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Opinion: How to be a better supporter of the Black Lives Matter movement

Protestors march near Los Angeles City Hall. (Photo courtesy of Justine Fisher)

As the video of George Floyd’s killing enrages the nation and further exposes police brutality against Black Americans, protests continue nationwide. Many white people have joined the Black Lives Matter movement, becoming more vocal than ever before.

While there is no truly wrong way to support the movement, there are some ways in which we can be better allies. The following is a few things that white people — many of us new to the movement — should consider when going to Black Lives Matter protests. 

1. Don’t take pictures. 

Please don’t use a movement dedicated to liberating Black people for your Instagram feed. It’s embarrassing. I have seen more of my peers posting about the issues facing people of color than I ever could have imagined. Let’s make sure not to take it too far. 

A photo of a powerful sign or video of an inspiring organizer is very different than a photo of you and your friends. The self-congratulatory selfies are just not necessary. If you are at the marches solely to take photos of yourself, go home. 

2. Don’t lead chants. 

This isn’t our movement. We can be allies, but we have to always uplift Black voices. White people are participants of this movement, not leaders. We should be following the lead of Black people, not inserting ourselves into the forefront of a movement that is not ours. 

3. Be responsible for yourself 

Don’t expect Black people to educate you. If you are not aware of the social and political issues affecting the Black community, that is on you. There are plenty of resources. You can order a book on amazon, watch a documentary on Netflix, or access any of the thousands of resources that are available to you from your bedroom. There is no excuse for being ignorant. 

4. Listen more than you speak. 

I can’t emphasize enough that this movement is not about us. We are there to support Black people. Don’t make it about you. At this moment, your experience doesn’t matter. We should be checking our privilege, not announcing it. 

5. Don’t antagonize the police. 

If you truly want to support a cause, always make sure you are doing more good than harm. Yelling at police officers, vandalizing, and especially looting doesn’t help. I understand that many white people are genuinely upset and well intentioned in their confrontation of police, but we have to control ourselves and not do anything that is going to cause violence and distract from the true message. Police brutality at a protest is no different than in everyday life: people of color will face harsher retaliation than you will. It is not our place to change the peaceful nature of these protests. 

6. Don’t hide in your suburb. 

While coronavirus is an understandable concern, if you can go to the beach or to a BBQ, you can go to a protest. If you are only willing to protest two minutes from your house with white peers, you aren’t supporting Black Lives Matter in a meaningful way. Please don’t let the media scare you. Depicting fires and violence makes for higher ratings, but it isn’t the reality. Every protest I have been to was entirely peaceful and every single person wore a mask. Take the extra time to drive fifteen minutes and follow the leadership of Black activists in front of city hall or government buildings where the protest can be heard. 

7. Don’t just post. 

Social media is a crucial aspect of this movement. It probably would not have the same amount of support without #BlackLivesMatter. But, now is the time to go beyond the hashtag. We have to take out our wallets and go to the streets in order to fight for actual change. Posting on your instagram story isn’t worth anything if you don’t follow it up with actual activism. 

8. Money matters. 

Protesting is important and very little gets done without occupying the streets and disrupting peoples’ everyday lives. But, we always have to remember that there are a lot of ways that Black Lives Matter needs support. Any amount of money counts, and this movement needs the donations of thousands of allies in order to make profound change. 

9. Don’t stop. 

Of all my tips, this is the most important. For a lot of us, this is the first time we have engaged with Black Lives Matter. We have to remember that this is more than just a trend. We have to continue to fight until drastic change is made to all of our systems impacting the lives of Black people. Even after we go back to our normal lives and quarantine ends, we have to continue to believe that Black lives matter and be willing to fight for them.

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