As the killing of George Floyd has ignited the nation and moved so many into the streets to protest racial injustice, there is a lot of conversation about being an ally and helping the cause.

But what does that mean?

Many people may be ready to do the work and are asking themselves and others what they can do. Understandably, it can be difficult to know how to help or use your voice. So, here are some concrete steps you can take to further the cause.

Educate yourself and your children

Maybe you’re just dipping into this topic, or maybe you’ve always considered yourself to be somewhat woke. Or maybe you’re thinking you’ll talk to your co-workers who are people of color and find out the shorthand on what you need to know. To be sure, putting the burden on the Black community to educate you is not the answer. Everyone can and should take responsibility for educating themselves.

Look for resources with the goal of educating yourself on the history of the systemic oppression that has led us to this place of intense civil unrest. You cannot fully help the cause without understanding all of the ways racism exists in our society and how deeply damaging it is to the culture. Simply teaching children that everyone is equal isn’t enough if your actions as their parents, caregivers and teachers don’t 100 percent reflect that. Without education, you’re doing them a disservice.

Advocate for change in your communities, at your schools, and at your workplace.

Everyone can advocate for change and if you are a business owner you have incredible power over people's opportunities. If you’re at a school that punishes Black children for how they wear their hair, take a stand. At your workplace, be an ally by working to bring forward marginalized voices and talent.

Examine policies and procedures and look honestly at what your company or community is doing to either help or hinder opportunities for all people.

Uoma Beauty founder Sharon Chuter launched what she is calling the #PullUpOrShutUp campaign to raise awareness about the lack of representation in the beauty business. After employees of many companies who were posting in support of the Black community reached out to her to reveal that although their companies were publicly donating and pledging support, there were still very few Black employees, she suggested that people refrain from giving dollars to companies that aren’t transparent about how many people of color are at the corporate or executive level.

Don't be a bystander – speak up when you witness injustice. Every. Day.

Being an ally doesn't end with posting a hashtag or a social media message in solidarity for optics. Writer Mireille Cassandra Harper discusses in a Twitter thread her "10 Steps To Non-Optical Allyship"— which, if you haven’t read, you should. She uses a quote from Latham Thomas that describes what optical allyship is: “Allyship that only serves at the surface level to platform the ‘ally,’ it makes a statement but doesn’t go beneath the surface and is not aimed at breaking away the systems of power that oppress.”

Being an ally requires action. This is about being a fair, just, and empathetic human being who speaks up when you witness people of color being treated unfairly, being singled out or discriminated against. Acknowledge that your privilege allows your voice to carry further. When you do, you’re taking a step in making racism more visible and vulnerable to being challenged.

new york, ny   june 04 healthcare workers at nyc health  hospitalsjacobi show solidarity with the black lives matter movement on june 4, 2020 in the bronx borough of new york city widespread protests continue around the country and other parts of the world over the death of george floyd while in minneapolis, minnesota police custody on may 25  photo by david dee delgadogetty images
Speak up when you witness people of color being treated unfairly, being singled out and discriminated against. Acknowledge that your privilege allows your voice to carry further.
David Dee Delgado//Getty Images

Vote for officials who have everyone's best interests at heart — especially at the local level.

Your local police departments are controlled at the local level, so if we want to see change in those departments, start researching who to vote for that has the right values and stands for the police reform your city needs. See how your city stacks up using the 8 markers on the #8CantWait website and learn who to contact.

In addition, your mayors, city councils, and school boards govern and, more importantly, fund everything. Those funds control everything from the conditions of black neighborhoods to the poorly-funded school systems to the lack of proper basic resources like quality grocery stores and medical care in neighborhoods where people of color live.

Voting can be one of our most important tools and yet many policies today create systemic disenfranchisement for people of color. Get involved with an organization working to register and get voters to the polls so everyone's voice can be heard.

Shop Black-Owned. Both as a consumer and as a business owner looking for new products and vendors.

It’s important to put dollars into the Black community and to spend with Black-owned businesses, when possible. Let’s talk about one reason why this is important.

Aurora James, founder of Brother Vellies, offered her take on her Instagram account: "Ok, here is one thing you can do for us." She went on to detail what she called the #15PercentPledge. "So many of your businesses are built on Black spending power. So many of your stores are set up in Black communities. So many of your posts seen on Black feeds. This is the least you can do for us. We represent 15% of the population and we need to represent 15% of your shelf space."

She goes on to detail how the chain of supply and demand created would ultimately grow the communities. Black owners have been historically underrepresented in the marketplace and those that are in the marketplace often don’t get the same airtime and shelf space as other brands.

In fact, when Target created an ad to highlight the wellness company, The Honey Pot Company, the company experienced a backlash from some in the white community for promoting a company that white women perceived as being contrary to their interests.

Donate, donate, donate.

Give dollars or get involved with reputable organizations such as Color of Change that are working to provide equity and growth, legal defense, awareness and advocacy. Here’s a list to get you started.

Get Shondaland directly in your inbox: SUBSCRIBE TODAY