How To Be A Compassionate Ally: Part I

by nikia phoenix

Over a month ago, our already complicated and emotionally-exhausted lives took a turn from fighting Covid-19 to an added challenge. The world began awakening to all the injustice and racial inequality many of us have personally experienced through our entire existence. And let me join other voices of color to say, it’s about damn time. As a Black woman, I have personally jumped up and down and screamed “Come on, white people!” for years. While I do throw so many of our caucasian citizens shade for just now realizing that racism does in fact exist, I also realize it’s going to take all of us working together to rid us of this civil, social, and systemic plague. We must heal, and healing takes love and kindness.

“Now is the time to listen”

— Nikia Phoenix

Image: Hailey M Wright

Now is the time to listen from the depths of our souls and show real compassion to foster healing from racism. This work isn’t easy, but it’s necessary. We are being challenged to show up for each other and confront uncomfortable situations with an open heart.

That means we’ve got to get dirty and get real. That means being open to tough love and pushing through the criticism whether it’s from Black, Indigenous, and other People of Color or from our own inner voice.

How do we tackle such complicated issues like racial injustice, white supremacy, and systemic racism and learn to heal from it?

Well, let’s start with the basics. What is an ally?

Image: @NikiaPhoenix

Ally (Noun)

Merriam- Webster defines ally as “one that is associated with another as a helper : a person or group that provides assistance and support in an ongoing effort, activity, or struggle; often now used specifically of a person who is not a member of a marginalized or mistreated group but who expresses or gives support to that group.”  

To me being an ally means holding space for someone. It means seeing this other person as a fellow human being, having empathy for them, and lending a helping hand. Meggan Roxanne, founder of The Good Quote, says “Be the reason someone feels welcomed, seen, heard, valued, loved,and supported.

In your quest to be an ally and especially to be one with love and tenderness, here are some pointers to assist you along your journey:

1 – Acknowledge Your Privilege (as a white womxn)

You are able to separate your whiteness from difficult issues. I don’t and neither do other People of Color. When someone sees me they automatically judge me. I also do not have the privilege to separate my blackness from my womanhood.

2 – Listen With Your Heart (learning is a love language)

Breathe into and exhale into your heart. When someone is saying something that makes you question your reality, don’t think of a rebuttal. Listen. Learning is a love language. Spiritual Leader Shaman Durek says “See through the eye of compassion, not righteousness.” Your reality may not be someone else’s and there’s so much you can learn from them.

3 – Be Humble (push white savior complex to the side)

You are not aware of the microaggressions black people experience on a daily basis. Black people are gaslit everyday being told their feelings are invalid. We’ve all heard of “mansplaining”, please don’t try to “whitesplain” black people’s feelings. You are new to this space, you are a guest. Don’t interject your opinions, humble yourself to learn. Confront the part of you that allows your ego to speak instead of your heart. There are no brownie points for being an ally. Push that White Savior Complex to the side.

When you are able to silence yourself and listen to People of Color you are able to take in the criticism. Why do I feel like this? Then dig deeper, go harder to figure it out. What can I do to better understand and get to the root of it?

While you’re doing this work, things that will come up like shame, guilt, fragility. Be open enough and vulnerable enough to feel. You can learn so much. You are projecting your shame, you have to heal. It won’t be instant, this is a process. Make it your practice.

4 – Have Grace (open yourself to being vulnerable)

It’s okay to make mistakes. Making mistakes can be good because at least you are opening yourself up to being vulnerable and that’s where you will learn. Self-reflection is soul work. Sometimes we’re not even aware that work has to be done. Additionally, Black people might not be able to vocalize our (their) hurt because we’ve lived with it for so long. Be patient, have grace with People of Color. Sometimes grief is expressed through anger or in other ways. Pain can manifest in our bodies, in our reactions, and in our spirits. Be aware of where we (they) are and proceed with tenderness.

Read: The Body Keeps The Score by Bessel Van der Kolk, M.D

5 – Be A Helper (when you see an injustice say something)

Show up, do the work, be an ally. Make sure you are listening, when you see an injustice, say something. Use your privilege to open doors for People of Color. When you can, give BIPOCs  (Black, Indigenous and People of Color) opportunities, but be sure not to make those opportunities seem like handouts. We have the right to be your equals, and we’ve certainly put in more than enough work to earn it.

As a white person, acknowledge you haven’t been doing enough and you can do better. Are you speaking up when you see white person demeaning a Black person in the service industry? What about when you see your POC co-worker being treated unfairly by your manager? These instances are more common than not. Do your part. When you’re in a management position or position of leadership, pay people accordingly. Go hard to make sure People of Color around you are getting adequately compensated for our work and treated like human beings. Speak up and advocate for us. Empathy, support and listening: these are love languages.

6 – Check Yourself (is it your ego speaking or your heart?)

This can be your first step, your last step, and sometimes even your only step. If you are feeling uncomfortable, check yourself. Breathe into it. Figure out why. Take time to check how you are feeling. Is it your ego speaking or your heart?

Check your intentions. Before you post to social media, write anything,or speak,  check yourself. Do your actions align with your intentions?

Read: Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome by Dr. Joy DeGruy

Image: Nikia Phoenix

Remember that this work is a challenge for all parties involved. Black people specifically Black womxn have been doing the teaching and emotional work for such a long time. And to be quite honest, we are tired.

While we are thankful that you’re finally opening your eyes to see the unjust truth of racism, we don’t have the energy to hold your hands through this reckoning nor should we. But you should have grace and empathy for us. When you ask BIPOCs “how can I support you and how can I help” – know these are loaded questions. Come from a place of love and take initiative. Don’t put the work on others. Educate yourselves. To put it in business terms, Black people  are your clients. Ask yourself: what am I doing to please my client? What does my client need right now?

“Educate Yourself. Don’t Put The Work On Others. ”

— Nikia Phoenix

his is a great start but by no means the end of this discussion. We are just getting warmed up. In part II, we will dive a bit deeper into the emotional work of being an ally with compassion.

Homework: In your journal, write about your intentions for wanting to be an ally. Check yourself. Do your current words around this subject and your actions align? What are some CONSCIOUS OR unconscious biases you’ve held about BIPOCS? 

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