One Woman’s Perspective: Looking for an Ally.


One Woman’s Perspective: Looking for an Ally.

One Woman’s Perspective: Looking for an Ally.

Did you know that if someone says something racist to me I probably won't call them on it? I am an African American female and people say racist things to me All. The. Time.

I’ve been told I’m a tribute to my race, an example to other Blacks and “very articulate.” I’ve been asked “Why can’t other people of color (POC) get ahead?” I’m often bestowed “honorary whiteness” by those that “don’t see color.”  As if having color is a diminishment. I’ve been asked to agree that POC need to let go of the past. Those are good days. On bad days I’m followed around stores while shopping and ignored in professional settings. I’ve had people touch my hair without asking. I’ve been called greasy, unkempt and much worse. I’ve been asked to agree that racism doesn’t exist.

I usually choose not to call people on their racist comments for various reasons. I tell myself that they don't mean it. That they're not really racist. That they're unaware. That they're uninformed. Sometimes they are in positions of power and I don't feel comfortable correcting them. Sometimes they are visitors to my site and I can't risk my job to educate them. To be honest it can be exhausting to hash out the basics of racism and privilege with those that haven’t explored those subjects before.

The deaths of Alton Sterling, Philando Castile and officers in the Dallas Police Department and DART have left many of us rattled. We all feel varying degrees of anger, confusion, mournfulness and impotence. In the wake of the many horrific events last week I, like many of us, took to my wider social networks on Facebook and Twitter. I was galvanized. I wanted to speak out and speak up.

However, as I began to respond and share information, I could feel it begin. As I tried to explain the systemic racism that leads to people of color having disproportionate numbers of encounters with law enforcement, I could feel the weariness set in. Quoting information from a Department of Justice report that found that African Americans and Latinos were about three times more likely to be searched during a traffic stop than white peers set my teeth on edge. Recounting that in 2008, African Americans and Latinos comprised 58% of all prisoners, even though at that point they made up only one quarter of the US population, made me weep. I felt battle fatigued. I felt hopeless until I read this.

"i live in a society that benefits me, a white person, at the expense of people of color. racism isn't a single act or a single racist person. racism is a system. a complicated, intricate, insidious system. as a privileged member of this system, i can choose not to think about it. my black & brown friends do not have that choice. my black & brown friends experience racism every day. often times it's sooo subtle... so absolutely insidious... that we don't even recognize it. racism doesn't always wear a white hood so we can identify it easily. we must take care to notice it. to identify it. to call it out. it's even in our language... deeply rooted in the way we communicate... and when i think deliberately about that, it really f--- with my head. but now, i see racism every day. if my white friends open your eyes, you might see it, too. but i will warn you that, as a white person, once you start to recognize it, you will see it everywhere... and it makes you feel sick & sometimes, it makes you feel powerless. recognizing it is hard. it's painful. but imagine how horrible it is to live with it every day. that is burden that, as white people, we've never had to bear. i feel compelled to work to dismantle this racist system which has unfairly benefitted me & has heaped injustices upon my friends of color. white friends, we're the ones who benefit from this system... and we're the ones who need to work together to dismantle it... we're the ones who need to give up our privilege. the first step is to recognize our complicit role in this racist system. for your thoughtful consideration..." -Carrie Samis

My friend’s simple and bold words heartened me. A quick scan brought me more examples of Allies speaking up and speaking out against injustice. Allies are those members of the dominant culture, who actively resist the role of the oppressor, and who act as allies of people of color. These white allies use their voices from a point of privilege to educate other members of the dominant culture.

During his acceptance speech for BET’s Humanitarian Award Jesse Williams made the following statement “the burden of the brutalized is not to comfort the bystander.” I’m not saying that we shouldn’t have an open conversation about the issues that the events in the last week have brought to the surface. Those conversations are important and in order for real progress to be made everyone needs to be at the table. However in the aftermath of tragedy what I personally needed was an Ally and a Co-conspirator, not a student. I needed someone to take up the mantle that I wear and deal with every day. I needed some else to do the education so I didn’t have to feel like the “overreacting black lady”. I am very appreciative of the Anti-racism Allies in my life that took up the call last week.

Being an Ally isn’t easy. It is the multifaceted, messy, ever-evolving process of figuring out how best to support people of color as you learn more about your own privilege and implicit biases.  I’ve seen Allies among those with conservative, liberal and independent views proving the racism is not a partisan issue. Being an Ally isn’t about being politically correct. It’s about understanding the connections between racism and economic, environmental, and social forms of injustice and then lending your voice to the fight. If you want to learn more about being an Anti-racism Ally check out Racial Equity Tools' Guidelines for Being Strong White Allies

In addition here are some of my favorite social media posts from Allies this past week.

The ones that laid it out...













The ones that took time to educate...













The ones that took time to listen...










And though we don't agree on everything...






We can agree on this...