A global uprising is happening right now in support of the Black Lives Matter movement, during which you've been urged to do two things first and foremost: protest and donate to Black-led organizations. While those are two meaningful and important ways to enact change for the Black community, not everyone has the physical ability to protest, nor does everyone have the financial means to donate money to the cause. But that's OK because donating and protesting are not the only ways people can support the movement.
There are plenty of ways to support the Black Lives Matter movement, both immediately and in the future, that are either free or low-cost as well as effective and sustainable in the long run. If you're looking for other ways to support the Black Lives Matter movement in both the short and long term, take the 12 efforts below into account and try to make them part of your lifestyle moving forward.
Use your credit card or travel reward points to donate
Some companies such as banks and hotel franchises will currently let you turn your reward points into a monetary amount that you can donate. For example, American Express has partnered with JustGiving, a nonprofit that helps various charities and organizations fundraise. If you're a part of the bank's reward system, here's a guide on how you can put your points toward donations. Hilton has a similar partnership with PointWorthy, a nonprofit dedicated to helping consumers use reward points to make donations.
If you're part of a reward program like this, visit the company's website or call customer service to learn if you can donate your points in any way. If you are part of a rewards program that allows cashback, you can also donate that money to any Black-led organization of your choosing.
Watch stream-to-donate videos on YouTube
Thanks to "stream-to-donate" videos, you can help financially contribute to Black-led organizations and funds without actually spending any of your own money. The creators of these types of videos have promised to donate their advertising revenue to organizations that are helping the movement. This requires absolutely no effort whatsoever — just have one playing in a separate tab of your computer while you do your thing, and refresh it once it's over (oh, and turn off your ad blocker if you use one).
Here's one video that also provides links to petitions you can sign while you watch and other anti-racist educational resources:
Reflect on all the ways you benefit from privilege
If you're white, you might not understand the extent to which your life has been positively affected by the color of your skin. It makes sense that you may have been unaware of the leg up you've been given if you've mostly been surrounded by people who look like you for your whole life. With that in mind, it becomes easier (though perhaps uncomfortable) to identify your privileges by exposing yourself to the everyday experiences Black people have and recognizing the differences between Black and white experiences in America (more on how you can do that shortly).
In an essay titled "White Privilege and Male Privilege: A Personal Account of Coming to See Correspondences Through Work in Women's Studies," Peggy McIntosh, a senior research scientist and former associate director of the Wellesley Centers for Women, presents a checklist of ways privilege affects white people on a daily basis. You can read the full essay and see the entire checklist here, but below are a few examples of the ways white people benefit from privilege, according to McIntosh's studies.
"I can turn on the television or open to the front page of the paper and see people of my race widely and positively represented."
"I can go into a book shop and count on finding the writing of my race represented, into a supermarket and find the staple foods that fit with my cultural traditions, into a hairdresser's shop and find someone who can deal with my hair."
"I am never asked to speak for all the people of my racial group."
"If a traffic cop pulls me over or if the IRS audits my tax return, I can be sure I haven't been singled out because of my race."
Simply being born Black can guarantee you entirely different life experiences than being born white. Addressing your privilege by reading resources such as McIntosh's can help point out all the way those experiences differ for you. Imagine what life would be like if you didn't experience the privileges listed above (among many others)? You would absolutely want to fight for change and equality if you didn't have them.
As white people, acknowledging our privilege like this may be uncomfortable, but it's important. Sit with that discomfort, and think about what it means. It shouldn't necessarily feel comfortable to look colonization and systemic racism in the eye, address our part in it, and think about what we can do to dismantle it.
Take responsibility for educating yourself and having difficult conversations about racism
Some white people might think it's helpful to directly ask Black friends, family, or colleagues to explain issues of race to them or assure them that they aren't a part of the problem. By doing this, however, you can insinuate that it is the Black community's responsibility to eradicate the racism that they are victim to — and to spare white people's feelings about their part in racism. It puts even more labor on those who have been dealing with these things for centuries.
Francis E. Kendall, a diversity consultant who specializes in matters of white privilege, explains that these types of actions can selfishly disrupt constructive conversations about race. In her essay titled "Understanding White Privilege," she writes:
“We shift the focus back to us, even when the conversation is not about us. A classic example of this is white women crying during conversations about racism and women of color having to put their pain aside to help the white women who are crying. (African Americans and gays and lesbians, in particular, are expected to take responsibility for other people’s responses to and discomfort with them.)”
Instead, take the responsibility to educate yourself with content that Black creators have already made of their own will and interest — again, more on that later. You can put this education to further use by spreading it to the non-Black people in your lives. Take moments to acknowledge the movement within your family and social circles, and prepare to have difficult conversations with those who don't understand why Black Lives Matter, period.
