Want to be a better ally? Do these five things | Aryanna Hunter

WASHINGTON, - JUNE 06: Demonstrators march past the Lincoln Memorial during a protest against police brutality and racism takes place on June 6, 2020 in Washington, DC. This is the 12th day of protests with people descending on the city to peacefully demonstrate in the wake of the death of George Floyd, a black man who was killed in police custody in Minneapolis on May 25. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

Flipping back from Instagram to Facebook to Twitter I can feel my chest start to tighten, my heart quicken, my breath gets caught. The anxiety becomes too much and I have to put my phone down. 

Aryanna Hunter (Capital-Star file photo)

We all see it, people on our timelines with their hashtags of #AllLivesMatter or #PlugAThug they think they stand on the right side of history but where they stand is fully in the righteous glory of their white privilege. 

Then I see others marching in the street, fists raised high, fighting for those whose voices have been systematically quieted. 

I remove those from my digital space (and personal space) that do not align with my core values and amplify those who are out there leading the charge.

I know I’m not the only one waking up each morning having these feelings of anxiety course through their body. I think when some feel it, they share posts of ways to help in the fight or throw on their mask and hit the streets. But there are many who are quiet. Who don’t know what to say, how to say it, but feel like they aren’t doing enough.

I have found myself tired. 

Exhausted. 

Unable to eloquently educate allies and with zero tolerance for ignorance. 

I’ve been writing about race for a number of years now. As a woman with a black father and white mother who has been followed in a convenience store even though I had done nothing wrong, been stopped by police at the age of 10 because I was walking down the street with my two older sisters and twin brother according to the police  – more than four of “you” walking together is considered a “gang”, and countless other micro-aggressions. I’ve just had enough. 

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But I know that I can’t just sit idly by and let those around me do the heavy lifting. My children, your children, our community as a whole, demand that we continue to fight. 

So, here are some actions we can take to keep the pressure on and work for justice – even if you can’t leave your house.  

  1. Choose to support racial justice daily

I really feel like this is the biggest most important thing you can do. This is everything from choosing to spend your hard-earned dollar at local businesses owned by people of color to evaluating who you respond to via email or text message fastest. When you are planning a panel of experts at work are you including people of color? Taking a long hard look at how you operate on a day-to-day basis not only is beneficial to furthering racial justice, but others will notice and begin to emulate you. 

  1. Educate yourself

Stop counting on your black friends to educate you – that emotional labor is not their job…it’s yours as an ally. Most recently via group text I had an argument with a friend over why I was okay with the protestors burning it all to the ground. One friend jumped in with facts, figures, fully understanding how people have been systematically oppressed for centuries and this is what results of that look like. The other “friend” sent me Merriam-Webster’s definition of thug…I am not friends with them anymore. Educating yourself is essential to furthering racial justice in this country.

  1. Donate money
  • Black Lives Matter
  • Committee to Protect Journalists
  • Know Your Rights Camp
  • Innocence Project
  • ACLU
  • Southern Poverty Law Center

Any of these organizations can use your funds to further equality and equity in our country both now and in the future. Set up a monthly recurring donation. $5, $10, $1…whatever you can afford.

  1. Take political action

Sign a petition there are a few on change.org that are trending…

Email your representative – it’s always best to include a personal line in the email even if it’s generated from a place like Change.org – this way representatives offices have to read it and can’t just set up a rule and send it straight to the trash.

Vote! Vote for representatives that support racial justice, black communities and businesses, and defund the police.  

  1. Join a protest (or start one in your community)

If you don’t live close to a downtown, don’t wait for the protest to come to you … you do the protesting. A good friend of mine staged a small peaceful protest in her rural Pennsylvania town. She sent a couple messages to neighbors who she thought aligned with her and said “meet me at Taco Bell” (there’s only one Taco Bell in her town) more people than she could imagine showed up and showed support. 

Whether you are in the streets protesting, at home trying to figure out where you fit in, sharing posts from black owned businesses or organizations that support racial justice…just know that every contribution matters to the collective. 

Every petition signature, dollar donated, vote, and fist held high furthers our demand for equity.

Opinion contributor Aryanna Hunter, of Pittsburgh, is an Iraq War veteran, author, advocate, and founder of What a Veteran Looks Like and MeTooMST. Her work appears biweekly on the Capital-Star’s Commentary Page.