Calling All White People, Part 6
(A periodic attempt to mobilize white people for something other than supporting just other melanin-deficient folks and maintaining a status quo of a nation geared toward whiteness as the baseline and the norm)
By An Average White Guy
TODAY’S EPISODE: Why Not Listen to the Black People Instead? (a.k.a. White People Need Fewer Ally Cookies)
Y’know, like most people, I love to be shared and retweeted on Facebook and Twitter. And when I’m posting stuff on anti-Black racism and racial justice/equity issues, it warms my heart when it’s not just my fellow whitefolk doing so but significant numbers of Black people as well.
And that’s because I get to have some confidence that what I’m saying is of value to the overall issue of educating about and fighting racism, and resonates with the people it most effects, and that it’s not complete navel-gazing. But, at the same time, it really, really, REALLY makes me uncomfortable when anyone gives me outright praise for such social media posts. Especially non-white people. Because, let’s face it, posting such stuff, whether to educate my fellow white people or to bring awareness generally is the absolute least I can do. Fortunately, I do actually do some other things, but the fact is I should and likely could do a lot more than I should all the same.
So, when “ally cookies” are being passed out, I prefer to politely decline them.
Also, when it comes time to share other people’s posts on these same anti-Black racism issues and such, I am careful to make sure I’m signal-boosting actual Black people at least as much (and ideally more so) than white people.
Why? Because, well, they’re the ones with the most personal and practical knowledge of that issue. It affects them most of all. They’ve been trying to tell America (especially white people) for decades about this stuff (usually with minimal success at getting through). Also, they are often the people who said it all first to begin with.
Although a lot of Black people won’t say so openly online (though some do), it’s a bit rankling to a whole lot of them to see white people shared and retweeted and praised for saying the things Black people are already saying and getting more credit for it than those Black people do. It’s even more upsetting when things that Black academics/experts have said is repeated by white non-academics/pundits and then the latter get all the credit and attention…and probably book deals.
As white people trying to (at least I hope you are) advance anti-racism, I would hope you don’t go for the attention when you talk about these issues. I would also hope that when you get praise, you give credit where it is due and not to yourself just because it helps you move forward. You aren’t much of an ally or accomplice if you climb up the backs of people of color to profit or improve your reputation.
And, when you look for guidance and education and direction in anti-racism work, it behooves you to listen to and read the words of the Black people and other people of color actually dealing with racism. Don’t just focus on what white people say; that keeps you in a racial silo instead of broadening your racial circles and awareness. That’s not a good look.
Sure, there is a place for white people in anti-racism. A big one, particularly since they have so many other white people to educate and mobilize to do the work of fundamentally changing society. Just as there are places for men in feminism and Christians/Jews in fighting Islamophobia and straight people in fighting homophobia and more.
But when the people who are enduring the oppression, abuse and/or discrimination are pushed to the shadows in the back in favor of people who look like (or live lives like) the ones doing the abuse, we who think ourselves allies are doing something wrong. Very wrong.
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