Our New Normal, Being An Ally, and My Friends’ Voices

The last two weeks have been….a lot. Eye-opening. Sad. Frustrating. Powerful. All the words.

I originally wrote this 2 weekends ago. And I almost hit publish last Monday. I’m sure glad I didn’t. Not that I was rushing to get something up to make me look good, but because I didn’t do enough research, enough listening, enough talking.

But now? I’m ready to talk.

Throughout this, I realized that in my silence, I was not doing my job as an ally to my black friends and black people all over the world. I do think the last two weeks have been extremely powerful in the world. I’ve realized this is the time to speak up. There has always been injustice in the world. Enough is enough. 

I wrote these thoughts randomly, and I wasn’t planning on sharing them. But after talking with friends, I know it’s right to. We need to keep the conversation going, even when the hashtags and protests end.

i’m lucky.

White privilege.

That’s what I have. And I have a lot of it.

Luckily, my parents raised me in a way that I was taught to love and respect every single human out there. Yes, even the bad people (sometimes I find myself having empathy for criminals when I watch crime shows…I can’t help it). My parents never once instilled any type of hate in our home. My parents didn’t question why I wanted to buy the Hispanic or Black baby dolls when I was younger because I had tan skin, and I thought they looked like me.

I’m one of the lucky ones.

I recognize fully that this is all white privilege. I think I was so scared to speak up about white privilege because I thought it had a negative connotation. The matter of fact is, I’m lucky that I’m white. I can’t apologize for being white. So why should I think of it as a negative? After speaking with some of my black friends, and seeing strangers’ posts on their social media, black people WANT US TO USE OUR PRIVILEGE TO CREATE CHANGE FOR THEM. And that’s how I’m looking at it going forward.

we need to do better, period.

Am I a racist? Fuck (sorry, Mom) no. Have a sat back and didn’t speak up because it was uncomfortable? Absolutely. That is something I’m 100% at fault for. Have I ever judged someone based on their skin color because of what society told me? Yeah, I have. That is something I’m 100% at fault for. Have I ever tried to do research and help black friends and their community? No. And that is something I’m 100% at fault for.

Until now.

As someone with a relatively small platform, I decided to speak out. Not because people are telling me to. Not because it’s what the media wants me to do. It’s because I WANT to. When this has happened in the past (it really hits a nerve that I had to say that), I was guilty of posting a short story on Instagram, and moving on. I never sat and thought about how this will not end until white people take a stand. I’ve been reading and researching over the last week, having conversations with my friends, and realizing a lot.

I’m going to be honest: I didn’t have many black friends or classmates at my private, Catholic school. When I was in middle school, I was on a travel basketball team, where I was lucky enough to travel around the coast and play teams from different areas. I was also lucky to run cross country, track and field all throughout high school, had a female black coach, and met many amazing black men and women through the running community. But once Instagram came around, I was introduced to SO many amazing people who, guess what, happen to be black. I would have never met these people if it weren’t for social media and our decision to be digital creators. I wanted to get the thoughts from 3 AMAZING women whom I love and respect — not because of the color of their skin — but because of their content, their hearts, and our bonds.

here’s what my friends have to say…

As a white person, I don’t know what they’re going through. But I see what they’re feeling every time they take to their platforms to speak up. I’m so thankful they’ve agreed to share their thoughts with MY audience. So it’s my time to shut the hell up and let my friends speak.

Amber of Cocoa Butter Diaries (BLOG | INSTAGRAM)

In my opinion, the best things allies can do is educate, validate, and communicate.

