Anti-racist allyship in the age of social media: Emma Dabiri’s What White People Can Do Next

Updated: Sep 12

With the regular appearance of the Black Lives Matter movement in the news and media over the past year, many people began to turn their attention toward what they do in order to support and help the black community. Emma Dabiri is an Irish-Nigerian author, academic and broadcaster, best known for her acclaimed book Don’t Touch My Hair - so the release of another brilliantly engaging piece of work from her was welcomed.

But whilst some were eager to hear from Dabiri again, others expressed concerns over the potential exploitation by commercial publishers of the self-reflection prompted by the BLM movement. Dabiri provides a critique of the ‘anti-racist genre’ in her book, as well as shedding light on the problematic nature of the social media economy in relation to race and racism.

What White People Can Do Next, published in early 2021, is a kind of educational tool-kit against racism. Drawing on years of academic research and personal experience, Dabiri encourages her readers to challenge themselves and others, with the hope and intention of instigating and inspiring meaningful and sustained change. By touching on issues such as ‘white privilege,’ the relationship between racism and capitalism, and the importance of education, Dabiri places those difficult conversations with colleagues, friends and family members at the heart of what it means to be anti-racist.

In her book, Dabiri is particularly critical of the notion of ‘allyship’, arguing that it often provokes too much of a pity-driven approach by white people towards members of the black community. She also spends time addressing the problems with social media activism and performative allyship, particularly in relation to ‘hashtag activism’.