How white ‘allies’ are trying to help the Black Lives Matter movement

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Judy Hand-Truit was a young white teen in Birmingham, Alabama, during the height of the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s.

“It really woke me up, it really made me who I became,” Hand-Truit recalls.

Not far from where she grew up was Kelly Ingram Park, where civil rights demonstrators were routinely attacked by officers and other law enforcement officials. Truit never participated in the protests, but the images have been forever imprinted in her mind.

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“People were risking their lives to stand up for their own human dignity,” Hand-Truit told in an interview. “I was just so amazed at the courage that people were showing.”

More than 50 years later, Truit, 69, is no longer standing on the sidelines.

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Today, she returns to the historic Kelly Ingram Park every Friday, organizing other whites in the park to peacefully demonstrate in support of Black Lives Matter.

“I just really needed for us to find a way to say what needs to be said,” Hand-Truit said of her activism.

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The demonstrations started as a response to the shooting and killing of Terence Crutcher in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Crutcher was unarmed when an officer fatally shot him.

Truit went on Facebook and posted an event, calling it, “White Birminghamians for black lives.”  She invited her white friends. Seven of them showed up to speak out against racial injustice.

Truit says she believes white people have the responsibility to address the discrimination and violence against black people.

“I had a feeling to [find an] overt way of expressing how intolerable it was to me as a citizen, and particularly as a white person […]” she said. “I believe that there are a number of white people who are rethinking how they deal with this issue.”

Last week, thousands of mostly white teachers in Seattle, Washington, wore Black Lives Matter t-shirts to support students of color. Earlier this month, Leah Tysse took a knee while singing the national anthem before an NBA game. Tysse, who is white, said kneeling was the “most patriotic thing” she could do to address injustice.

In Los Angeles, the group, “White people 4 blacks lives” is steadily gaining recognition. Earlier this month, the group hosted a rally that received more than 6 million views when shared on actor Matt McGorry’s Facebook page.

Thirty-four-year-old Jason David is a member.

“We’re really disturbed… we’re really outraged,” David said. “We’re saddened by all of these murders of black people who are happening with incredible frequency with no accountability.”

Like Truit, Jason says at an early age he knew he was racially conscious. He grew up in Santa Monica, a somewhat diverse area, but remembers the racial turmoil following the Rodney King beatings and the OJ Simpson trial.

He was also inspired by civil rights activists.

“Malcolm X in the 60s [said] there are sincere white people who want racial justice,” David said. “And what sincere white people should do is not come and flock to black lead organizations but go and do this work in your own community.”

The group has been around for about two years and has close ties to Los Angeles’ ‘Black lives Matter’ chapter. But organizers saw the need to be separate from Black Lives Matter and for white people to be active in white neighborhoods.

“White people really try to avoid this conversation or claim a colorblind approach attitude,” David said. “We want to create the space for white people to educate each other about racism without burdening people of color.”

Overall, you can find more than 100 white organized groups fighting for racial justice. Many of them affiliated with the national network “Showing up for racial justice” or Surj, all with the mission to connect people.

“We don’t kid ourselves, we don’t dilute ourselves, that’s the work, the work is building multi-racial relationships, multiracial community and movements, but we feel that part of the work is when white people get together, they really understand how racism operates; we need to do that work with each other.”

Ashantai Hathaway is a reporter at theGrio. Keep up with her on Twitter @ashantaih83.