Et Tu, Ally? The Tragedy of Allyship.
Editor’s Letter, Our Human Family
Black people are all too familiar with the mercurial nature of would-be allies. It’s a predictable set of behaviors that often ends with the potential ally throwing in the towel at the most inopportune time for the people they were supporting, thus leaving them in worse shape than before the potential good-deed-doer arrived. It’s no wonder the mere mention of the word evokes a withering side-eye and dubious nod of the head from so many of us, especially when taking into account the perspective that racism is not Black America’s problem to fix. And that it can only be remedied by white America, as they pull the levers that maintain the country’s race-based caste system.
An ally’s unbridled enthusiasm and unfounded belief that they know what’s best for the people they’re supporting better than the people know themselves portends a doomed allyship like s signal flare. The mea culpa stage closely follows. Allies will make mistakes, they’re to be expected. We all make them, it’s part of the human condition. The situation becomes problematic when the ally foregoes taking responsibility for their actions and responds with expressions of their guilt and optional tears. Tears function as a self-serving distraction that diverts attention from the injured party to the butt-hurt feelings of the one who caused the damage.
Shortly afterward, an epiphany overtakes the neophyte that racism is just too big, it’s everywhere. So why bother? The thing is they’re right. Racism is big. It’s everywhere. And once you see racism, you can never unsee it. If they think seeing racism is rough, they can’t begin to imagine being subject to racism’s effects every day . . . but I digress. Like clockwork, those who get caught up in their feelings of false guilt fall away, usually never to be heard from again.
Until the next major societal travesty.
Thank God for those who do not fall prey to their own ego or short attention span. These folks dig their heels in and choose to grow in awareness of the world around them and educate themselves about the art, culture, and history of Black people in America. Some even go so far as to actually get to know Black people. Can you imagine?? These people admit that they don’t know everything about the Black experience and reject the notion that total knowledge of our experience is the prerequisite to serving as an ally. They see the premise for what is: an obvious lie and a feeble excuse that allows them to forego doing the right thing.
Those folks are allies.
Black folks have neither the time nor the inclination to invest energy in people who view anti-racism as a fad. And we can smell disingenuousness at fifty paces. It’s the equivalent of halitosis of the soul. For us, racial equity isn’t a nice thing to do. It’s a survival skill with life and death hanging in the balance.
Pop quiz! Please answer the following —
Why do you support Black people in achieving racial equity?
If the first sentence in your response includes the word “I,” there’s a pretty chance you’re going about this all wrong. Allyship is never about the ally. People who are committed to allyship, racial equity, and antiracism for the long haul do so because they want to build a better world for their kids, family members, friends, and for people they identify with. It’s never for financial gain or the promotion of self. It’s the commitment, being present, and doing the work that matters most.
Over the last couple of weeks, I’ve read a few posts on different social media platforms from members of the LGBTQ community questioning the whereabouts of their allies. You know, “allies,” the same folks who swear they’ll crawl on their hands and knees over broken glass for their LGBTQ friends after national tragedies like Pulse, and all those folks who make money hand over fist off the LGBTQ community when Pride month rolls around — the corporate brands, the celebrity personalities, and influencers.
Lately, I can’t help but think, “How quaint. They’re discovering what Black folks have known for decades. In moments of triumph or tragedy when the cameras are rolling, all kinds of people will come out of the woodwork with flags, pennants, and homemade signs and conviction. But when the fit hits the shan, and people’s rights are being legislated into oblivion, most of those supporters can be found sitting in a corner chirping away like crickets, choosing ignorance over information, and apathy over activism.
The parallels in strategies leveled against the marginalized groups of people are not lost on me. What am I saying? There are no parallels. It’s the same strategy executed again and again. Blame, ostracize, attack, repeat. Divide and conquer.
These are serious times, people. And the consequences and become dire. Like one of my favorite pastors used to say, “Don’t fool yourself, children. Life is for real.” And so is fascism. It came for Black people, women, Jewish people, and now it’s here for the LGBTQ community.
Love one another.
OHF Weekly Editor in Chief