Perhaps more appropriately:
How I Learned to Be an Ally
I’m not an authority on how to be an ally to people of color. I can however tell you what I did so you can educate yourself in the same ways and not put the burden of educating you on your friends of color. Or random people of color on social media who don’t owe you the emotional labor of educating you on racism and white supremacy.
- Always listen to people of color. Do not “whitesplain” their experience to them. Do not question their perception, perception is reality.
- Do not take it personally. If someone is talking to you, they likely do not think they are speaking of you – aka someone is probably not going to tell you about something racist they think you are saying/doing without just saying you are doing it. Likewise if someone is talking about the system they are not blaming you personally for slavery. Jeez.
- Do not expect people of color to explain things to you that you can read about, listen to a podcast about, or otherwise educate yourself on.
- EDUCATE YOURSELF. Re-educate yourself. Look at the shit you learned in school through your adult lens of understanding that history is whitewashed, sanitized, and told by the victors.
- Learn about all the stuff they wouldn’t even dare teach you in school, like about the history of white supremacy in the United States. For example, did you know that the state of Oregon was founded on being a “white sanctuary” state and they told people of color they had a certain amount of time to GTFO or be beaten every six months until they left? Did you know Oregon is still pretty racist today?
- Don’t be afraid to apologize and do better. No one knows everything. You’re going to screw up. I’ve probably screwed something up in this blog post series without even knowing or meaning to. It’s ok. Admit when you are wrong, learn, do better. That’s life. We are so committed to being right no matter what, I’m not sure if that is a modern phenomenon but it’s asinine. Learning and growing is living.
- Keep not taking things personally.
- Read black writers. Listen to black artists and musicians. Listen to black podcasts. Consume media meant for black people. If you have a platform, use it to amplify black voices.
- Make some damn black friends.
- Every time you figure something out, take that to heart. I have epiphanies all the time lately.
Learning to Unlearn
One of my favorite quotes is the Audre Lorde quote “the master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house.” I think it’s applicable to many things, I mean she was queer I can apply it to the queer experience too right? Is this where I mess up in my posts? As I said in part two, listening to that episode of the Daily Zeitgeist did a couple things to me: I listened to Dulce and tried to figure out how I am racist. She said everyone is part of the problem so I must be racist too. What I realized was that she was saying “If you’re not part of the problem you can’t be part of the solution.” Got it.
She also said, and this is not a direct quote, that white people built this system and it is up to us to fix it. We can’t ask black people to fix a system they didn’t stack against themselves. That really hit home for me because it’s not just “the master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house” it’s “the master needs to dismantle his own damn house.” I always took that quote to mean that as marginalized communities we have to work outside the system that is rigged against us but maybe that’s not all that Lorde meant. Maybe that is all she meant but it means something different for me, as a white woman. As I listened to Dulce speak, I felt quite strongly that it meant that it is up to me as a white person to take the tools white supremacy has forged and use them to bring down the house that racism built. That I should not expect that black folks need to fix this problem we created but that I have to do my part. Did I create the system? No. I’m a millennial. I’m pretty sure that none of my ancestors owned slaves but that’s not the point. No one is asking for me to take personal responsibility for slavery. But the system is stacked in my favor so it is in many ways my system. No amount of queerness and being a woman can replace my whiteness. There is still privilege I must combat and must unlearn.
Listen to these podcasts:
*Behind the Bastards contains foul language and often bad jokes. Robert Evans is not everyone’s cup of tea but he is a great researcher that will teach you a lot of stuff that you never knew about a lot of awful people. You can listen to episodes specific to race or I highly recommend listening to all that interest you.
Read/listen to these books:
A list of recommended reading from the New York Times.
A list of books for understanding and dismantling racism a list for white readers from Charis books
When They See Us (Netflix)
Blackish (ABC, Hulu), BlackAF (Netflix) Kenya Barris is kind of a dick/narcissist but it is a window into his particular experiences and thoughts about race
Atlanta (FX, Hulu)
Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks (2017 film)
Hidden Figures (2016 film, Hulu)
You obviously cannot consume all this media at once and that is not the point. However many years you have been white, you can’t just read books & listen to podcasts nonstop and expect to understand a different experience in a couple of days. What you can do, is add these things to your media consumption and slowly open your heart and mind. Please, do not watch “The Help.” It is trending on Netflix this week but consuming media by white people about the black experience will teach you little.
I will leave you with a selection from “The Master’s Tools Will Never Dismantle the Master’s House” from Audre Lorde: “As women, we have been taught either to ignore our differences, or to view them as causes for separation and suspicion rather than as forces for change. Without community there is no liberation, only the most vulnerable and temporary armistice between an individual and her oppression. But community must not mean a shedding of our differences, nor the pathetic pretense that these differences do not exist. Those of us who stand outside the circle of this society’s definition of acceptable women; those of us who have been forged in the crucibles of difference — those of us who are poor, who are lesbians, who are Black, who are older — know that survival is not an academic skill. It is learning how to take our differences and make them strengths…
Racism and homophobia are real conditions of all our lives in this place and time. I urge each one of us here to reach down into that deep place of knowledge inside herself and touch that terror and loathing of any difference that lives there. See whose face it wears. Then the personal as the political can begin to illuminate all our choices.”
Thanks for reading.