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How to be an anti-racist ally explored in 'chinwag'

Informal chats show professionals how they can support people of colour

Wayne Reid

Published by Professional Social Work magazine, 12 January, 2022

How white people can become “authentic anti-racist allies” in support of the Black and Asian community is explored in a series of three online discussions.

The episodes see BASW England professional officer Wayne Reid in discussion with former social work colleague turned friend and mentor Andrew Thompson.

Called The Triple ‘A’ Chinwag – the ‘A’ standing for authentic anti-racist allyship – the informal chats aim to show professionals how they can support the cause.

Reid said: “The Triple ‘A’ Chinwag spotlights authentic anti-racist allyship in the face of omnipresent white supremacy in everyday life.

“Andrew is articulate and honest in conveying his observations, which I’m sure will resonate with people inside and outside of social work.”

Thompson is a retired lecturer and specialist practice teacher in youth justice who helped set up Sheffield’s juvenile justice and race panel.

He said: “Racism is a white problem. Owning it and trying to be anti-racist will lead to errors and mistakes. But these can be reduced by listening and without tone-policing.” 

Speaking in episode two of the series, Thompson says his key advice to potential allies of anti-racism is “don’t be scared”. 

He added: “And don’t take advantage of the white privilege you have to do nothing. It might be bumpy but if you are open and honest it is an enjoyable ride in which everyone benefits.  Go in with an open mind… And think about whiteness. When you say that, 99 per cent of white people say what do you mean? Which says it all.”

The discussions come at a time of heightened awareness and debate around structural racism within society and institutions following the resurgence of the Black Lives Matter and ‘Anti-racism in Social Work’ movement.

They specifically explore anti-black racism and are part of BASW's wider commitment to anti-racism.

The series includes reflective discussions with three social workers – Maureen Mguni and Rachael Rooke from the Black & Ethnic Minority Professionals Symposium and England professional officer Liz Howard.

Mguni said the series has helped her recognise the difference between ‘white awareness’ and ‘white allyship’. 

“I have often felt an unease when friends and colleagues who call themselves allies are often unwilling to take a stand when an injustice is being served. Although I recognise that not everyone is willing to speak out and be vulnerable, what makes an ally special is their willingness to act, to share power and take risks when it comes to challenging race.”

Rook praised Thompson’s example of “stepping out of his comfort zone” and being prepared to challenge others to do so too. “This to me is true allyship, when as a white person you step away from the unearned advantages afforded to you by your skin colour to support and advocate for and with people of colour, even if it means you experience some of the same hostility and resistance usually directed to people of colour.”

Howard said the series showed how anti-racism should not be approached from a “white saviour” stance and how the series had made her aware of her “power and privilege as a white person to challenge racism.”

The Triple ‘A’ Chinwag is available via BASW YouTube channel.