100 Ways White People Can Make Life Less Frustrating For People of Color

Just a few suggestions to start with.

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Apr 19 2018, 5:23pm

Photo by Michela Ravasia via Stocksy.

As someone with very low tolerance for racist bullshit, I’ve managed to surround myself with white people who are cognizant of their privilege and strive to make the world a less terrifying and frustrating place for people of color. This means that I often deal with said white people asking me what they can actually do to affect change. So here, anxious allies of the world, are 100 simple ways to be the change. It's not nearly comprehensive, but it's somewhere to start. Go forth and disrupt our harmful racial paradigm!

1. Just because you can’t see racism around you doesn’t mean it's not happening. Trust people of color’s assessment of a situation.

2. Don’t assume that all people of color share the same views. We are not a monolith.

3. Don’t assume or guess people’s races. This is NOT a fun game for us.

4. If someone tells you they’re from Uganda, don’t say, “I went to Nigeria once!” Just, please.

5. Related: Don’t refer to Africa as a country. It's a continent and it's wildly varied. Yes. Take a moment.

6. Oh, and rest assured that literally no person of color ever wants you to get back from holiday, show off your tan and excitedly exclaim, “Look, I’m almost as dark as you!” Cease and desist.

7. Don’t assume that a person of color knows everything about their country of heritage. Do you know everything there is to know about America? Germany? Sweden? That’s what I thought.

8. Don’t assume we can run if we’re Black, do math if we’re Asian, have drinking problems if we’re indigenous…

9. Regard us as autonomous, unique individuals, not as representatives of our race.

10. Don’t make embarrassing jokes to try and be “down” with people of color. We’ll laugh at you, not with you.

11. Don’t rinse our culturally specific memes. They’re ours. Go enjoy that weird one about the plums.

12. If you’re at my house party, don’t turn off the Weeknd to put on Arctic Monkeys. (Okay this one is very specific but it happened to me once and I’m not over it. The audacity!)

13. Avoid phrases like “But I have a Black friend! I can’t be racist!” You know that’s BS as well as we do.

14. When you endlessly complain about how terrible white people are, you are being that terrible white person. Jeez.

15. Don’t say shit like, “I know what it's like to be a person of color...I’m a ginger!”

16. Don’t question someone's Blackness if they’re light-skinned. It's not your place. Other Black people can make sure that light-skinned Black people are cognizant of their privilege.

17. Never try and tell a person of color what is or isn't racist.

18. When you find instances of racist bullshit online, please don’t send it to us. We know racism exists, thanks.

19. Read something already written about it rather than coming to your friends/acquaintances of color looking for hot takes on anything and everything appropriative a Kardashian/Miley Cyrus does. We don’t wanna think about this shit 24/7!

20. Understand that some days are even more mentally exhausting for people of color thanks to the news cycle. Try not to badger us for our opinions on the latest atrocity that has occurred. Leave us to grieve.

21. But when we do have something to say about it, listen.

22. Share articles relating to the everyday experiences of race and racism written by people of color.

23. But don’t be that person who is weird and sycophantic and loves to demonstrate their wokeness constantly to the people of color around them. Be thoughtful.

24. Read books by people of color. I recommend Sister Outsider by Audre Lorde, The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander and literally everything that Junot Diaz writes for great insights into Blackness.

25. Watch shows that are created by people of color i.e. Atlanta or Insecure. (Seriously, if you haven’t seen Atlanta, you need to watch it. Now.)

26. Have a critical eye when watching TV and movies. How are they portraying people of color and why? What purpose does it serve?

27. If you go to an art gallery, notice how many works are by people of color. If it's lacking, make some noise, send an email, query the curator. White people shouldn’t have a monopoly on what can be considered art.

28. If a character you assumed was white in a book is portrayed by an actor of color in the movie, embrace it. Whiteness is not the default.

29. Support plays written by and acted in by people of color. The world of theater is overwhelmingly white.

30. Refuse to go to club nights or drag shows or burlesque nights that use culturally appropriative acts.

31. If you have kids, buy them dolls of color and books with characters of color.

32. Support crowdfunding campaigns for cultural products created by people of color if you can.

33. Donate money to grassroots movements around you that are run by and support people of color.

34. Support small businesses owned by people of color.

35. If you’re upper or middle class try to avoid moving into an area that has historically been populated by low-income people of color. Gentrification tears communities apart.

36. Don’t assume people of color can’t speak English.

37. But also be patient if our English isn't perfect. Are you bi/tri/multi-lingual? Probably not. It's hard.

38. In general, just don’t assume we want to be white or want to assimilate. And don’t pressure us to do so.

39. Recognize that you can’t assume someone’s religion based on how they look. Not all South Asians and Middle Eastern people are Muslims, not all Black people are Christian, not all East Asian people are Buddhist. You get the idea.

40. Remember that not all people of color are straight.

41. Remember that people of color are not inherently more homophobic than white people.

42. People can be Black and gay and disabled and trans and middle class. Blackness is expansive. It doesn’t look one way. Keep this in mind.

43. When we talk about race, we’re not just talking about men! Repeat after me: Intersections of race and gender exist.

44. Remember that it is Black women and Native women and mixed race women who are most likely to be raped in their lifetimes in America. You cannot be an advocate against sexual violence without considering the impact of race.

45. Don’t ask Black women if it’s our “real hair.” And don’t judge Black women for wearing wigs or weaves or having relaxers.

46. Don’t touch our fucking hair.

47. If you have a Black girlfriend, please make sure that your shower is always adequately stocked with conditioner. Never that 2-in-1 stuff!!! We beg you.

