OK, so you want to take action. Now what?
This is a toolkit for non-Black people of color and white people looking to engage in political activism against police killings, white supremacy, and anti-Black racism.
It was created July 8, 2016, by Larissa Pham, with reference to this document of resources for non-Black Asians on anti-Blackness, as well as other resources linked throughout. It is intended as a compilation of ways for allies to take action and as an additional resource to be shared. It is intended to be an evergreen document, but can and will be updated.
What does it mean to be an ally? Not everyone uses the word “ally.” The person writing this happens to use it because it acknowledges that the lived experiences of Black people in America are different from her experience, and that she does not share those experiences. Here is a critique of ally politics, by M. Here is another critique, by Roxane Gay.
America is built on a series of interconnected power structures that affect us all. Racism, particularly anti-Black racism, homophobia, biphobia, transphobia, classism, ableism, and other structures of oppression are at work in all of our lives, regardless of how we identify.
If you are silent because you don’t think that a political issue is “your issue,” think again. Violence operates on a spectrum. Its causes, like our identities, are intersectional. Though you may not experience the effects of something directly, as a person living in the world, you allow oppression to take place when you do not work to fight it. Your silence becomes complicity.
Non-Black people of color, we especially have a responsibility to stand in solidarity and to build within our own communities; where we speak the language and where we can speak directly to those who feel as we do. We cannot allow whatever pain we feel under white oppression to allow us to de-center Black voices.
It can be uncomfortable to know what to say, or how to speak up, or how to react. Silence can seem like the easiest way to stay in your lane. But silence is complicity, and silence is deadly. You might feel uncomfortable. You might worry about making mistakes. But listen. Read. Educate yourself. Don’t let the fear of being responsible stop you from trying to engage and learn and take action. Take on that responsibility.
Be aware of your privilege. Step back. When you enter a conversation, how is your voice functioning? Are you asking Black people to educate you or perform emotional labor for you? Are there ways in which you are oppressing other people’s voices in a conversation? Are you using anti-Black racism to benefit yourself within white supremacy? Are you only being performative in your allyship?
Even if you find yourself oppressed in certain ways (e.g. by sexism or homophobia), there are ways in which you too can be an oppressor. Consider them.
Whose voices are you centering? Before you speak, consider this acronym. WAIT: Why Am I Talking? Do you have an answer?
Privilege can be used as a lever. Allies can work as accomplices. Think of your privilege as a set of tools that you can offer in a situation, given consent from others beforehand. Act as a lookout. Take on a risky position. Where can you use how you benefit to assist and defend others?
Here is a herstory of the Black Lives Matter movement by Alicia Garza.
Here is the Black Lives Matter network about page.
Here is a list of resources for non-Black Asians on anti-Blackness.
Here is an excellent article on Asian allyship and accountability, by Alex-Quan Pham.
What can I do right now?
Does your city have a civilian review agency? It might be called something else, like a civilian review board. Civilian complaints are one way of getting your local government’s attention and demanding that they make police reform a priority. For example, here is New York City’s Civilian Complaint Review Board (CCRB) page.
Register to vote. Look up what the civilian oversight procedure in your city is. Find out who your city council member is and contact them and request that they prioritize police reform. Contact your mayor and request that they prioritize police reform. Contact your senator and do the same. Use your vote as political leverage.
Written with reference to the NYC Copwatch guide, a great resource. Observing, recording, documenting, and reporting police misconduct holds police accountable. You can join a Copwatch patrol in your city or neighborhood, or merely integrate it into your daily life. It is completely legal for you to record and film the police when you witness misconduct; however, it’s not legal for you to get physically involved (e.g. if you witness a stop).
The phone number for the National Lawyer’s Guild is 212 679 6018.
When dealing with the police, remember to get their names, badge numbers, and patrol car numbers. When filming, try to visually include this information (as well as street signs or landmarks). When filming, record with your sound on to capture any conversation (e.g. for proof of slurs used or evidence of police escalation). Always keep your hands visible. Always have a passcode on your phone so that your videos or photos cannot easily be deleted without your consent and keep your phone locked when not in use.
Showing up is important: there’s strength in numbers! When making signs, consider the language you are using and if there’s a different way to express the statement you want to make. Don’t co-opt #BlackLivesMatter by changing it (as seen egregiously with “#AllLivesMatter”) if you’re not Black. If you’re white, consider using your whiteness as a shield for others.
Don’t be oppressive. Consider your privilege. Don’t unnecessarily center yourself. Document instances of police misconduct (read the section above, which is useful information in general if you expect to encounter police). Bring snacks and water. After protests or marches, show up for jail support for those arrested (check the #jailsupport hashtag on Twitter).
In the aftermath of a tragic event, like a police shooting or a mass shooting, there is often an outpouring of energy locally and nationally. However, it’s important to keep the energy and involvement going even after coverage has faded from the news cycle. Copwatch and filing civilian complaints are two things you can do in the immediate days following an event and also things you can do in your day-to-day life as needed. Here are some more ways to take action:
It’s important to build within our own communities. Talk to your friends and family about what’s happening, about ways they can become involved, and about how they can dismantle anti-Black racism in their lives. We have the advantage when working within our own communities of knowing the language and the ways in which our communities work, and we are uniquely positioned to speak to our communities. That’s powerful. Take advantage of it.
Be present for your Black friends. Offer support.
Look up police acccountability / police reform groups in your city. Look up other community organizing agencies in your city. Look up antiviolence organizations in your city. Many community organizing groups need volunteers for outreach or administration.
Are you part of a wave of gentrification? Do you know your neighborhood? Are you an active member of your community? Where do you spend your time? Where do you spend your money? Copwatch. Spend time where you live. Get to know your neighbors. Document police misconduct where you see it. Be aware of how your presence in a community can exacerbate police presence or activity. Listen. Read. Take on the mindset that dismantling anti-Blackness is an ongoing issue, not one that reoccurs with the news cycle. Make it a priority.
Give money. It’s still important. Donate to Black Lives Matter. Donate to your local antiviolence organization or other local community organizing group. Community centers can always use financial support. Do your research before donating to an organization and especially when donating to a GoFundMe campaign, as unfortunately fakes can and do pop up.
It’s okay to tune out for a little. It’s okay to take a break. It’s okay to relax. It’s okay to be angry. It’s okay to be sad. It’s okay to feel overwhelmed. It’s okay to stay away from the news. It’s okay to be quiet. Remember to take care of yourself.
A quick way to practice self care is to pause and take ten deep breaths. Count to 8 on the inhale and 4 on the exhale and focus on breathing from your belly: expanding your diaphragm rather than your chest.
Allow yourself the time to take at least ten deep breaths. Some more self-care resources below:
Tonglen Meditation guide by Pema Chödrön
6 steps you can take to start healing from trauma right now, by CarmenLeah Ascencio
A list of self care resources from Miriam Zoila Pérez