Steps Toward Allyship

September 2020
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One-in-five adults say they often get their news on social media, according to Pew Research Center, whose late-2018 survey on news consumption found that more Americans are turning to online sources over traditional media like television and print newspapers.

What does that mean with the racial unrest happening in 2020? Several national surveys show that Americans’ interest and sense of urgency regarding racism and discrimination have seen a significant increase. People who were previously uninspired on these issues are now looking for ways to become more effective advocates for diverse audiences.

The same holds true for PR professionals and their organizations. Over the summer, we’ve seen agencies, corporations and nonprofits declare their support for racial justice. However, many of these same organizations have also faced criticism for their own shortcomings in achieving a diverse and inclusive workplace.

For professionals and organizations who desire to become better allies, it’s important to have an understanding of our nation’s history of racial injustice and the way that it manifests itself in today’s society.       

While you’re consuming news through your social media networks, consider following these organizations for their content:

Equal Justice Initiative (EJI): If you’ve watched the movie “Just Mercy,” then you probably remember EJI as the organization that protagonist Bryan Stevenson (played by Michael B. Jordan) established to defend wrongfully incarcerated persons from death row in Alabama. But EJI also stands out for its social media content.

Every day, the organization highlights an event in history — many of which are not common knowledge — with lasting implications in the fight for racial equality. Having more than a surface-level knowledge about slavery, Jim Crow laws and the Civil Rights Movement is crucial for those who want a better understanding of the deep wounds that exist for marginalized professionals.

The Martin Luther King, Jr. Center: Founded by the late Coretta Scott King, the wife of the late civil rights movement leader, The King Center is an official living memorial based in Atlanta. Currently led by daughter and executive director Bernice King, the Center uses its social media networks to further promote Dr. King’s work.

While Dr. King was most well-known for his philosophy of nonviolence, misconceptions abound on what his message actually meant in practice. The King Center’s content and resources shatter the “passive” stereotype of nonviolence and emphasize the intended nature of “active, love-centered noncooperation” with injustice.

Race Forward: When it comes to providing resources and professional development on antiracism, few organizations thrive in this space better than Race Forward. Founded in 1981 and based in Oakland, Calif., Race Forward’s content is a mix of research, media and practice.

The organization partners with others to publish research findings that demonstrate the impact of systemic barriers on people of color. Race Forward also publishes Colorlines, a news website covering the latest news with a racial lens, as well as original commentary and analysis. Their content aims to support those who desire to put their advocacy into practice by taking action against complex racial justice issues.

If you’re actively seeking to become an ally for people of color, then it’s important to know that it is solely your responsibility to get educated on these issues. Placing the burden of getting assistance from diverse professionals cannot only be seen as offensive, but it’s also lazy. To paraphrase a popular quote from Audre Lorde, “It’s not the job of the oppressed to educate the oppressor.”

Thousands of additional resources exist in the form of books, movies, videos and other mediums. Following these organizations is just the first step of many that aspiring allies can take to become effective advocates for professionals of color. But it’s that willingness to take step one that’s been much needed.

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