On “Allies”

I didn’t want to make this post because I thought it would be unnecessary, but of course, I was wrong.  This topic is something that frustrates me to no end, because I should really be putting my energy into so much more, but I have once again been reduced to this.

If you have ever been to a protest or an activist meeting or simply talked amongst peers, then you have come across at least one “ally” in your time. Allies, as per the dictionary definition, is a noun meaning a state formally cooperating with another military or other purpose, typically by treaty, and a verb meaning to combine and unite or unite a resource or commodity with (another) for mutual benefit. When people talk about being allies, they more often than not mean the verb definition. Which means that you cannot be an ally, you ally. You are actively allying, helping others. What does that look like? It could look like a few different things. Allying means that you are aligning yourself with those facing oppression for a cause, and as someone who is allying, you are not exempt from doing your homework. Imagine if you were taking a class as a pass fail where everyone else was getting a grade. You can’t just slack off, because in order to get the full purpose of the class you must still do your homework and show up every class, or you won’t gain any of the information that you came for, and you won’t be able to apply that knowledge any further. Allying is the same way. You must show up. You must do your homework. You must participate.

Allying is such a broad action, so in addition of me telling you what allying is, I’m going to tell you what allying isn’t.

I have become so wary of people who ally, because too many times I have seen people who claim to be allying, while continuing to employ elements of white supremacy/racism. Have you ever had that one friend or family who disappears for sometime only to show up when they need or want something from you, so they try to butter you up and give you a hand. That is so annoying, isn’t it? Well, it also applies to allying. I’ve seen people who claim to be intersectional, who will come in and out of the black activists circles, only to get upset because I can’t always be there for them because I’m trying to take care of me. Firstly, just because I cannot be there at the exact moment of your commands does not mean I shut down your cause. I get that a lot from feminists and some members of the LGBTQIA+ community. It infuriates me, because I have parts of me that do extend to other activist areas that are also campaigning for their rights. I am a part of them. But for the time being, the most immediate part of my activism has to focus on racism/white supremacy and the building up and protecting of black people, because I continue to see my black brothers and sisters fight with little help from others. It is my job to help as a part of the community first and foremost.

There are other people who claim to ally with us, but seem to only ally with others when it’s convenient or safe. This simply exudes white privilege. If I could remove myself from the black community and come back when it was convenient, it would take me from so much of the danger. But I can’t, because regardless of me coming from other heritages, regardless of me going to a prestigious school, I will still be endangered because the color of my skin can’t be some kind of button I pin on and take off as I feel. I am stuck with my blackness, which is cherished but is also a challenge. If you are going to ally, you cannot come in and out of the cause as you please. As my mother used to stay “you either come inside or go outside, because you’re letting out flies.”

And, of course, the most popular fuckery, “Not all white people.” Not all white people may be a mantra you tell yourself, but it does not ring true. White privilege and white fragility have been a big part of my studies for the past few weeks, and I have come to understand certain things more clearly. The reason why so many white people get offended when they are forced to confront any race issues, is because they had the privilege of growing up as un-raced, as objectively and subjectively at the same time. They consider themselves lacking race, while also applying the social construct to others, and using to employ agents of white supremacy/ racism. White privilege is a social process, it involves all members of the white “race”, and as a result, exempts no white person. Not all white people consciously use agents and elements of white supremacy/racism, and I understand that, which is why I say above to read so that you can break things down and see them as the are. But those who use that “not all white people” line, are wrong, and have had their white fragility momentarily broken, and are trying to find ways to build it back up once more. Do not entertain these people for too long, as you are talking to someone still asleep and in the Matrix of white supremacy/racism and have not yet woken up.

There is so much more to this and I will elaborate as I continue my studies in coming to understand white fragility and racism/white supremacy, but understand that you do not need to engage in conversations where you are forced to explain your position in your fight to activism. That is not your job. Your job and mine is to continue doing our homework, and to build each other up.

-JW

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