  1. Educate: Google is free 99. So is the library. There is NO REASON why you can’t learn about black history, systemic racism, and this country’s history of oppression outside of what they taught you in school. It’s also NOT a black persons job to educate you. You have to put in the work. @chasingdenisse put together an excellent list of books that folks can read that I’ve also read myself.
  2. Validate: Oftentimes, black people aren’t allowed the safe space to process their emotions. And when we do say how we feel we’re often met with, “you’re overreacting” or “it didn’t affect you personally so why are you upset”. LISTEN TO US! Understand what we are saying! We need to know that it’s okay for us to feel our feelings and that they’re indeed justified. Also, please don’t turn around and make it about you. It isn’t about you nor can you speak on it because you’re not a person of color. In addition, if you’re a woman, don’t equivocate sexism with racism. HUGE NO-NO. Finally, if a non-black person gets called out on their racist behavior it is NOT your place to apologize on our behalf.
  3. Communicate: Yeah, overt racism (white supremacy, racist jokes, hate crimes) is bad. But it’s the covert racism you gotta really watch out for. The “woke” folks who have a black friend or who voted for Obama…they’re the worst offenders. Micro aggression, calling the cops on black people because they’re uncomfortable, not checking their family/friends/coworkers when they make even subtle racist jokes, standing idly by when POC are harassed, etc. are what REALLY cause problems on the daily. Nip that shit in the bud! A lot of these have simple solutions like minding your own business but others need for you to speak up. These individuals are bullies. When you stand up to them, they back off – especially when one of their own does it.

Ailsa of @_happygocurly_

I think Ailsa and I have been following each other on Instagram since I was in college. We finally met in person last year (I think) at a Dudley Stephens event in the city. And honestly, it felt like I knew her forever. We instantly connected, and I’ve always felt such a strong bond with her. When I wanted to speak out about what was going on, I turned to her first. She keeps it 100% real with me, always.

Her outlook on seeing color, but not fixating on it TRULY made me realize the kind of person she is. I’m SO freakin’ happy she is getting the attention she finally deserves. She is an absolute LIGHT in this world, and we can learn a lot from her. She said something that really stuck with me during our conversation. To paraphrase, it is angering when someone says they’re “shocked” about what’s going on…because it’s been happening to black people forever. So to me, that signals ignorance. All Ailsa wants is for people to be kind and open to learning…and that’s what I love about her.

Here are some additional quotes I wrote down from our conversation:

“You love your friend for being your friend, not because of her color.”

“Acknowledge me. See my color, and let’s move on. And that’s what we need to do. It’s all on the basis of just being kind and acknowledging it, but not fixating on it.”

“Treat us like human beings.”

PS: Don’t touch her hair. She’s not a pet. ASK HER. KTHANKSBYE;)

Rynetta of Really Rynetta (BLOG |INSTAGRAM)

Rynetta is someone I began following back in college because I was going through an “I’m obsessed with J.Crew” phase. I thought I was THE most obsessed. UNTIL I MET RYNETTA, HA! She is the QUEEN of J.Crew – her previous handle was @jcrewismyfavstore. She got the attention of Jenna Lyons HERSELF. Like OK GIRL. So yeah, she definitely beat me in the J.Crew obsessed department.

To me, Rynetta is such a smart, beautiful, and open woman. She is professor of African American Literature. She loves a colorful outfit. She loves her husband SO much. She is such a positive influence on others. I knew I needed her thoughts when deciding to write this post.

She immediately sent me this link to a post she wrote back in January. I read it. And then I read it again. And now you need to go read it. Here’s a message from Rynetta:

“Also, I think it’s important that we have open, honest, and vulnerable conversations about race. We have to talk about these injustices, consistently, not just in the moment of national outrage. And, non-POC have to be willing to listen without being defensive. We can disagree about whether or not a shirt is cute, but we cannot have disagreements that are rooted in someone else’s oppression (James Baldwin).”

Finally, she uses this piece on white privilege in her classes. Again, a must read. I have it saved on my desktop so I can easily reference and continue to think on it.

