Ally Week Bingo Card
I’m not sorry for anything about this, except for maybe the color scheme (I was listening to Christmas music this morning and it ruined me) but the point still stands: there are good allies and there are shitty allies, and if you do this crap (which, really, a good chunk of self-proclaimed allies are doing) and if you expect cookies for basic human decency (and then retract that decency when queer people tell you that you’re being a douche), you’re a shitty one.
Question for you all: “How do we create alliances rooted in similarities without erasing the different intersections? “
On White Guilt.
Like, white guilt?
You’re talking about white guilt, right?
I don’t know, man. Being an ally isn’t about drawing up a list of all the terrible things your people have done, and then sitting in a corner for a certain amount of time every day and feeling bad about it. That doesn’t help anyone, and it doesn’t change the system. Worst of all, it redirects the focus back on to you. If you lose yourself in the white guilt hole, pretty soon, you begin to think that the real victim of racism and oppression becomes you.
That kind of antiracism is just an expression of white privilege, because its convenient. It doesn’t involve talking to black people and other POC. Healing becomes about making yourself feel better; assuaging your own guilt, righting the wrongs of your own past.
And besides, feeling guilty all the time is not a way to live. The racists have already figured this out. The Fox News talking heads and the Republican primary voters are there because of the white people who they think have given too much to “the oppressed”. Their enemy isn’t only the black welfare mother, but the pansy “multiculturalist”, the “liberal”, the race traitors who prefer to wallow in the past than move forward in the future.
And the thing is; those who are enamoured of the cult of white guilt realize that it is a dead-end, after a while. They gain no recognition from the system for their efforts, and POC inevitably view them with scorn. And I’m scared of white liberals who feel bad all the time, because it doesn’t take much to turn an apologetic liberal into a racist, once they realize that feeling guilty about things does nothing, pretty much. There’s a reason why POC mock the well-meaning liberal so much. Because we’ve all had too many experiences interacting with the person who says all the right things, watches MSNBC and listens to NPR, voted for Obama, yet still holds views that are more racist than half the shit you hear in the Deep South.
Because those white people will eventually realize that it actually feels much, much better to distance yourself from the crap that your grandfathers did, rather than compulsively own it, all the time. So no, white guilt is NOT a good foundation for activism, because it is transitory. Its there only if it feels good. Once the hard work of unlearning your privilege starts, suddenly, white guilt seems like a less fun endeavor. Feels less comfortable, less easy to wear. When you dispose of your feelings of guilt, your obligation to improving race relations goes out the window as well.
Allies: listen to me. Its not about feeling guilty. Its about recognizing your place in society, recognizing that you benefit from a system that has granted you enormous amounts of privilege. You can’t help being born the way you are. Why feel bad about it?
So instead of wasting that energy by feeling guilty, do something. Listen to people who are different than you. Learn everything you can. When your white friends say racist shit, challenge them on it. Educate others. Treat others with humanity.
Why is it so hard for white people to listen?
Its a common complaint of the anti-racist: white “allies” forcing conversations within POC communities to include them, even when they have nothing meaningful to add. Why, after so much explanation, do well-meaning white people still do this?
I think it has something to do with how we are built. Its human nature to try and worm your way into conversations that don’t include you. We are incredibly self-referential beings; we process information by trying to find commensurate experiences which we can relate to. I think everyone has that instinct, that urge, to fit ourselves in to someone else’s narrative, even if we don’t belong. So the act of shutting ourselves out and simply listening to someone else is unnatural and extremely hard to do, but it is a necessary skill to learn, because it is a form of political respect.
Brown people, through a lifetime experience and training, know when a conversation doesn’t include them. Sometimes, the exclusion makes sense. For example, what do I know about what its like to be a WASP? I objectively know what my neighbors here in Connecticut have gone through, but I can’t really relate to the experience of being the daughter of a Boston Brahmin alcoholic who believes in hiding family dysfunction underneath a thick veneer of social pretension. I can read novels and plays about it, I can listen to my friend’s stories about what that kind of life is like, but I can’t claim to have subjective knowledge of that particular cultural experience.
No matter how similar elements of my own culture and history are to hers, they are not the same. There’s always going to be a separation there, and that’s only natural. After educating myself, I can claim to speak knowledgeably about the subject; but I will never own the subject. I’ll never know as much as someone who has lived that experience.
POC are used to being outsiders in a society which is dominated by the stories of white people. Often, these are culturally-specific stories, and we understand that we do not belong in them. We understand that non-inclusion in a narrative about Italian-American immigrants does not necessarily mean a lack of respect for our own existence. We know the importance of working through your own issues with other people who are like you.
Erasure happens when we aren’t allowed to tell our own stories, when it comes our turn to contribute to the cultural marketplace. Erasure happens when we are denied ownership of our own narratives by others, who cite the ideal of the “melting pot” as an excuse. Erasure happens when your audience rises up to police your words, when your audience is unsatisfied and unnerved by seeing you in a position of power, and therefore insists that you change your story to include them. Erasure happens when your audience doesn’t understand that it is, in fact, an audience, and instead believes that it deserves to be a voice, up on that pulpit, side-by-side with you. Erasure happens when members of your audience refuse to be educated, refuse to expand their minds to accommodate the knowledge that you just dropped into their worldview.
When brown people demand the ability to talk about themselves without their words being conditioned by the intrusion of outsiders, they are simply asking for the same privilege that is accorded to members of the dominant culture.
Because white people are raised to believe there’s nowhere we don’t belong. It’s the Manifest Destiny of our race, one big lie that we all share. And because white is treated like the default, we think our experiences are the default, too. Learning to STFU comes later - that’s the lesson most of us need to learn, because we’ve been learning since birth that being born white makes us the royalty of racism. It’s not right and it needs to stop, because the very essence of humanity is having compassion for someone whose circumstances and experiences are different than our own.
Yup. If whiteness isn’t the first and foremost thought, then they flip the fuck out, and accuse PoC of “reverse racism” when we aren’t giving lip service to their asses.
White people are basically taught to be libertarians from day one. They’re taught that “everyone should be allowed to say anything and go anywhere” is a rule that all people live by, and if you don’t live by it, you are being oppressive. To deny this theoretical “everyone” every access and every space is considered an “-ism” In school, they taught us that racism was over. They taught that it ended with Jim Crow. Even if they didn’t say “racism is over”, in my high school, where there are exactly 3 black teachers (and have always been exactly three black teachers since the school’s opening, like there’s a quota or something), do you think the white teachers would imply anything but?
Of course not.
These things are so ingrained into their lives that the thought that other people don’t live that way is literally brain crushing.