They are essential to helping those who are just coming to terms with this work and need this information to take steps in doing their own work that is still reflective, accountable, and impactful. They are good things for all of us to revisit regularly, reflect upon, and see how we can do better.  

However, I want to pose a question to long-term allies around the impact on those we are supposed to be in allyship to when we repost and recycle articles from years ago without comment, introspection, new information, or calls of outrage in our collective lack of movement? The ally response I have laid witness to in the last week has not been as diverse in the calls for action, the ways of bearing witness, or the methods of accountability as it should be for as long as some of us have been doing the work. It looks too much like too many of us are still at the beginnings of work that is just too urgent for us to still be at the start. We need to be helping each other move faster, further, and deeper in this work. Part of that is me posing this question – how often are you stretching far enough to be deeply, authentically uncomfortable? Did you risk being made accountable because you took a big step in your allyship or did you try to do it correctly to avoid harm to others, but also potentially yourself? Are you really grappling with white discomfort the way we need to be to take opportunities for bigger, systemic change?  




It is necessary to say that you are not having the impact we need if you are an ally who has been engaged in anti-racism work for years and your primary means of action is reposting articles on ten steps allies can take right now. At this point we should be further in our relationships with those we are in allyship to; we should know more, and we should have so much more to say about the changes we need to help other allies make. We need to be braver and risk more of our comfort, security, and sense of goodness. I want to be abundantly clear about what I mean with these statements. I make mistakes as an aspiring ally almost every moment of every day. I cause harm, I misunderstand, I fail to show up but I keep trying and I do not need a handy resource list from some national magazine to tell me how. Nor will I put the burden of informing me about how to show up within a grieving community of my friends of color. I know what I’m supposed to be doing right now because I love the black people in my life always. I show up for them. I listen to them. I cultivate space to hear how they’re hurting and harmed as often as they would like to speak to it. I celebrate their accomplishments. I am honest when their excellence as my colleagues and friends intimidates me. I am aware of my whiteness and the tremendous amount of space it takes up in our relationship. And I honor their lived experiences exactly as they relay them to me. Being in loving relationship has informed my growth as an ally into the spaces of deep uncertainty, fear of who I am as a person, horror at and accountability for things I have done and said; and out the other side to change and movement because it is what is essential to love and care for the people who mean so much to me. Articles, books, resources, activist communities where I pay to be educated on anti-racism and anti-Blackness, the posts of my colleagues, the accountability texts of other allies, and so much more have been essential tools in learning and knowing how to have intense growth and change over my life as an ally. However, the tools I was using when I started are different than the ones I relied upon when Eric Garner was murdered and the conversations I am having now need to be different as well.   


Now is not the time for instinctively re-sharing articles on the top five, ten, twenty, or fifty things you can do as an ally if you have been working to end anti-racism and doing your internal work for an extended amount of time. We should not need a guide to speaking out on the fact that black children are consistently being treated like adults at a ridiculously young age or a stepbystep on how to respond to comments about colorblindness or “#alllivesmatter”. We should be able to address conversations about protests, police violence, systemic oppression and effectively respond to efforts to derail this necessary conversation by trying to edit or control how Black individuals, Black-led organizations, and communities work for change. If we are struggling with these conversations, are we being honest about it with our fellow allies so we can have accountable, reflective growth or are we doing something else that feels both more comfortable and also more visibly impactful? Are the resources we’re turning to, reading, and sharing pushing us to do more, show up more strongly, divest more from systems that benefit us or are they familiar and reassuring? If the ask doesn’t feel right at the edge of too big to hold, then we are likely looking in the wrong spot for where we are in our allyship efforts.  


If you want to grow in your efforts to be anti-racist stop only reading about it and offer something more into the space. Reading and listening without internal growth and external action is voyeurism in space of pain. We as allies need to consistently show up, listen, educate ourselves, speak up, provide funds to people of color led anti-racism organizations, and change our workplaces, our communities, and our relationships with friends and families. We need to grow our willingness to be friends with our discomfort; to in fact actively seek it as a sign that we are being present, impactful, and accountable in this work.  


We need to raise our children to love, respect, cherish, and hold safe the black and brown folx in their lives. Make sure they know the responsibility that comes with their white privilege. Teach them that they can signal boost and be in awe of #blackboyjoy and #blackgirlmagic without feeling threatened or left out. We can celebrate everyone and lift up the incredible strength represented in a community that has endured endless and untold harm. We need to know our business leaders, school officials, and law enforcement officers. We must show up to their meetings and events, build those relationships, and then use these spaces and relationships to actually hold them accountable for racist practices and behavior. Use your ‘can I see the manager’ moment for equity, inclusion, and solidarity, not to call the police or store security on some imagined infraction. We need to make certain people in our communities, schools, and work places have accurate knowledge and understanding about black and brown histories and experiences. We cannot allow their lived realities to continue to be erased – they have to know and navigate white experiences and we should be equally familiar with theirs. Work to create a workspace that examines how privilege operates in hiring, rates of pay, mentorship opportunities, promotions, and firing. We can start by getting rid of bland statements about all applicants welcome and being EEOC compliant. Encourage black and brown folx to apply, clearly changing language you use around requirements and expectations to show a shared understanding of the impact of language. Be proactive in supporting black and brown employees to explore their professional growth without fear of their mistakes being held against every person of color who has ever or may ever be employed within your organization. We must also be patient when they don’t trust that support; they shouldn’t trust us right away because that relationship is earned by how we behave and the choices we make every single day.  


Find white aspiring and active allies and work alongside them, do not add to the burdens people of color are facing by asking them to educate you right now. Let them grieve, express trauma, and feel pain without your commentary and weight; do your own work instead. Be open to understanding the misinformation or lack of information you may have received about black experiences, their lives, and our shared history. We must all continually challenge ourselves to hold space for emotions and statements that we find uncomfortable from black and brown folks. We cannot make this about us, our discomfort, or “#notallwhitepeople”. Most importantly of all, when we talk about these issues we need to listen more than we talk. Almost equally important, when we talk we must always remember the power of our words and completely stop using passive voice from an ally space. People are not dying. People are being murdered. If we are not working to stop the harm, we are complicit; if we are not using the power of our voice right now, we are on the side of continuing the violence; and if anyone thinks we are powerless they will not be assisted by an allyship article. We need to join together and hold one another accountable for growing, stretching, reflecting, and making significant impact on the large and small ways people of color, and specifically Black people, are being harmed. We also need to help one another show up for every moment not just this one. To be in solidarity and support to a community means we show up and support them in times of sorrow, horror, and grief but we also lift up their joy, their brilliance, their accomplishments, and their resiliency. To my white friends and colleagues we need to do better than showing up in the same ways we always have, to being present when communities are grieving but quiet when they are calling for change, and often absent when they are strong or experiencing joy. We need to help each other navigate how we collectively show up, stay present, and constantly work to be better facing real discomfort and in deep solidarity 


I want to say as I share my thoughts about allyship and being a co-conspirator, that this post and knowledge within it was not gained on my own or through exclusively my own work. I have learned how to show up and how to help other allies show up because people of color invested in me, trusted me, and shared their lives with me. That was not anything they owed me; it was a precious gift and I refuse to waste their belief in me by letting us stay in this same place as aspiring allies and social media co-conspirators. They believed I could do more and be better and I will continue to believe that’s possible of all of us.