People who want to help in the fight for racial equality should be thoughtful and solutions-focused in their approach, avoiding symbolic but unimpactful gestures, experts told Qatar Foundation (QF)’s Doha Debates during a recent #DearWorldLive episode.
Advocates for racial justice cited examples of people with the best intentions showing their support for the global struggle for racial equality, and discussed whether those actions were meaningful.
Kelsey Nielsen, co-founder of Uganda-based No White Saviours, who describes herself as a “white saviour in recovery”, told programme host Nelufar Hedayat that allyship with Black people is an “ongoing process of confrontation and accountability”, stressing that any solution “should be completely Black-led”. Simamkele Dlakavu, a professor and lecturer on gender studies at the University of Cape Town, said the first step to good allyship in the fight for racial justice is to “reach out to the community and ask how you can be of help.
They will let you know the ways you can help.”
Nielsen addressed the dangers of failed allyship, highlighting “the violence and harm caused by white people who do awful things in the name of doing good…and abuse their power in the process.”
Dlakavu underscored that historically white allies have played a role in both dismantling and preserving systems of oppression.
She cited this is as a reason why, despite the ostensible end of apartheid, the fight against racism continues, and that racism is not limited to just interpersonal effects, but it has tangible effects, too – from lower life expectancy to resource ownership and healthcare access.
Nielsen added that allyship is not about what privilege someone is willing to use in the fight but rather what privilege they’re willing to give up.
Salah Mahmoud, a Palestinian medical student at Weill Cornell Medicine — Qatar, a QF partner university, attended the discussion and asked: “How can you take part in activism without speaking over said community?”
Dlakavu stressed that people must “refrain from assuming that the community isn’t doing the work already.” On the topic of cancel culture, Hedayat asked whether we “should cancel people who get it wrong.” Dlakavu stated that “we are not all born activists...even the most inspiring political and cultural activists had a past,” that is why “we must keep learning.”
Nielsen said that people “should not be canceled...it is about practicing humility in that process.” The intention should be to “seek and desire liberation, justice and equity,” not just using the buzzwords of “diversity and inclusion, but actually doing the work to transfer power and disrupt these systems.”
More than half a mn people around the world watched the live online show, the fourth in a series of #DearWorldLive programmes focused on how to achieve racial justice around the world.
The live programme’s top viewing nations were the US, Brazil, Turkey, India and Spain.
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