How to Not Forget That Black Lives Matter

If we’re going to call ourselves allies, we need to act as allies.

Like many of you, I spent Tuesday listening to and retweeting black voices, and those supporting black voices. Sharing their work. Buying their books. Realizing, with every passing moment, how much I still didn’t know. How many times I’d already failed as an ally.

The only way for all of us to do better is if I start doing better. Change starts with the individual. Right?

This may not be my fight. But how can there be a fight if the voices of the fighters aren’t being heard?

Other than a quick and kind reminder to my audience to please not share my blog posts today because my voice is irrelevant stop it — they did it anyway, and I’m sorry about that — I posted nothing of my own on social media.

That was the point of #BlackOutTuesday and/or #TheShowMustBePaused. To stop talking and listen.

There are a lot — A LOT — of things to be afraid of right now. One of my biggest fears as I’m writing this is that we’ll wake up tomorrow and all these voices we’re trying so hard to amplify will already seem quieter, drowned out by all our noise.

You’re not going to want to hear this, which is why I’m about to say it.

By the end of the week, your blank profile photos will be long gone, hashtags will stop trending, and the primary news outlets will stop talking about #BlackLivesMatter. Again.

That is when the support of allies will matter most of all.

This is when you need to decide once and for all: Are you in, or not?

If you want to call yourself an ally, you need to act as an ally.

We don’t get to walk away.

I’m white. You probably already knew that. So this post is for fellow white people who, like me, have done this before — supported a movement, used a hashtag, donated money, said out loud to individual faces: “I am with you” and meant it — and then, a week later, stopped.

Because that’s how the internet’s social justice cycle works. When something else comes along to distract you from your latest bandwagon cause — when something else starts trending — you say you’re not going to abandon the movement. But you do. We all do.

But not this time. Never. Again.

As much as we can read and listen and learn and grow as supporters of #BlackLivesMatter and all involved, we will never understand what it feels like to not be white. That will not change. We must, still, change.

I’m not here to speak on behalf of the black community, and I will not talk over those voices. You don’t do that to people who matter. Letting people speak for themselves and tell their own stories is how you show them their words — and their lives — count.

They deserve space; we need to give it to them. If they’re going to be heard, we need to listen.

But we also need to talk, amongst ourselves, about what we’re going to do as individuals — as allies — to make sure we don’t forget how much black lives matter.

Because even though we may never stop believing they do, if we don’t continuously act on that belief, it’s meaningless. It’s just like forgetting.

As a white person, being part of the solution is about personal responsibility — what you do every day to continue supporting your black friends, neighbors, followers, strangers. Fellow human beings.

Black lives don’t just matter today. They didn’t start mattering today. They have always mattered and will continue to matter.

How are you going to prove you believe that? How are you going to turn your promises and retweets and hashtags into actions that make change happen?

I’m just one person, and I’m by no means any kind of expert. But I’ll tell you what I’m doing to hold myself accountable, in hopes it will at the very least force you to consider what you can do to make sure you do the same.

Channel your anger into action

Sometimes when we’re upset, our first instinct is to immediately turn to Twitter or a blog post to express how we’re feeling. It is the nature of humanity to seek out validation when our emotions seem difficult to process.

But there are two sides to your anger during this time: The side that wants the world to know you’re angry and the side that wants to do something about it.

Here’s the trick: If you want people to know you’re angry, do it by showing them how you’re becoming an active part of the solution.

Anger can lead to some of the most destructive behavior imaginable. But if channeled appropriately, it can instead act as the ideal catalyst for change.

If you let your anger fuel your desire to help, then maybe you really can make a difference.

As you’re finding different ways to cope with your anger, don’t turn to mechanisms with the intent of extinguishing it.

Stay mad. So mad that the only way to deal with it is to do something good with it.

And don’t feel guilty for feeling angry. Our white privilege exists, and there are plenty of us still working on not just acknowledging, but also confronting, that reality.

But you are still allowed to feel real pain on behalf of others’ pain. It’s up to us to take that pain and fuel the movement.

Don’t feel sorry for those who are suffering. Be mad, stay mad, and put that rage to good use.

Take a break from your frustration for a few minutes and read about Anger, Activism, and How to Stay Outraged Yet Remain Sane.

Follow and support black creators.

