8 steps to help me ally better

8 steps to help me ally better

“How can i be a good ally?”

Well one of the ways is to definitely do some work. Read, research, listen, watch, don’t expect people [especially black people] to spoonfeed you all the answers.

But i did come across this which was created for Americaland but has some strongly helpful overlaps for our present situation and context.

This is from a list put together by an activism camp called ‘Localise This’ and it’s a list of 8 commitments for White Allies.

You can see the original flier it was adapted from here.

Take a read through and reflect on which one you need to work at?

[1] I commit to reflect on topics that may be uncomfortable. 

[2] I commit to promote cooperation over self-interest.

[3] I commit to recognize the concerns of people different from me.

[4] I commit to educate myself on issues that contribute to oppression.

[5] Even though I may unintentionally say or do something racist, I commit to view mistakes as opportunities for learning.

[6] When challenged on racism, I commit to working on my own defensiveness by calmly listening even if that is not my first reaction.

[7] I commit to including the interests of oppressed groups while making decisions that affect them.

[8] I commit to disrupt the status quo in order to share power and privilege with all people.


Which one of these felt particularly helpful for you? Can you add a way that you have found works in terms of helping you to be a better ally?

Is there anyone you know that this would be particularly helpful for?


About the Author:

Brett Fish is a lover of life, God, tbV [the beautiful Valerie] and owns the world's most famous stuffed dolphin, No_bob (who doesn't bob). He believes that we are all responsible for making the world a significantly better place for everyone.


  1. megan May 11, 2016 at 5:34 pm - Reply

    I have one of my own that really helps when I am trying to understand things. Do not take criticism personally.

  2. Tatenda May 12, 2016 at 8:11 am - Reply

    Hey what’s up. I also want to know about the land issue. For reconciliation to work it should all be nationalized and reappropriated don’t you think? Would like to hear your views on this and specifically why you think whites feel entitled to resist this?

    • brettfish May 12, 2016 at 2:57 pm - Reply

      Tatenda, thanks for stopping by. That is the absolute question of the day. And i think it is a lot more complicated than nationalised and reappropriated, don’t you. Say for example i have a house [i don’t] – do you want that house? Who wants that house? If 800 black people are wanting my house someone is going to be disappointed.

      i think it’s quite simple to see why white people resist the idea because they see the issue as “black people want all our stuff” and i imagine whoever you are having stuff that sentiment would seem like something worth resisting. If it was as simple as John took Thabo’s House then the answer would seem easy and straightforward to both John and Thabo. Give the house back John. John might not like that but i think he would know that it was the truth.

      But when you take it down a generation or two and say John and Bill had houses. Thabo’s house was taken away and given to John but Bill kept his house. Then later do you take John and Bill’s houses away? now it’s the next generation and there is John and Bill and their children Luke, Kevin, Mary, Susan and you have Thabo’s kids and their friends, Sindile, Billy, Asanda, Lerato and while it makes some sense for John’s house to be taken away there are a lot of people and not so many houses and it’s all practically quite complicated. That’s where it gets crazy for me – a terrible wrong was committed with land grabs and house demolishings and mass movings – certain people benefited from that, others didn’t directly [but benefited from the general systems and structures in place] and so what do you do?

      That’s usually the point where my head explodes. But i do think you are right in terms of questioning ‘Why do whites resist this?’ and even the conversation feels like something we can’t even get to. i would love to see a different perspective on this and hear your thoughts as well for maybe where i am simplifying or over-difficultising the whole thing but it’s all a mystery to me!

      Appreciate your comment
      love b

  3. Sue May 12, 2016 at 2:58 pm - Reply
    • brettfish May 12, 2016 at 4:44 pm - Reply

      Thanks Sue, i will try read it more fully again tomorrow. While i think i hear what she’s saying my experience on a number of occasions has been seeing some black people going “We’ve never heard a white person admit privilege or take this stuff on or whatever” and so in those cases i think that sometimes a more visible stepping in does help – problem is different people will receive it in different ways. But i do feel like sometimes the “I’m sorry that’s crap” is helpful, but i will try read it again and listen more and see and like you said, check myself.

      Thanks for sharing
      love brett fish

  4. Tatenda May 12, 2016 at 10:13 pm - Reply

    Why do whites resist? Will whites all leave if told to? Do you think white people deserve to own anything in SA when examining their abhorrent history? Your head gets confused but what us the concrete solution?

    • brettfish May 13, 2016 at 10:05 am - Reply

      i think your second question answers your first. i don’t think the answer to the problems in this country is for everyone to leave and i certainly am not planning on doing so. This is my home. i am African and would like to be a part of seeing things improve for everyone here. Yes, the history of the people who walked before us was abhorrent and while i bear the responsibility of being a part of cleaning up the mess i would not see it as fair for me to have to leave. We need to figure out concrete solutions together. There is enough for everyone’s need but not for everyone’s greed and that is what we need to figure out…

  5. Bruce May 13, 2016 at 1:01 pm - Reply

    “Why do whites resist?”

    Are you serious? If you told me to leave, I’d tell you something that one shouldn’t really say out loud! History is history – Africa is not special – All history has bad stories to tell. Who did what to whom and when can go back 1000s of years. Its way to complicated and impossible to rectify the past. If someone had something stolen recently, like in 10 or 20 years ago, it would be relatively easy to rectify. What we are dealing with here is hundreds of years of settlement by all cultures except for the Khoi-San (yes we know every coloured guy claims to be Khoi-San, but they are actually a mix of whites, malay, Khoi-San and maybe one or two other cultures).

