Just because I’m married to a Black woman certainly does not mean I can empathize with Black people. It does not mean I can speak for Black people, nor can I speak for all non-Black people.
But not being particularly new to this conversation—and after having many conversations with family, friends, colleagues, and conducting personal research—what I can do is offer my fellow non-Black folks some steps you can take to be a more effective ally.
Take your anxious energy and put it toward something productive. I know we’re swamped at work. I know a lot of us have kids that need education, entertainment, care, and time. I know a lot of us aren’t eating or sleeping well. I know a lot of us are anxious and depressed. And it’s hard to know where to start.
It’s important to remember that this is a marathon, not a sprint. You’re not going be able to learn everything there is to know about anti-Black racism in a week, a month, or even a year.
But if everyone reading this takes (at minimum) eight minutes—the same amount of time that Derek Chauvin had his knee on George Floyd’s neck – out of their day, every day, to be an ally, we can make a real difference. Posting a Black square is all well and good, but the work doesn’t stop there.
It might not seem like much, but daily activism is already making a difference. States and cities are passing commonsense police reform and hate crime laws; more police officers are being fired and arrested for using excessive force. Corporations are starting to fight anti-Black racism and re-examine their roles in perpetuating racial inequality. Statues of Confederate leaders are being torn down across the country. Black Lives Matter protests have spread internationally. Perhaps most important, people around the world are getting off the sidelines and talking about racial injustice in a manner that would have been unfathomable just a few months ago.
There is a public reckoning and reflection that is happening in real time, in front of our eyes that has not happened in a generation. The progress is slow and it’s nowhere close to enough. And there will be an inevitable backlash from those that benefit from the current societal structure, but it’s still progress.
In our short-attention-span society, it will be easy to rest on our laurels and to turn our attention to the next big news story or controversy. We will justify that pivot by pointing to the incremental changes made during this time and pat ourselves on the back for being a small part of it. It will slowly disappear from our push notifications. Protests will reduce in size. Facebook and Instagram stories will go back to their normal programming of bread-making. It will disappear from the zeitgeist as it did after Charlottesville, and after the murders of Trayvon Martin, Eric Garner, Philando Castile, Michael Brown and countless others.
That moment will be the most critical time to stay focused and active. Complacency is a major threat to progress. Don’t stop just because your friends and family have stopped. Don’t settle for half measures. Racism, systematic oppression, the KKK, unconscious bias and microaggressions will all still exist. Those things don’t rest, and neither should we. In order to create sustained, meaningful change, we have to keep up the momentum.
This right here is a moment. One day your children, nieces, nephews and grandchildren will ask you what you did during this time. What do you want your answer to be?
So let’s all do better. Let’s get to work. Let’s put in our eight minutes each day.