How to help: Acknowledge
One of the easiest and most important ways you can support your Black friends, colleagues, and students is to simply acknowledge that things are not normal. Letting people know that you know these events are taking place in our country is essential. It can feel uncomfortable, or like you are overstepping a boundary, but moving forward with “business as usual” without acknowledging the lived experience of Black people can feel harmful and silencing to those directly affected.
This acknowledgment does not need to be complicated or invasive. Some examples of how you can do this effectively are:
Ask, “Are you ok?”
Check in with Black colleagues by phone, text, or email. It is ok to recognize the identity of the person you are speaking with—to say, “I know these events affect you as a Black person.” Talking around the fact that race is explicitly at issue can actually cause more harm. You can also say, “I’m thinking about you in this time.” At the same time, take care not to push emotional labor onto Black colleagues by making them feel obligated to respond or to establish or build a new connection with you if you weren’t already closely connected.
Take a minute or two at the start of meetings to address this issue directly
Another way to ensure our Black community members feel supported is to publicly acknowledge that these events are happening. This can be brief, and does not mean starting a debate or offering commentary.For example, you might start a meeting by saying, “I want to take a minute to acknowledge that there are important and intense conversations about racism and police violence happening in our country right now. I know that this can be especially exhausting for our Black faculty/staff members and I just want to acknowledge that. We see you and are here to support you.”
Avoid repeatedly drawing attention to Black community members and performing allyship
While it is important that you offer acknowledgment, it is not necessary to do this at every meeting, indefinitely. Once you convey this message, move on to other forms of support. Words without action can seem disingenuous.