This is the question I’m struggling with right now. I think it started around the time of Michael Brown’s death. Before that, I probably assumed that I was an ally and that I was doing a good job at it, too. In this aspect, I find this to be a good thing, as an unexamined behavior is likely not a great one.
As a teacher, and as a youth worker before that, I’ve always felt it was important to bring up and discuss issues of inequality, oppression and intolerance. I like to keep up-to-date with current events and challenge my students in empathy and activism. And in as much as I’m an individual in this world, I think I know where my place is. The trouble for me comes in the public sphere.
I think a useful example here is Twitter.
I like to consider myself an #EduColor fan boy. The hashtag lives in a prominent place on my TweetDeck and its members are basically how I stay informed. But, I actually use the hashtag in extremely rare circumstances because I doubt if the movement needs the voice of another heterosexual, white, Christian male.
More generally, how do I participate authentically in a role that, for lack of a better term, doesn’t lead to the gentrification of the movement?
I wrote this, actually, while I was sitting in a church downtown waiting to hear Alicia Garza speak. It happened to be the best place I could have been having these thoughts at the time, because she ended up addressing this issue during the evening.
She laid out 4 important points for any white ally. This list might be helpful to you, too.
- Acknowledge there is a problem.
- Have meaningful relationships with people of color.
- Discuss power, privilege and oppression with other white people, including those in authority.
- Move white voters (especially the older generation) to select candidates based on the how their policies will effect marginalized people.