Bringing Communities together, Educating Allies, and protecting marginalized voices.
In 2018 I Wish for all Performative White Allies to Get off of Facebook and Take Bigger Risks
Recently I read this meme of some sorts that spoke on power dynamics to me in a way that resonated so deeply, I felt moved to write about it. To write a story about my own relationship with power dynamics, in my own life and home and space. One story of many.
I had a white friend who, by all surface accounts, was an ‘ally’. Someone who posted on social media every day about social justice issues, attempted to address issues at the intersections of so many marginalized groups and experiences through their facebook and instagram account. They said they were open to ‘growth’ and learning. They wore Black Lives Matter shirts and supported POC owned businesses. This person was like a total model for what *I thought* white allyship should look and feel like.
Of course, this story wouldn’t be a story without the twist that changed all those good feelings.
Over much time, a few important ‘red flags’, if you will, started appearing and as I expanded my own knowledge, it became more important to me to listen to my own criticisms and concerns. Overtime I started realizing that while my white ally friend posted a lot about social justice issues (especially ones that affect me and my friends and family on a daily basis), they never — not ONCE, were active in real life spaces offering their service to the people (usually womxn of color) who were actually doing the hard work of fighting local injustices. There were a lot of posts and a lot of shirts worn with dead black bodies on their white body, but no intention of putting their actual body on the line to protect and keep safe black and brown lives.
I started to think about why it is that white folks get to save face on social media while people of color are out there organizing and risking everything, fighting against oppression they didn’t create to begin with. Cleaning up the messes of people who talk a lot about being an ‘anti-racist’ but don’t want to walk the ‘anti-racist walk’, so to speak.
Overtime I started lovingly addressing things with my friend about some of the stuff they did that made me feel uncomfortable as a person of color and a friend of theirs. I really loved them. I was willing to educate them. I felt like there was potential. I guess I also enjoy wasting my time, so there’s that.
I started pointing out some of the racist and privileged friends this person kept and asked questions about how this person was addressing racism and privilege with their friends. For example, they had a friend who was very vocal about undocumented folks needing to be deported, someone who believed that lazy people of color were on welfare and sucking up government funds. A proud, self proclaimed conservative. I wasn’t here for it, especially as the daughter of a latino immigrant.
Another friend claimed that the reason that black folks didn’t get as many awards at the oscars was because they “probably just aren’t as good as white people at acting”. Another friend was an avid trump supporter who told me that “if voting for trump means I’m a bigot, then I’m proud to be a bigot”.
The list of people and stories goes on and on . My white ally friend rarely, if ever, addressed these issues with their friends — and so it continued, because silence is a powerful tool.
It made me think about how I never felt comfortable being in this person’s spaces, simply because they were not safe for me. Very much because of all the labor it would take to just prepare for sharing conversations with these people, for bracing myself for anger, pain, anxiety, and … what ultimately felt like betrayal from my friend. The Ally. The white person who supports people of color. I then was forced to think of how comfortable they were when entering my space or the space of other people of color. Using AAVE and/or Spanish slang as if inviting them to the cook-out meant they suddenly had ownership over a culture they covertly oppressed, except without the burden of having their language policed, of course.
I realized that they were so comfortable in my space, that when one day I said “no”, they tried to catch me with attitude — they were so offended by my refusal to invite privileged folks into my home because they felt entitled to a space that was not theirs. #PowerDynamics
There are countless pieces to this story, nuances and complexities, but it would take hours to write it all down and honestly i’m getting tired just thinking about all of the conversations, the call ins, call outs, the mental gymnastics, and all of the times I stayed quiet.
During the 2018 Womxn’s march, the 1 year anniversary of Trump’s inauguration, I listened to a video of a group of womxn of color who I love and admire and look up to. One in particular talked about how white folks need to reassess the risks they are willing to take to support futures for black folks that can be vibrant and protected and valued. How we all need to reassess the risks we are willing to take in order to protect the people who make up our communities.
I believe in that. I believe that protecting one another and loving one another is about taking risks and stepping outside of what keeps us comfortable. I believe that womxn of color already DO this every day without a choice. We already occupy spaces that aren’t safe, we speak up, we take no shit, we die for our liberation over and over again because if we didn’t, we know that maybe no one else will. That maybe we are the only ones left standing against our own pain and immovable strength. We take risks by saying “no”. We take risks by speaking at all. But still, we take them.
So, I’m asking that if you think of yourself as an ally to people of color, or to all and any of those who are members of marginalized groups, that you also reassess your commitment to change and to the risks you are willing to take to make sure that black and brown folks are valued and protected. I’m asking that you take a risk bigger than you ever imagined ‘safe’ to do, knowing you may sever relationships with racist friends, or even enter a space where you speak to real people about risk taking steps.
I’m asking you to be brave, to be brave with us and for us and to do so because it is simply the right thing to do.
As for my white ally friend, I hope they take the time to think about their circle, their spaces, tokenism, silence, racism. I hope they grow and learn and take big risks and become an amazing ally to people everywhere. I know that’s what they want. As much as I say I love “wasting my time”, I do keep hope (somewhere really deep down), that time is rarely wasted. That even if it doesn’t feel comfortable, hopefully it has been heard. That if it hurts, it’s simply a growing pain, a new limb, a stronger heart, a deeper pull at the soul.