Becoming an ally in order to support others in your community.
When discussing ways in which you can support individuals facing racism or injustice, the terms “ally” or “accomplice” may be used. Collen Clemens, author of The Language of Activism, defines an ally as someone who will mostly engage in activism by standing with an individual or group in a marginalized community. She defines an accomplice as someone who will focus more on dismantling the structures that oppress that individual or group—and such work will be directed by the stakeholders in the marginalized group. When seeking to become an ally of a marginalized community, it is important that you stand alongside individuals as opposed to acting as a “savior” or making them feel like they are a victim. It’s equally important that individuals examine their own actions, biases, or microagressions and work toward increasing their understanding and knowledge about issues of race and inequality. People often tend to avoid conversations about race because they can be uncomfortable or cause tension. Choosing not to have these conversations does not make the issue go away. In fact, it oftentimes furthers the divide among groups and hinders the ability to become more educated or aware. Those seeking to support others in their workplace, organizations, or community should be intentional about creating a team that is diverse and amplifying the voices of those who have the most knowledge about these issues.
Impact of the COVID-19 pandemic among minority communities
The disparities observed in response to the COVID-19 pandemic has indeed shed light on the structural differences, availability of resources, and access to healthcare for families living in this country. Whether it’s related to the infection or death rate, how families how faired with remote learning, or if families have access to the COVID-19 vaccine—issues of race and inequality are present. A review of current United States statistics related to the COVID-19 pandemic indicate that a range of factor place low-income and minority families at increased risk of exposure. In addition, a lack of adequate health care, absence of insurance, or fear due to undocumented status has resulted in prolonging care until symptoms are extremely debilitating. Differences have also been reporting across testing and vaccine sites in which opportunities for testing and vaccinations are scarce within minority communities. It must almost be acknowledged that there is hesitancy and mistrust within the minority community when given the opportunity to access the vaccine—this of course can be partially attributed to the historical incidents involving mistreatment of minorities within medical and research settings. In order to adequately support minority communities during the pandemic, health care providers and community leaders must look closer at the social determinants of health and create healthcare models that are equitable and culturally appropriate. Throughout the pandemic we have also observed incidences or racism and discrimination toward Asian Americans, providing further examples of how bigotry, stereotypes, and misinformation can cause significant harm to others
Improving law enforcement and community relations
The difficulties and strife between minority communities and law enforcement has existed for decades. Whether it’s incidents of police brutality, the war on drugs, racial profiling or stop-and-frisk procedures—it is impossible to overlook the range of current and historical events and circumstances that continue to widen this divide. There is indeed a lot of work that needs to be done to improve racial and ethnic minority perceptions of law enforcement and the belief that police will follow constitutional or professional norms regardless of an individual’s race or ethnicity. Focusing on the improvement of community-police relations is necessary if our country hopes to truly address the distrust of law enforcement among racial and ethnic minority and the belief that some police officers lack lawfulness. Strategies to help address law enforcement and community relationships include the willingness to have open and ongoing conversations on issues of race and community relations within police departments, actively recruiting diverse personnel and individuals who are trained to work with diverse communities, participating in community town hall meetings and hosting community building events, and insisting on transparency so that there is accountability when there is unlawful or discriminatory actions toward members of the community.
Investing in community health centers and the clinics that typically serve minority, immigrant, and low-income families can help to ensure that families are able to access the resources and care that is needed.
The importance of faith-based organizations and community resources
It is important to continue working as a community to address issues surrounding racism and social injustice. As a community, you can work with others to: improve family interactions, make resources available for those in need, increase the role of faith-based institutions, provide opportunities for you that aid in skill building, increase trauma-informed practices in academic institutions, and acknowledge social and economic disparities. For many individuals, the church or other faith-based institutions are viewed as a key source guidance and a place where you can gather with others who may share similar beliefs. At a time when many communities are struggling or in need of support, there are many ways that faith-based institutions can help or get involved. In addition to hosting community-wide events such as picnics or peace marches, leaders in the church can help to spread the message about positive youth development, violence prevention, and what everyone can do to improve the community. By looking at the community as an extension of the congregation, religious leaders can begin to identify the needs in the community and put together a plan for how their church can help to address issues of racism and social injustice. Although there may be several resources available in communities, there may not always be communication or collaboration between the different organizations. When working to reach a goal or bring change to a community, collaborating with others and sharing information about resources can be extremely beneficial. While collaborating may take time or additional effort, building trusting relationships with others in the community will be valuable. Working together as a community can help to create safe spaces for children and families, changing norms about violence and racism, and increase awareness about the challenges facing minority families.