    In 1652, there was no “South Africa”. Africa is huge, and there were migratory tribes who cannot claim to own the whole of Africa, Southern Africa or Western Cape. They were east of the Fish River and those areas are where they have the strongest land claims. If my great great great grandfather settled in Franschoek where the French and Dutch settled, then its been in my family for 200 years and I have more claim to that area than a guy arriving from Natal or Transkei for instance. There are no Khoi-San laying claim to that farm and there are no pure Khoi-San left really. A Zulu will certainly have zero claim there. I wont inherit it as it is distant cousin’s who will unfortunately.

    So we have historical ownership of land that is fairly easy to resolve as per the above i.e. its my family’s land. Then we have other areas that are harder to resolve such as white farmers in the Transkei… There is also the Karoo, but that was largely desert and had only Bushmen living there. No Zulu or Sotho or Venda or Xhosa there during the Great Trek.

    It must be resolved, but its complicated. I don’t think there are any answers. Entitlement runs in all directions. Its ridiculous to feel entitled to land in Western Cape if your ancestors were never there. Many claim that the whole of South Africa is black land, but it is not actually. If one has to look at that argument, we could say that I could make a claim in Rome or Greece or Scotland or Sweden or somewhere in Europe.

    Bottom line is white people in most areas are not going to give back any land as it was never owned by black people. In some areas it may be different and there may be more valid claims.

    Then there is the issue of buildings on the land. Should these be demolished before giving back land? Or should the black guys get these too? Where do we draw the line here?

    “Give back the land” without any specifics is actually inciting conflict and war. It is not helpful if the accusers do not show a map of the areas they are claiming and then we look into it.

    If I bought a house in 1998, then why should I give it up? You see, I’ve been paying a bond for almost 20 years now – I am not just going to give it to someone with a sense of entitlement – albeit misguided. I understand the anger and frustration, but it should be better guided. Better demands, more specific ones, better practical plans. It must not be infantile “Give back my land” as that is very unhelpful and actually widens the rift.

    We need concrete plans, specifics. I understand Brett likes the one-on-one interaction, group meetings and that type of thing, and it is a great way to resolve issues, but I don’t see that much coming from these meetings besides just a better understanding. When is the next meeting, whats the 1,2,3 plan of action, what can we do, how much do we give, when, where, how…

    We must not think of Africa is special. It is a part of the Earth. Europe, America, Middle East, Asia – everywhere has been colonized and there have been wars and movements of people. Its a bit naive to say,” Ahhh Africa is sepcial, its ours, only blacks belong here”. Its not gonna happen – we all belong here and must find a solution.

    I hope it works out, but there must be sacrifice from both sides, not just fingers pointed in one direction. What have black people gained from all this colonization (education, modern living, medicine, technology). Both sides must admit they have gained and lost on many fronts. We have made mistakes on both sides. If its just black people pointing fingers at whites as if white are evil and invaders it will never work out. Both sides must concede things for it to work.

  6. Bruce May 13, 2016 at 1:24 pm - Reply

    Some Zulu argue that they were migratory and that the whole continent belonged to them. That is untrue as there are Egyptians, Khoi-San, Bushmen – it is estimated that there are more than 3,000 tribes in Africa. An exact number is not known, however, because it is believed that there still may be some undocumented tribes in Central Africa. There are more than 2,000 languages collectively used by the tribes of Africa.

    Africa was connected to Europe before they built the Suez Canal.

    Europeans, Zulu, Bantu, Xhosa – we are all migratory on this place called EARTH. Europeans cannot say “ahhh Europe it is mine”, and neither can black people of any one tribe say, “Ahhh Africa is mine”. Its all Earth actually.

    Like I said; both sides – all sides whatever you call it must concede some, accept that we learnt from one another (White people learnt african herbal medicines, some farming, took land, settled in untouched land), blacks learnt technology, farming, education, written language. We both benifitted.

    I think blanketly saying “Whites go, give us land back”, is not going to be constructive. Nobody will comply with such demands. But if you said, “hey, my family had land in Limpopo for 300 years before your uncle settled there on our land… could we say take half?”

  7. Bruce May 13, 2016 at 2:11 pm - Reply

    I think one should do things without expecting something back. For a poor person that could be doing weeding in someone’s driveway for free. If someone did that for me, I’d no doubt give him say R100 or whatever I could spare, or some food. It is no use the poor guy standing there saying “you owe me, your grandfather did apartheid, your uncle took my land or apartheid made me poor”, its not really being constructive and that is entitlement, even though it might be a bit justified its not going to convince people to your plight. If the poor cleaned up their own streets in their areas, started rubbish cleaning groups, people will see and say, “hey these guys are quite honest and decent, let me see how I can get involved and donate.” I would do it and help out, maybe go clean up with them (I clean the beach from time to time anyway), or donate. If I see people burning tyres and schools, I’ll just want not much to do with them. I think entitlement is doing nothing and expecting the other guy to do it. A poor guy can feel entitled and justify it with apartheid or poverty, a wealthy guy can feel entitled in that he won’t lower himself to clean up a beach.

    I think the Churches need to get more involved in hosting teaching of skills, carpentry, computer skills, secretarial, welding, painting, gardening and so on, basic growing of crops. This along with Christian teaching would be the best way to go.

    The poor need to volunteer and also extend a hand. If they are unemployed, they should get a bag and clean up town, they should clean beaches and help out. They will get plenty of money in donations or even a Church fund for this.

  8. South Africa - Brett Fish May 30, 2016 at 1:12 pm - Reply

    […]  8 Steps to help me become a better ally of my friends of colour – a short but helpful reminder […]

  9. […] same with being an ally to friends of colour. i can’t declare that i am an ally. i can do everything i can to […]

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