Dear That One White Lady,
First of all, it was great to see you out at the Women’s March. I, like many other POC, particularly WOC, acknowledge and understand the importance of solidarity during this especially divisive time in history. It was powerful to see you on the right side of history, especially after these last several years of trying to explain to you why #BlackLivesMatter isn’t a racist, anti-white organization, and that you are not exempt from racism because of your friend Tanisha who’s kid was in your carpool. I wish it didn’t take the overbearing threat of our collective rights, health, safety, and freedom at align us, but here we are.
Yes, it takes courage to take to the streets to demonstrate your beliefs. When faced with the overwhelming black cloud that is our new administration, it is both easy and desirable to barricade yourself in your house and hide from the onslaught of social media. Instead of cowering, you got together with your gal pals and spent the better part of the week in an all-out arts and crafts frenzy. You took to the streets in MILLIONS across the nation, and were echoed in scores from across the world, as far as frickin’ Antartica. It was a thing to behold. You posted selfies and “liked” the dozens of images flooding your Facebook stream. It was a great day.
But the next day, you started seeing the trickle of comments, condemning the “pussy hats” as transphobic and racist. Then you had to look down at your knitting and wonder, “IS this racist? How is this racist?!” You saw the scrutiny from organizations of color wondering aloud where you were when they were marching in opposition to the murders of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile, and the DOZENS of other innocent Black men and women murdered by police. You think to yourself, “I’m here now, isn’t that what matters?”
Yeah, it does matter. And thanks for being here.
But something isn’t sitting right for you. You’re feeling attacked by the people you are trying to ally yourself with. You’re being held accountable for things that you didn’t do. You’re being made to question the undeniable goodness of the thing you did. You have to question that good feeling you had when you were marching beside your friends, your neighbors, your daughters. It’s uncomfortable isn’t it? Being judged by people who don’t know you, for attempting to demonstrate in opposition to clearly unjust policies, for doing what you can with what you have to make a statement. To have to go back and analyze the colors you chose, the message you wrote, and your choice of using papyrus font. To have the instant gratification you got from your day of hard work repealed and replaced with inconvenient introspection. You say to yourself, “Fine! I give up. I tried to do something good, but in the end I’m always the bad guy!”
NOW YOU’RE GETTING WHAT IT FEELS LIKE TO BE MARIGINALIZED. THAT IS TRUE ALLYSHIP.
That feeling — feeling like you’ll be labeled the enemy no matter what you do is what marginalized groups feel ALL. THE. TIME. You had a taste of it, and it was bitter enough to make you question your commitment to the cause. No one is asking you to quit, we are asking you to lean in. If you truly wish to be an ally, you won’t quit when it gets uncomfortable. You’ll recognize that this is the place that POC and social justice advocates endure constantly. That is their baseline, not the glow of self-satisfaction.
What is being asked for is not your surrender. What is being asked for is humility and self-reflection. We are not asking you to trash your “pussy hat” or remove the “I Stand With Planned Parenthood” overlay from your Facebook profile. We are asking you to honor the discomfort of being on the right side of history, and honor those who have existed in this space for years and decades without millions at their backs. Listen to others who have been doing this work for year and decades. Trust their experience. Understand that someone will always have a problem with something you’re doing always. If you’re holding out for universal acclaim, then you are better off quitting. Make space for people of color to be heard and seen. This work is hard, but we need each other to survive the days ahead.
White Lady, I really am glad you came out. I sincerely hope to see more of you in the future.