Where My Allies At?
My Dearest White Peers,
You're racist. Now before you start telling me about your black best friend from 5th grade, and your black nanny who cared for you all your life, hear me out. You are racist. And it’s because of this system that you grew up in that told you that you’re better than “them” all your life. You went to schools that had white history as a required course, and black history as an elective. You saw people who looked like you on TV with careers that your people dominate in, while my people played slaves and the help. You were taught not to venture into “those neighborhoods” because of all the gang violence. You were taught that black people aren’t intelligent, which is why you think that telling me I’m articulate is a compliment. You say “All Lives Matter” because acknowledging that black lives are 3x more likely to be extinguished by police would put your racism at the forefront. And you don’t want to acknowledge that. The catch is we already know you’re racist.
But here we all are, fighting the second coming of Nazi Germany, so we need you to be on the same page. Not only do you need to dispel your racism, but you need to become an ally in the fight towards ending it. That is, if you care about our society being fair and just to everyone, not just white people. And though it is not my job to educate you, or do the work for you, I’ve decided to help where I can. So I’ve put together a handy list of 5 things you can do to be a better ally.
1. Listen. Stop being so defensive. When I tell you that white fragility is hurting our progress, don't focus on the fact that I called it white fragility, because that's beside the point. If I say 'white silence is violence' why are you focused on word choice, and not what that phrase means. It means that your silence in issues of oppression is keeping me oppressed. It’s getting my people killed, literally. My life matters more than your feelings, and quite frankly, I'm not interested in being nice to my oppressor.
2. Action. I better not hear you say one more thing about people not voting when I don't see you at protests, calling your senators, or checking your white friends on their racism. Wear your safety pin if you want, but that's not enough. We need you doing. Your safety pin isn’t going to protect me from being killed by police.
3. Don't hijack the movement. I promise that you will not die if you take a backseat to black and brown folks voices. We know what we need best, and that is not you telling us how to act, protest, talk, present, be peaceful, be nice, etc. You telling us what to do is how we got here.
4. Educate yourself. Brush up on your James Baldwin and your Bell Hooks. Read Peggy Mcintosh’s “Unpacking the invisible knapsack” and let’s discuss why an article written in 1988 is still relevant today. A quick google search on “ted talks about racism” brings up 31 videos. Again, I’m not going to do this work for you because everything you need is at your fingertips. I’m already living racism everyday. Sheesh.
5. Talk about racism. Because it’s not going to just go away if you don’t address it. Racism is a cancer in our society, and we haven’t started treatment yet. And it has spread to our schools, our churches, our justice system, our families, our employers…it’s everywhere. So if we’re ever going to abolish racism, we have to admit it exists.
I hope this made you uncomfortable. That was the point. You have to be uncomfortable in order to grow. This was a great start, but the work isn’t done yet. Go forth and conquer (but not really, because doing that is why I even had to write this article).
An Educated Black Woman
Kristen Rogers is a 25-year-old, queer black woman from Indianapolis, IN. She received her bachelor degree from Xavier University, and a masters in Clinical Mental Health Counseling from Adler University. Rogers currently resides here in Chicago, IL with her partner. Her interests include reading people for filth, watching hit tv shows, and vinyasa yoga. She is the author of a book of poetry, entitled ‘Kristen’s Diary,’ available on Amazon and Barnesandnoble.com.