For my white folks: notes on being an ally to People of Color.
These are some things that I have discovered or have been informed of over the last few months on this blog, and I wanted to pass them on in one place. I hope they can help you in the ways they’ve helped me, and I thank the people who’ve patiently helped me to understand them.
1. ‘Ally’ is something that you do, not something that you are.
I don’t call myself an ally. I appreciate it when I am referred to as such by my friends/followers who are People of Color, but a label such as ally isn’t something that a person can apply to themselves. It’s a liquid term that may or may not apply to me at any time depending on my personal behavior, and to assume the term is to assume that I am then incapable of wrongdoing or racism. I’m not. I’m simply not. You cannot label yourself an ally, all you can and should do is be one.
2. We’re still white, folks.
Far, far too often I see white anti-racists referring to all other white people as ‘you’, ‘they’, ‘them’, etc. We’re still white, y’all. We still have white privilege. When we tell white people to stop doing things, we have to say we have to stop doing this, we have problems, we have privilege, we don’t experience racism, we will never understand, we, us, ours. Rejecting whiteness and white supremacy does not strip us of privilege or somehow remove from us our ability to white.
3. We must work in the interests of all People of Color, while understanding that PoC are human beings who do not always agree with each other.
Simply put, it’s not our place to step into conversations between People of Color who are discussing racism to agree or disagree. Remember, we don’t experience racism. We can’t pick between the viewpoints of people who, from birth, understand racism from experience. As white people, and as anti-racists, we deal in our own. There are plenty of white people upholding white supremacy, we have plenty to do. And, in the rare case that this happens, if a Person of Color tells you that racism happens to white people, etc, thank them for their opinion and move on. We simply have no place to argue.
4. We support, defend, and battle. We don’t validate.
When we reblog something about experiences with racism/whiteness from a Person of Color, we don’t do so in order to ‘endorse’ or ‘validate’ their experiences, or to say that ‘as a white person, I agree that this happened to you and I say it’s awful and therefore it really is’. We must understand that these experiences are valid by the fact of their existence alone. We pass these things on because they’re real, and because people need to know. Not because we need to put our white stamp of approval on it.
In other words, to work in the best interests of People of Color we must also work in the interests of queer people, trans people, women, disabled folks, etc, but we must remember that these battles often share the same front. There are queer PoC, trans PoC, Women of Color, disabled PoC. Homophobia, cissexism, misogyny, and ableism work against People of Color as much as they do anybody else.
6. It’s not about us.
It’s just not. When whiteness is rightfully attacked, we have the choice to continue to battle whiteness or personally defend ourselves. We can only do one at a time, and there’s only one that we can do while calling ourselves anti-racists.
Who gives a fuck if we’re not all like that? There are still an overwhelming majority of white people who are. See point 2. We’re not here to defend ourselves or present ourselves as good people or ‘better than the other white people’. See point 1. We don’t determine the legitimacy of our ally status, and to derail a conversation on racism by defending ourselves is to say that the fact that I don’t see myself this way is more important than the fact that whiteness prevails, which is whiteness prevailing in action, and is racist.