48. Never try and pull any uninvited “race play” shit in the bedroom. Seriously, what the fuck?

49. Actively try to identify and unsubscribe from orientalist tropes i.e. believing that East Asian women are naturally more submissive or docile. People of color are people, not characters.

50. If you call a woman of color “exotic,” you deserve to stub your toe every day for a year. Do. Not. Do. This.

51. Also, saying “I've never fucked a Black/Asian/Native etc. person” to someone you’re trying to hook up with is a one way ticket to hell.

52. If you have such fetishistic thoughts, just don’t even bother coming near a person of color.

53. Remember that having mixed race children is not a cure for racism or a way to live out weird racial fantasies.

54. If you’re trying to start a mixed raced family, sit down and deeply interrogate your intentions.

55. If you do have mixed race children, make sure that they have access to people who look like them and who understand their experiences.

56. If you have a partner of color or children of color, trust and believe that you can still be racist. You’re not exempt. If anything, you have even more of a duty to examine your behavior for the benefit of your loved ones.

57. Take your racist family members to task for the shit they say over the dinner table or via social media.

58. Confront your colleagues who say racist shit unchecked at work.

59. Look around your workplace—are the only people of color cleaners or assistants? What can you do to change that? (The answer is almost never “nothing.”)

60. If someone asks you to fill a role that you think a person of color would be better suited for, recommend a talented person of color who you know and forego the position yourself.

61. Don’t make us be the de facto diversity guy at work. Or at least pay us extra to do the labor of diversifying the workplace.

62. Refuse to speak on an all-white panel. Regardless of the topic.

63. If there are only a couple of people of color in your seminar, don’t weirdly stare at them when the lecturer poses questions about race and expect them to answer everything.

64. If you’re in charge of making curricula, make sure there is work by people of color, especially women of color, on the reading list. And not just in the weeks dedicated to race.

65. Commission people of color to make work about race.

66. Commission people of color to make work that has nothing to do with race.

67. Don’t say things like “there are two sides to every story!” or play devil’s advocate when it comes to conversations about race.

68. In those situations, just listen.

69. It’s never useful to say stuff like, “But what about the white working class!!!” Have you thought about non-white working class people’s needs?

70. Don’t? Vote? For? Racist? Politicians? Can’t believe I need to say this one but it seems like possibly, maybe, some of y’all did not get this memo.

71. Research your candidates. Who has progressive policies that won’t needlessly criminalize people of color? Vote for them.

72. Remember that Black women are not here to save you from yourselves. You’ve gotta put in the work, too.

73. Be cognizant of how your whiteness could be weaponized against Black people. i.e. white women, don’t play into stereotypes about Black men being inherently threatening to you. It gets Black men killed. See: Emmett Till.

74. Use your white privilege to be on the frontline between people of color and the police at protests. You’re at much less risk than us.

75. Record police encounters you see involving Black people.

76. Share alerts when ICE is planning a raid.

77. Stand up to Islamophobia wherever you see it.

78. If you have ever thought a phrase like “Black lives matter” is too assertive, consider why you’re so uncomfortable with Black people standing up for our humanity.

79. Listen when Black people say, “I’m not comfortable in this situation.” You’ve seen Get Out, haven’t you?

80. If you haven’t seen Get Out, watch Get Out. Understand that the everyday horror is real.

81. Question whether you have double standards when it comes to drugs. Do you think it’s cool when white weed entrepreneurs make tons of money but think that Black people who are found to have traces of marijuana in their systems deserve to be thrown in prison?

82. Don’t have dreadlocks if you’re not Black, just don’t. Beyond being offensive, it’s just not suited to your hair type. Do literally anything else with your hair.

83. Don’t refer to things as your “spirit animal” if you’re not Native. There are other ways to express affinity with something.

84. Do not compare the exploitation of animals to racism. Ever. I’m deadly serious.

85. I can’t believe I even need to say this in 2018 but here we go: Don’t wear Blackface.

86. Don’t even think about saying the N word. Even if you’re alone. Even if you’re listening to rap. Even if you’re alone and listening to rap.

87. Similarly, don’t use the word “g*psy” or “p*ki” or “r*dskin” or any other racial slur. Even if you’re repeating what someone else said or reading from a text.

88. That includes the word “colored.” “Person of color” and “colored” are not the same. Trust me.

89. Understand that America has what it has because it stole land from indigenous people and stole people from Africa.

90. Care about race on the 364 days that aren’t Martin Luther King Jr. day.

91. Also, don’t whitewash his legacy and use it to argue that Black people should just take what they’re given lying down.

92.Think about how race is operating even when people of color aren’t around. Be cognizant of it wherever you are, whichever situation you’re in. People of color have to, so should you.

93. Remember that your queerness/womanhood/transness/class background/disability doesn’t exclude you from white privilege.

94. Make your feminism useful to all women rather than calling yourself an ‘intersectional feminist’. Show, don’t tell.

95. Don’t assume, full stop, that you can understand what it's like to experience racism. You can’t. That’s the whole point.

96. Understand that nothing in your life has been untouched by your whiteness. Everything you have would have been harder to come by if you had not been born white.

97. Be grateful for the lesson when you’re called out on racism, getting defensive won’t help.

98. Move past your white guilt. Guilt is an unproductive emotion. Don’t sit there mired in woe, just be better.

99. Recognize that fighting racism isn't about you, it's not about your feelings; it's about liberating people of color from a world that tries to crush us at every turn.

100. And remember: Being an ally is a verb, not a noun. You can’t just magically be an ally to people of color because you say you’re one, it's something that you must continually work on.

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