Which fake ally are you?

Let me introduce you to this white woman named Becky. We all know Becky. She doesn’t call herself an ally, but she believes she’s one. She’s even gone as far as saying, “I’ve done so much for you people. You’re so ungrateful.” How do we know that Becky is a fake ally? Let’s refer to the “you people” comment. Real allies wouldn’t set people of color apart from themselves. And an ally wouldn’t say we should be grateful for anything they do. She would just do the work — and keep doing the work — without any expectation of a “thank you” or any other ally cookie.

Meet Stephanie. Stephanie looks good on paper. She supports some charities that are geared toward people of color. She’s also very vocal — through social media — about injustices that she sees. Sounds good so far, right? But let’s look at her motives. Stephanie likes to collect ally cookies. She does this by telling anyone who will listen that she’s an ally. And she likes to list all the ways that she qualifies as one. No one can escape her desperate behavior because she likes to brag both online and in real life about all her good deeds. This pathetic cookie-seeking behavior makes Stephanie a fake ally.

Now let’s get to know Phoebe. Phoebe is a highly educated woman who can quote Bell Hooks and supply you with an extensive reading list to help you understand both intersectional feminism and institutional racism. But don’t cross her. Don’t question her. And definitely don’t correct her. Because as soon as a black or a brown person tries to educate Phoebe, she snatches up all her so-called knowledge and stomps off the playground. So you guessed it. Phoebe is a pseudo-intersectional, Bell Hooks-reading fake ally.

Do you know Taylor? Taylor likes to display her ally title as much as she can. You’ve seen her. She’s the one who wears t-shirts that say, “If your feminism isn’t intersectional, it ain’t shit,” “I am bisexual, I am gay, I am non-binary, I am black, I am latinx…” You get the picture. But what Taylor is… is white. She has all white friends, and she doesn’t actually speak up to them about anything. Taylor doesn’t understand that saying she is part of a marginalized group is appropriative and in no way supportive of the cause. So Taylor is a fake ally too. A real ally would understand the problem with inserting herself into those groups. A real ally would understand that, while it’s nice to wear t-shirts, safety pins and pink pussy hats, nothing will change if she doesn’t step away from these false ally trinkets and get uncomfortable with actually doing the work.

Photo by Sean Molin

I’d like you to meet Dawn. Dawn is married to a man who is part of a marginalized group. (Just pick one). Dawn believes she’s an ally by affiliation. Because she’s married to a man of color, she thinks she knows all about the struggle. She says that, since she’s seen racism directed at her husband and her children, that makes her an ally and — taking it even a step further — an honorary person of color. Dawn has no firsthand knowledge of being part of a marginalized group. But you can’t tell her that. Any time she’s criticized for saying she understands what minorities go through because she too has experienced racism (having seen racist behavior directed toward her husband), she says, “Well, I’ve seen racism first-hand, so I understand.” No, she doesn’t know and she never will. Dawn (AKA Darth Becky) is a wanna-be POC and another fake ally.

Now I’d like to introduce you to Mandy. Mandy calls herself an ally because she believes she’s not racist. That’s it. She doesn’t actually do anything, and she *says* she likes everybody. According to her, she doesn’t see color. When she talks about race with people of color, she can’t understand why they get so hostile and angry toward her when she makes these statements. Well, Mandy is a tone-policing, garden-variety fake ally. And like the rest of us, she sees color all day, every day.

How many of us know Teresa? She believes that, since she has biracial children, there’s no way she could ever be racist even though she’s white. She gets lots of questions about her children’s race, and she doesn’t like it one bit. She thinks this must be how her children feel, too. So of course she can put herself in their shoes. Teresa thinks having biracial children makes her and them very special because they get all this attention from folks. Well, Teresa is wrong. She doesn’t know what her children go through, and they’re not special because they’re biracial. So you guessed it. Teresa is a child-tokenizing, fake ally.

Photo by Relationships1

Let’s sit down and listen to Lisa, who is one of the most exhausting fake allies. Lisa wants to learn all about racism, and she wants people of color to be her teachers. So she poses lots of questions to her friends and co-workers, who happen to be from various minority groups. Lisa doesn’t realize that part of being a real ally is to take it upon herself to do the labor and educate herself. That’s not to say that people of color don’t want to talk to her about race. But we refuse to carry the entire load so that people like Lisa can feel better about themselves.

Bottom line: We’re tired of dealing with white people who steal the title of ally. And we’re even more tired of trying to explain to them why they’re not on our side and don’t deserve to be called allies. So, wanna-be allies, do your own work. Figure out if you’re a fake ally by admitting to yourself which story fits your narrative. And fix yourself. Stop asking us to validate you. Stop asking us to educate you. Stop being lazy. Do better. If you wanna be a true ally, do the damn work.