Over the past few days, it became alarmingly apparent that I was not doing my part to highlight the work and accomplishments of creators of color.

Most of the YouTube channels and podcasts I followed? White hosts. Many of the books on my shelves? White authors.

Leaving black voices out of the media I consumed on a daily basis wasn’t a conscious choice. And that’s the issue. We don’t even realize we’re excluding them. Yet in doing so, we are part of the problem.

I’m actively correcting this in my own routine. You can too.

Continuously support black creators. Subscribe to their YouTube channels, watch their videos, listen to their podcasts. Watch their TED Talks, buy their novels. Read their blogs. Listen to their music. Listen to their words.

Pay attention. Let them be heard.

Not just once or twice but always. Subscribe to their newsletters so you know when they have new books coming out. Engage with their content — not to add your own opinions but always to broadcast theirs.

If they have a Patreon, give to it monthly, as much as you can afford. If they’re selling art, buy some. If they’re doing something cool, tell the world about it.

That’s the part so many of us miss. SHARE THEIR WORK. EVERY DAY. If you have a platform of any kind, use it to boost theirs. There’s no reason not to.

Set up a recurring donation to an organization that needs it

A one-time donation to the nonprofit your favorite white YouTuber recommended on Twitter is nice. Even a small amount will make a difference. Your effort will not go unnoticed.

But chances are, you can do better than that. And here’s why it’s essential that you do.

A surge of donations to various organizations is still likely happening, and that’s great. It feels good. But the same way hashtags stop trending and other news takes over, this wave of one-time donations will crash. And there might not be another one, at least not one of the same volume.

These organizations don’t just need money now. They need money months from now. Whether we like it or not, change does take time. If change is going to happen, financial support needs to keep coming in even after the large push for donations seems to disappear. (It won’t, but again — noise.)

This is an easy, worry-free commitment, just like every other automatic payment you’ve previously set up online.

Black Lives Matter, for example, gives you the option to make your chosen dollar amount a monthly donation when you’re choosing your payment method. It’s easy.

Any amount you give, no matter how small, can make a difference.

This is a list of organizations you can donate to in support of Black Lives Matter. If there are others not included here, don’t hesitate to share them to make others aware.

If you’re feeling overwhelmed trying to choose where to donate, consider focusing on areas near you that are most in need of financial assistance right now, such as bail funds in the city closest to where you currently live.

Don’t stop sharing #BlackLivesMatter messages

So you want to be an ally? We, allies, have an ongoing responsibility to support the movement. We don’t get to pick and choose when and where we participate. To be a supporter means to always be present in everything we do from this point forward.

While you might go back to promoting your blog posts and sharing your favorite recipes, posting workout selfies and yelling about Star Wars — and there’s nothing wrong with going back to these things — now is the time to figure out how supporting BLM fits into your regular routine.

How many black authors’ books are you going to read and review?

How many black musicians are going to make it onto your “best of the week” roundups?

How many black comedians will you follow? How many black scientists? Entrepreneurs? Politicians?

When the black community continues to speak, will you continue to listen?

When there are no more protests, will you still do whatever it takes to make sure the right voices are heard? Will you use the platforms you have to make sure it happens — not just today or tomorrow, but for as long as it takes?

Just to reiterate — we’re not here to make noise. That’s not our job. We’re here to amplify the noise of the oppressed.

Not just once or twice, but over and over and over until something changes, and long after that.

We need to keep making these voices heard, even after it seems like all our mutuals have stopped. It’s not “annoying.” It’s not “too much.” No one has “heard enough.”

This is how things change — the refusal to return to whatever people perceive their own version of “normal” to be.

Get comfortable with being uncomfortable. And get used to making other people uncomfortable.

Call out the people in your life who aren’t doing it right. Set a better example. Every day, aim to do a little better than you did yesterday.

Most importantly?

Admit you still have a lot to learn — and start educating yourself. Read. Watch. Listen. It’s your responsibility to learn. Do the work. Put in the effort. Along the way, you’re going to make mistakes. But there’s no better way to figure out how to be the support system we need to be.

Black lives matter.

Don’t let yourself start acting like they don’t. Not again.

Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Project Stardust, a fem-led website and community that celebrates underrepresented voices in the Star Wars universe and fandom.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store