Alicia of Alicia Tenise (BLOG | INSTAGRAM)

Alicia is honestly one of my favorite people. She has ALWAYS had a powerful voice as a black influencer in the space. She never backed down from opening up and having tough conversations surrounding diversity among campaigns, or her feelings growing up in an upper-middle class environment. I truly applaud her for this, and 100% recommend you checking out her Instagram for more insight on what’s happening right now.

in conclusion

I don’t know. How do we right so many wrongs? How do we change the minds of so many? For me, I’m going to try my best to be a better ally. I might not be able to change the views, but I can certainly try because I know that is the right thing to do. Being an ally is going to be YEARS of work. It’s not going to happen overnight. My content will remain the sames in terms of how I run my business, what I share, etc. But there are things that will be added and things I’ll incorporate into my business model that weren’t there before.

  • Stand up to brands When brands aren’t inclusive and diverse, then I shouldn’t be working with them. It’s that simple. Do you know how many black influencers produce WAY BETTER CONTENT THAN ME, yet I’ve gotten collaborations over them? Brands with cult-like followings need to do better when choosing influencers for campaigns. Agencies need to do a better job at pushing inclusivity and diversity when casting influencers for campaigns. We need to use our voices to make sure there is EQUAL pay for influencers of the same size, regardless of their color.
  • Lend an ear I’ve learned that conversations are going to be uncomfortable. I’ve spoken to strangers, my best friends, and my family about issues and yes, they’re very uncomfortable. But that’s the point. I’m making it a point to ensure I’m consistently checking in on my black friends, especially in the influencer space, to see if there’s anything they’re experiencing and offer help where I can.
  • Continue to speak up & amplify black voices The work doesn’t end because we put our platforms on mute for a week. There is SO much that needs to be done. My new normal consists of continuing to educate myself and then educating those who follow me. I also want to make sure I’m keeping my feed diversified. That means sharing stories, content, resources of black creators/business owners more than I did before. Over the last two weeks, I found myself stumbling upon AMAZING feeds from black content creators. I’m so excited to genuinely engage and connect with them all.
  • Donate & Volunteer When possible, I’m committed to continuing to donate to funds and charities that benefit the black community. So far my favorite organizations are Campaign Zero, The Loveland Foundation, and the NAACP Legal Defense Fund.

If you’re still with me, we have a lot of work that needs to be done. It does not end here. This is an uphill battle that we have to commit to fighting TOGETHER. As a white, female influencer, I’m committing to creating peace, equality, and justice not only for my fellow black influencers, but for all black people. Racism SHOULD. NOT. EXIST. IN. 2020. We need to do better. Be better. Together.

I’d love to continue the conversation with you! Please let me know your thoughts in the comments, and let’s create change together!

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  1. 6.9.20

    This is so good Dana. Thank you for being YOU.

    • 6.9.20

      I’m laughing because I am signed in as you still. THIS IS ELLE EVERYONE. DANA DOES NOT COMMENT ON HER BLOG POSTS

      • 6.9.20

        LAUGHING TOO. Thanks for clarifying for everyone;)
        But thanks, Elle! LOVE YOU!!!!

  2. 6.9.20

    Dana! I appreciate you SOOOO much. This post is exactly what we need to keep the conversation going.

    • 6.9.20

      It won’t stop here! Thank you so much for being part of this. Your beautiful personality makes me want to fight hard for you – so it will NOT end here.

  3. 6.9.20
    Morgan said:

    So many resources and creators to check out here .. thanks for sharing them!

    the HER chronicles [] http://theherchronicles.com

  4. 6.9.20
    Grace said:

    I really appreciate this article and get to know so many influencers who are women of color! It drives me to reflect a lot on the diversity of my own instagram following. I’ve been influenced to follow so many white and asian bloggers (I’m Asian) but not a lot from other ethnicities! There really needs to be some work done here.

    I also feel you so much on deciding whether to publish an article like this – I myself have been writing a blog post for the entire past week and having no idea whether I should share it – but after seeing so many people starting a dialogue, I no longer accept silence as an answer.