Monday, January 14, 2008
My unorganized thoughts on being a white ally
This is what I almost sent out to the entire listserv at my seminary, but I decided not to send it out as-is, because I realize that I can organize it better, and if it takes 80 people 5 minutes to read through it, that's over 6 hours I've wasted because I wasn't concise enough.
You, however, are here of your own volition, and do not have this staring at you in your inbox. To read my raw thoughts, read on:
I've been watching this thread now for almost a month, and ruminating on how I can answer. And I've wondered how many other folks are in a similar boat, figuring out what to say.
I've thought how being a white ally means re-prioritizing and setting aside (what I perceive to be) my own baggage, and helping people of color with (what is perceived to be) their baggage. And it means recognizing that the latter baggage (putting your voice, hands, heart and mind on the line to work for equity and understanding) is only carried by people of color because it has to be picked up by somebody, and not enough people born into this society's white privilege are picking up enough of the load.
Being a white ally to me means repeating/affirming the questions: What does being a white ally in the work of racial justice mean to you? What have you done to prepare yourself and sustain yourself in this work? How is your praxis coming along?
To me, being a white ally also means acknowledging that the original question wasn't likely asked only for academic reasons, but because it REALLY matters in real life. Being a white ally means saying and meaning, "I'm here for you," and will listen and share with people of color and white allies the best I know how. And that I'm going to keep learning, acknowledging that while I/we may know more than 95% of white folks about what it means to be a person of color in a society that offers privileges to whites -- even though that may be the case, I/we know less than 100% of people of color, never having lived even one day as a person of color, other than trying to imagine.
Being a white ally means doing well in school and learning how to use my voice, hands, and heart effectively. Sometimes it just means showing up with support for a community's issues, sending a message to the people in a community that they have white allies, and also a message to white people who don't know that this is an issue that matters to all of us and some of us are willing to stand up and/or march for it.
Being a white ally means recognizing that we're all living in a state of disgrace as long as a system remains that supports inequality, it means feeling the shame of that, pulling my chin back up and joining in to make justice happen. It means recognizing that racial injustice is tied to other injustices. It means never being able to watch a movie without wondering about the racial make-up across the cast.
Being a white ally means being ready to affirm one another when the opportunity arises. It means being ready to arrest one another when the opportunity arises. It means that "being ready" is not a binary, its a skill to be practiced. It means recognizing that I'm still just pretty ready, and not as strong an ally as I'd like to be.
Being a white ally means that my answer isn't going to be the most brilliant in this thread, and that's OK. It means checking my ego at the door and not having to be perfect before I throw my voice in. Checking the ego really means that this answer isn't about me or any of us, trying to make oneself look good with the right answers. It also means finding a balance between working diligently and being gentle on myself and resting when I need it. And it means not sending this out to an entire listserv, because its a long unorganized bunch of text.
lyrics: "We're the Wickerson Brothers! Boil that dust speck, boil that dust speck! Boil, boil, boil!" -From Horton Hears a Who (the original animated version was one of my favorites growing up, and I thought about it while thinking about what I'd add as my barbaric yop to this thread).
colors: oh shoot, i forgot. i had a really good color combination picked out earlier today. oh well, you fill this in yrself i guess...
mood: okay. a little harried, gotta prepare for class tomorrow morning.
chant/prayer/mantra: all in all is all we are.
agape to all,