A White Picket Fence and Pleasant Yellow Flowers

A Primer for White Allies

This simple mnemonic device will help in your quest to be a meaningful accomplice in efforts toward promoting social justice and building a more equitable society.

Hello Woke White Friends! Times are challenging, amirite? Keeping up with all The Activism is exhausting! What will the POTUS do/say/Tweet next?! It’s quite a pickle to say the least. Well, I definitely understand. So, in a show of solidarity, I’d like to share a little something with you about “allyship”. And it’s advice as a fellow White I often need to take myself.

So, with that, let’s look at four steps toward becoming a better ally…

Situational Context(s)- Be mindful of your race, gender, class positions and how they influence your perspective and ability to navigate issues to which you may not be able to experience first-hand. Intersectionality is about more than simple differences. It’s about differential oppression. Work toward developing a thorough comprehension of your particular situation and its social and political privileges and functions.

Time - Working toward equity is an ongoing, partial, and ever-evolving process. It requires building authentic relationships with actual people and getting it wrong. It means not taking unilateral and immediate “action” you think is warranted. You’re in this for the long haul or not at all. That means showing up after the cameras stop rolling, after the marches subside and after everyone’s gone home. If you’re doing it for the hi fives, the likes, or the retweets, you need to rethink your life.

Follow leadership - This. is. not. about. you. So pump the brakes Norma(n) Rae. Whiteness as a power structure needs rejecting. In this instance, this means not being “in charge” most of the time or otherwise occupying a leadership position. Now, I’m not suggesting uncritical engagement, but rather when the urge comes to “speak up” with your bright idea, ask if it helps, needs to be said, and if now it really the time. Historically marginalized communities are experts in their own lives so, take a back seat and be present. Also, take criticism and guidance without centering your feelings first.

Understand - Do your own work! Instead of asking “what can I do”, read a book. See speakers, read from theorists, scholars, and activists. It’s on you to do this and nobody else. To start, try this simple trick! It’s imperative to invest in the history, life, and culture of the people and movement. You’ve got to do your homework, otherwise it’s just a bunch of noise.

And that’s it! Thanks for joining me wherever you are. And remember, when you’re working toward equity and want to lend a hand, or if your feelings are up right now, just STFU!

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