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[VIDEO] On Gabrielle Union and White Allies Educating Themselves on Issues of Race

Last week, I wrote a post about Gabrielle Union, and how she wanted to reach out to Hollywood peers like Amy Schumer and Kate Upton to have a frank discussion about their public missteps regarding race.

In the above video, I go a little further with the idea that white allies should do their best to educate themselves before expecting help from people of color and suggest some tiny things they can do to do so while also caring for the people of color in their lives.

And for those of you who can’t watch a video right now, the transcript is below. Feel free to add any other suggestions, or recommend some reading material for those looking to educate themselves in the comments!


Teresa Jusino here at The Mary Sue.

Last week, I wrote about Gabrielle Union, and how in response to a recent interview question about the missteps of her white peers in Hollywood regarding race that she’d be willing to quote – “help to explain the oppressive systems that have benefited and allowed them to say these careless, insensitive and offensive things” – end quote.

While her taking the time to educate in this way is important, it’s sad that she even has to. Too often it becomes the burden of people of color to constantly explain their oppression, which can be exhausting to people for whom just getting by every day is a struggle.

Here are some things to keep in mind if you genuinely want to be an ally to people of color as a denizen of the Internet. Many of these ideas were mentioned in the comments at my post over at The Mary Sue, because our commenting community is quite often a bunch of geniuses.

Understand that there’s a big difference between talking about this stuff with friends of color, and talking about it with strangers on the internet. Of course, if you want suggestions on books and articles to read, sources to go to, or just a deeper understanding of personal experience, you can go to your friends of color. They are already your friend, and they are already invested in you. However, don’t expect them to always give you answers. And if you’re in an internet comment thread, and talking to people you don’t know, it’s not the best time to ask for citations or defenses from people of color.

On that note…

Reach out to your friends of color and let them know they are seen and heard. After tragedies like the recent spate of shootings of unarmed black men, the black men and women in your life will likely be emotionally drained. If they post on Facebook, acknowledge their feelings and let them know you see them and are there to listen. Even if they don’t, maybe reach out with an email or a phone call. It will go a long way.

If you come across a comment thread discussing race, don’t comment. Instead, read the link originally posted, then scroll through all the comments and read everything. Chances are, anything you wanted to ask or address has already been asked or addressed. If you do all that, and you STILL have a question, reach out to the person privately, and ask them to kindly answer your question if they are able. This takes the pressure off the mob scene and lets someone know you genuinely want to learn, as opposed to being there to derail a conversation or create a “gotcha” moment in public. If you can’t reach out to them directly, because they’re either not a friend of yours, or the platform you’re using doesn’t allow it. You probably shouldn’t be asking that person.

These are just a couple of tiny ways in which you can be an ally while making life a little easier for people of color as we navigate conversations about race. Have any other suggestions, or want to suggest reading material? Comment below!

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Teresa Jusino (she/her) is a native New Yorker and a proud Puerto Rican, Jewish, bisexual woman with ADHD. She's been writing professionally since 2010 and was a former Mary Sue assistant editor from 2015-18. Teresa's returned to play in the TMS sandbox as a freelancer. When not writing about pop culture, she's writing screenplays and is the creator of your future favorite genre show. Teresa lives in L.A. with her brilliant wife. Her other great loves include: Star Trek, The Last of Us, anything by Brian K. Vaughan, and her Level 5 android Paladin named Lal.