How to be an ally: Winnipeggers' suggestions to show support for Black community

As protests continue in the wake of George Floyd's death in the United States, some are looking at racism parallels right here at home. Marney Blunt reports.

With anti-racism demonstrations being held around the world, a number of experts in Winnipeg have offered some suggestions on how locals can show their support.

One of the organizers of the upcoming Justice4BlackLives rally at the Manitoba Legislature says her event will be a peaceful protest, but she understands why many of the protests across the United States have turned violent.

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“Every single protest that has been happening starts off peaceful,” Jayda Hope told 680 CJOB.

“Everybody is there and they want to be heard, they want to be listened to… and the police come in and they create violence.

“Myself and the organizers, we are not against violent actions, even though our protest is peaceful.”

“We are in solidarity with all of our Black brothers and sisters any way they decide to protest injustice.”

The event, which takes place at 6 p.m. Friday at the legislative building, will include speakers from Winnipeg’s Black community — including MLA Uzoma Asagawara (Union Station), Nadine Sookermany from the Women’s Health Clinic, and community advocate and filmmaker Adeline Bird.

The event welcomes allies, said Hope, adding that there are a number of ways people who want to show support for the Black community can do so.

“You can tune into the Black community. Look for Black activists. Follow them on social media. See what they’re saying. Listen to them and amplify their voices,” she said.

“Nobody is putting pressure on you personally to speak, but you can amplify the voices of people who want to be heard and share to all those who will listen.”

While the focus of much of the news in recent days has been the ongoing protests unfolding in the United States, Hope said Canada — and Winnipeg in general — faces many of the same issues as Americans are facing.

“I think that Canadians and Canada are way better at hiding racism, but we’re just as bad as America. Police murder people in Canada as well, whether they be Indigenous or Black… and it happens quite often and gets swept under the rug.

“Me, personally, as a Black woman in Winnipeg, even just advocating for this rally and putting it on, I have been faced with racism and a backlash,” said Hope.

“It doesn’t matter which way you approach a situation, if people are racist, they’re going to be racist.

“We need allies to combat that and to stand up for that and tell people when they’re wrong.”

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Being a good ally means seeing someone else’s struggle as your own, says a Winnipeg psychologist.

Dr. Rehman Abdulrehman told 680 CJOB the first step is acknowledging how bad the problem really is.

“People of colour will often hide a lot of their experiences because they’re often told they’re being too sensitive — that people didn’t mean it that way,” he said.

“So not only do you face the experience of discrimination, but you face the backlash of being told you’re making a bigger deal out of something than it should be.”

Abdulrehman said a good ally is able to take the message as seriously as the person they’re supporting. “You want somebody who sees your struggle as their own.

“I think the only way we can ever get to the point where we overcome a lot of the racism and the difficulties we’re seeing in the world is when we’re able to move beyond the ‘us and them’ and it’s just ‘us’.

“We get stuck in our own perspectives and when we have our own perspectives, we can’t see the perspectives of other people.

“A lot of the lash-back people are getting when they’re actually advocating for Black lives or people of colour is from people who can’t take their perspectives outside of their own.”

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Susie Erjavec Parker of Winnipeg public relations company Sparker Strategy Group told 680 CJOB part of being an ally means educating yourself without taxing others.

“One of the things about allyship or even being an accomplice… is not asking people of colour to do that work for you. Google exists, and you can find resources on how to be a better ally.”

Erjavec Parker said people with privilege also need to make sure there’s representation from certain communities where there ought to be.

For example, a panel on diversity full of white men would be an opportunity for an ally to give up their own space to allow someone with lived experience a seat at the table.

It’s not enough simply to repost something on social media — you have to actually stand up against racism in person, she added.

“You use the privilege… to put yourself in between the person or organization trying to put oppression upon these people and use that — use yourself as a buffer.”


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