Guidelines for Being Strong White Allies Adapted from Uprooting Racism: How White People Can Work for Social Justice

WHAT KIND OF ACTIVE SUPPORT does a strong white ally provide
to a person of color? Over the years, people of color that I have
talked with have been remarkably consistent in describing the
kinds of support they need from white allies.Screen shot 2013-04-23 at 2.06.36 PM

What People of Color Want from White Allies
“Respect us” “Listen to us”
“Find out about us” “Don’t make assumptions”
“Don’t take over” “Stand by my side”
“Provide information” “Don’t assume you know
what’s best for me”
“Resources” “Money”
“Take risks” “Make mistakes”
“Don’t take it personally” “Honesty”
“Understanding” “Talk to other white people”
“Teach your children about “Interrupt jokes and comments”
“Speak up” “Don’t ask me to speak for my
“Your body on the line” “Persevere daily”

Basic Tactics
Every situation is different and calls for critical thinking about how
to make a difference. Taking the statements above into account, I
have compiled some general guidelines.

1. Assume racism is everywhere, every day. Just as economics
influences everything we do, just as gender and gender politics
influence everything we do, assume that racism is affecting
your daily life. We assume this because it’s true, and because a
privilege of being white is the freedom to not deal with racism
all the time. We have to learn to see the effect that racism has.
Notice who speaks, what is said, how things are done and
described. Notice who isn’t present when racist talk occurs.
Notice code words for race, and the implications of the
policies, patterns, and comments that are being expressed. You
already notice the skin color of everyone you meet—now
notice what difference it makes.

2. Notice who is the center of attention and who is the center
of power. Racism works by directing violence and blame
toward people of color and consolidating power and privilege
for white people.

3. Notice how racism is denied, minimized, and justified.

4. Understand and learn from the history of whiteness and
racism. Notice how racism has changed over time and how it
has subverted or resisted challenges. Study the tactics that have
worked effectively against it.

5. Understand the connections between racism, economic
issues, sexism, and other forms of injustice.

6. Take a stand against injustice. Take risks. It is scary, difficult, and may bring up feelings of inadequacy, lack of self confidence, indecision, or fear of making mistakes, but ultimately it is the only healthy and moral human thing to do. Intervene in situations where racism is being passed on.

7. Be strategic. Decide what is important to challenge and what’s
not. Think about strategy in particular situations. Attack the
source of power.

8. Don’t confuse a battle with the war. Behind particular
incidents and interactions are larger patterns. Racism is flexible
and adaptable. There will be gains and losses in the struggle for
justice and equality.

9. Don’t call names or be personally abusive. Since power is
often defined as power over others—the ability to abuse or
control people—it is easy to become abusive ourselves.
However, we usually end up abusing people who have less
power than we do because it is less dangerous. Attacking
people doesn’t address the systemic nature of racism and

10. Support the leadership of people of color. Do this
consistently, but not uncritically.

11.Learn something about the history of white people who
have worked for racial justice. There is a long history of
white people who have fought for racial justice. Their stories
can inspire and sustain you.

12. Don’t do it alone. You will not end racism by yourself. We
can do it if we work together. Build support, establish
networks, and work with already established groups.

13.Talk with your children and other young people about


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