Handling Racism: Be an Ally
Our mission at News-O-Matic goes well beyond sharing daily news for kids. We seek to inspire the next generation to grow into empathetic, responsible global citizens with respect for people of all backgrounds. That means having honest conversations — however difficult — about race in America. “Be an Ally” is the second in our “Handling Racism” series, a resource that teachers and parents can use to facilitate these conversations with kids.
“Ally” is an important word. It often means a country that helps another nation in a war. But the term also means a person who shows support for someone else during a struggle. For example, an ally could be a white student who stands up for a black student in her class. Right now, America needs allies more than ever to help end racism.
Dwayne Reed is a black 4th-grade teacher from Chicago, Illinois. He says it’s not enough to simply not be racist yourself. Young people must take action if they want to make a difference. “Be an ally if you’re a white child,” he told News-O-Matic. And for people of color, “Be clear about what you feel and where you stand. Express yourself honestly, but with patience and grace towards those who are trying to understand.”
Vivienne, age 7, is a biracial girl from Springfield, Illinois. She is one of the few students of color in her school. Being an ally is “really important,” Vivienne explained. But what does that mean to her? “It means sticking up for people,” she answered. Sometimes she needs an ally. And sometimes she can act as an ally herself — like when she participated in a recent Black Lives Matter protest.
Vivienne gave an example of being an ally: “If someone is bullying or being mean, you can tell the person that is doing it that it’s not kind,” she explained. “And you can play with the person that is being bullied.” Vivienne said it’s simple to be an ally. “When you’re being an ally, you’re being really kind to other people.”
Vivian Iroanya is a black 19-year-old student living in Sheffield, England. When she was growing up in Italy, other children would make fun of her hair or skin. Today, her friends are her allies — and she knows they have her back. “We need to take a different approach in trying to address issues of race,” she told News-O-Matic. Where can we begin?
Here are four tips to follow to truly be an ally to others:
Let others share their experiences. Listen closely to the stories of people of color — and respect their emotions. “So many black kids are trying to make their voices heard,” said Iroanya. “And they’re not represented in the media.”
2. BE VOCAL
Silence will never stop racism. “White people need to absolutely speak up,” said Iroanya. “If you see something unfair happening to someone else, speak to your parents or teachers.” And you should share the words of people of color. That way their messages can be heard through your voice.
3. GET INVOLVED
There has been racism in America for hundreds of years. It will take hard work to get it to end. So, get involved now. “Use your platforms,” said Iroanya. Those could be your artwork, your poetry, or even a TikTok video. You can join or start your own club at school. Iroanya had another interesting idea: “Get your parents involved.”
4. LEARN MORE
Millions of people do not know the history of racism. Iroanya said there is a simple solution to fix that. “You need to educate yourself and read,” she explained. And look for stories written by authors from different backgrounds. That way you can better understand the struggles of others.
It may feel like you’re too young to make a difference in this world. But you can “take actions in the little space that you’re in,” said Iroanya. Small actions can grow into something greater. And so will you.