It’s ok to not know what you’re doing – but do SOMETHING anyway. Inaction is not an option right now.
I’m going to let you in on a little secret, some days (most) I have no idea what I’m doing. This comes out especially in allyship and activism. I’m aware that I’m a work in progress and always will be.
What I’ve learned from this is that It’s ok to not have a plan, but it’s not ok to sit on the sidelines. You cannot be complicit right now.
The I Don’t Know Hang Up
It’s natural to think we have to have it all figured out. But, perfection – as an ally – is not the end goal. We feel “safe” when we think there’s an order of a plan to things. It’s embedded in our culture. In general, humans like predictability, safety, knowing what comes next – at least in our own lives. Safety, stability and security are basic needs for our success so to ensure that we have those – we plan.
But, I encourage you, instead of digging deep into the “I don’t know how to help” mentality – look for options. It is better to start and have to course correct along the way than it is to sit still and watch things get worse while you try to figure out the “right thing”. When it comes to activism, you shouldn’t expect yourself to understand things if you’ve never been exposed or even learned about the causes. Take a chance to educate yourself.
You Play Small Because You Don’t See the Plan
Anyone else remember the pit in their stomach everytime someone asked them what they were going to do after college? Maybe it came recently when you had the thought of even sharing or posting something related to BLM. Were you worried about saying the “wrong” thing or not wanting to stir the pot?
You don’t need a fully fledged game plan – you need a good dose of asking yourself why. Ask yourself why you are doing this? Why are you afraid to stand up for BLM? What’s so scary about doing the right thing?
You will get things wrong, you will make mistakes, apologize and grow and keep going.
Complacency and the Fear of Judgement
We let other people’s opinions of what we should be doing keep us from doing what we want or trying new things.
“If I post about BLM then my racist uncle will comment that all lives matter?”
“What will my mom think if I delete the entire family on Facebook?”
“I feel ashamed that I took this long to learn about this issue so I better stay quiet..”
Oh, sweet privilege, read some of your worries out loud and noodle on what it would be like to not have the privilege to make that choice. Understand that you were probably not judged by something (such as the color of your skin or the neighborhood you grew up in) that you had no choice over.
Stop the Shame Game
Shame is rooted in the self. Refinery29 broke this down here but to summarize shame allows white people to get stuck in their own feelings instead of making meaningful change. Yes, you will feel guilt, you (my white friends) have benefited from white supremacy culture. Deal with your guilt, look inside and confront your guilt and then make the choice to take action. Do NOT unload your guild on any BIPOC in your life! It is not their job to comfort you or reduce your guilt.
Choices are a privilege – so instead of wallowing in your privilege shame use it to make important choices. Demand that other people listen to you. Give vocally and loudly to important causes. Ask for the change that you want in any and every room you walk into. If you want to live in a diverse society where everyone is treated equally, you, my privileged friend, have to demand it.
Perfection is Impossible
You WILL NEVER BE PERFECT. Not as an ally, not as a human and not as a white person. There are appropriate and inappropriate ways to go about things but even if we make a wrong turn it is important to ACKNOWLEDGE IT, APOLOGIZE and LEARN from it.
You may feel uncomfortable doing this work. Get comfortable in the uncomfortable. Acknowledge that allyship isn’t about you – it’s about the people you are being an ally for. Use your privilege to make space for BIPOC, do not use it to take center stage.
At the very least, TRY!
Go out there and try new things, quit what doesn’t serve you and explore. You owe it to Black people and other marginalized communities to fight for them. It’s ok to not know. You don’t have to know how to get there you just have to be willing to try.
*I am not a therapist or licensed medical professional. This does not replace the advice of a certified medical professional. Always work with a legitimate professional when it comes to your health.