Follow Black community leaders on social media
A simple, free, and fast way you can surround yourself with Black voices is to actively follow more Black community leaders on Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, and wherever else you like to get your information from. This isn't limited to activists or policymakers, by the way, although those are great places to start. If you're into beauty, follow more Black beauty professionals. If you're into fashion, follow Black designers. If you're a bookworm, follow Black authors. If you're a foodie, find more Black-owned restaurants to follow in your area (which you can do easily with apps like EatOkra).
Read books, watch films, listen to podcasts, and observe art about racism and police brutality
Another reason you don't need to ask your Black friends to educate you directly is that Black people are actively contributing to the conversation all the time by writing books, making films, producing podcasts, and creating other forms of art to expose racism and offer solutions to end it. Watching, reading, or listening to these things typically doesn't require a whole lot of money (though supporting creators financially is always welcome, especially during this global pandemic).
Most podcasts are free to listen to; streaming services have plenty of documentaries about racism; if you can't afford to buy that many books, ask around your friends to see who has books by Black authors and ask if you can borrow them.
Amplify Black organizers, activists, and people whose work you admire
Once you've exposed yourself to more Black voices, it's imperative that you share their work. Take artist Dani Coke and her viral "Anatomy of an Ally" illustration as a great example of why this is.
"With every piece I make, I want to equip good people with the tools, context, and information needed to take tangible steps towards change within their direct sphere of influence," she previously told Allure. By sharing content like hers with your non-Black loved ones, you are helping to equip them with those tools, too.
So when you discover helpful content by Black creators on social media, retweet or repost them. Text or email resourceful articles to the people in your life who might not know how they can help support Black Lives Matter. Talk with your friends when you've read, watched, or listened to something insightful, and share exactly what you gained from it.
Buy from Black-owned businesses
So much of America's popular culture — the clothes we wear, the way we do our makeup, the slang we use, the food we eat, the music we like — is rooted in Black culture. Buying from Black-owned businesses is a small way to give Black communities recognition for ideas and products that originated with them. This doesn't necessarily mean spending additional money for the sake of buying Black — take into account the products you buy regularly. Are any of them made by Black-owned companies? Make it a habit to purchase those items from them.
And as Sahara Lotti, founder of Lashify, points out, buying from Black businesses can distribute wealth to Black communities that don't receive the same funding and opportunities as white-owned businesses due to systemic racism. "If money goes right back into the community, which then creates more jobs, there will be a major shift in economics," she previously told Allure.
Be a resource for protesters
If you're not able to protest, you can still support protesters by showing up to provide medical supplies, PPE, or food and water — all things that are hard to come by when marching, standing, or sitting in solidarity for long hours. If you have a car, you can offer rides to protesters who need assistance getting home. If you live near a protest site, you can also offer your home as a safe space for protesters in the event that the environment becomes dangerous.
Volunteer for Black-led organizations
If you can't donate your money to a Black-led organization you're passionate about, you can donate your time and energy by volunteering. The Black Lives Matter organization has local chapters across the country where you can inquire about volunteer opportunities. You can also search for Black-led organizations in your area and either email or call to ask if they are in need of volunteers.
Contact your Congressional representatives to encourage policy change
The House of Representatives and the Senate exist so that states (and the districts within) have political representation. Contacting your state and local representatives to air your grievances with the government's response to acts of racism gives them even more reason to prioritize effective policy change. OpenGov, a nonprofit organization that researches Congress to "bridge legislators and the communities they represent," polled Congressional staff in 2017 to determine which kinds of contact representatives find the most impactful.
"Staff generally felt that in-person visits, personal letters, and, increasingly, social media were the best tools for being heard by Members of Congress," its study concludes. OpenGov also reported that personal stories are seen as more effective to many representatives.
Vote, vote, VOTE
If you're eligible to do so, vote for people that share your passion for the Black Lives Matter movement and who have shared concrete plans for the future. That means voting for political roles at the national, state, and local level. Systemic change can't happen if the people in charge are dedicated to enforcing the status quo. To stay informed on when and where you can vote, see this full calendar of 2020 elections, including primaries.
Acknowledge that the path to racial equality is not a short or easy one
A lot of people are feeling mentally and emotionally exhausted right now, just from watching the events of the past two weeks unfold. While that's a completely natural response to hearing and seeing a lot of violence and anger at once, we must not let it exhaust us to the point that we stop talking about it. That goes especially for white people, who can opt not to discuss or think about racism because it doesn't directly impact them.
Even as time passes and the nature of current protests change, the Black Lives Matter movement will require long-term support from non-Black allies. Mental burnout is a reality for a lot of people right now. As Tatiana Mac points out in a much-reposted Tweet: "White people... You aren't conditioned to be thinking about race this much because of your privilege. We need you to do all you're doing today, tomorrow, and until the end of time." In her thread, she lists several ways that you can incorporate pro-Black activism into your lifestyle so you can support the movement more consistently.
And if you need to take moments of rest and self-care in dark times like these, don't feel guilty about it. You can serve as a much more effective activist and ally if you're feeling rested, can think critically, and are ready to talk constructively.
More on Black Lives Matter:
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Originally Appeared on Allure