How to stay committed to Black allyship: 'Prepare for a marathon, because this isn't a sprint'

Shanon Lee
·Contributing Writer
·3 min read

Yahoo Life is hosting a 5-day challenge to help readers learn one actionable thing each day to be a better ally to marginalized or disenfranchised people.

The conditions stemming from hundreds of years of systemic oppression of Black people in the U.S. are so complex, and racism is so ingrained in American society, that effective allyship requires an active commitment to change. The equality we are fighting for today may not be realized during our lifetime, so doing antiracism work needs to become a part of our lifestyle — and not treated as a fad.

Today is Day 5 of the Yahoo Allyship Pledge: 5 Day Challenge with Frederick Joseph, author of The Black Friend: On Being A Better White Person. This is a guided program you can follow along with from home to learn how to identify your privilege, recognize systems of oppression and become a better ally.

Day 5: Commit to a marathon

(Photo: Frederick Joseph)
(Photo: Frederick Joseph)

“Your final challenge is to prepare for a marathon, because this isn't a sprint,” Joseph says, explaining how rectifying 400 years of systemic inequities plaguing the Black community will be long and arduous work. “It [won’t] take a day, week, or month to undo what our entire country was founded on.”

"We cannot begin to gauge how much time it will take to dismantle systems responsible for generations of widespread oppression," he continues.“It's time for the most important part of all this work... understanding this is just the beginning.”

Joseph says we must accept that the changes we are fighting for may not happen during our lifetime.

“That's something that [we] have to be okay with, because every step is important,” Joseph says, encouraging us to stay present while completing this challenge.

We did not reach this moment in history because of recent injustices or subsequent protests, he says, and we need to understand we are fighting a bigger battle.

“That's an important part of being more than an ally. That's about being an accomplice, a co-conspirator [and] someone who actually understands we need systemic change,” he adds.

Create an actual home in your life for your allyship.Frederick Joseph

Joseph explains we are still trying to access the extent of the generational trauma within the Black community and the disparities caused by hundreds of years of systemic oppression.

“We can't quantify how much those 400 years have traumatized and marginalized [Black people],”Joseph says.

Due to this, he explains we cannot put a timestamp on how long it will take to overhaul the “systems that many have been benefiting from for generations.”

“My final challenge to you is to commit to continuing to do the work,” Joseph says. “By that I mean, create an actual home in your life for your allyship" by designating a permanent place in your life for antiracism work.

For example, Joseph suggests setting up a recurring donation to organizations that support Black lives or help dismantle systems of oppression, volunteering with an organization and joining (or starting) an anti-racist book club to continue learning how to be a better ally.

“Thank you all for taking part, I sincerely hope your work doesn't end here,” adds Joseph, encouraging us to continue fighting for a better world. “I want to see every last one of you out there in the marathon.”

Video produced by Jacquie Cosgrove

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