Note: This was originally gonna be a Facebook post but it got LONG and also maybe more people need to see it, so if you see phrases like “people on my friends list” etc, that’s why.
Hi, to my fellow white people, hello hi. I need to address a thing, because I’ve seen several conversations recently where other white people responded in a particular way and that wasn’t cool. It’s easier to address all white people on my friends list, because 1. It’s a thing white people have a habit of doing, and I wanna make you aware that it isn’t cool just in case you didn’t know, and 2. The people of colour I know and are friends with don’t do this, on account of them not being white. This is an exclusively white people thing.
Also, this *might* be a challenging topic and you might feel personally attacked by it. Please, please, please, if you feel this way – Sit on that emotion for a moment and continue listening, think about the possibility that this is the case, and take this as a *learning opportunity*. If you’re feeling attacked or upset by it, please take it as a chance to better yourself – this is how it is intended. I’m not saying I am the white, racist-free guru you should all listen to because that’s far from the truth, but listen anyway because that’s important.
The first thing I want to say is: I am racist. I have said and done so many stupid things against people of colour, completely unintentionally. I say I am racist, not because I hate black people or think POC are less than me, but because, as a white person, I am unaware of the experiences and struggles that POC face on a daily basis. I don’t know whether or not my words or actions hurt POC. I try my best, but I am undoubtably going to fuck up – I’m probably fucking up in this post. A few years ago, I would have done anything to avoid being labelled as racist – including doing and saying some almost certainly racist things – because the label of “racist” was worse to me than the actual actions of racism. As such, if I was called out on my behaviour, I would get defensive, I would argue, I would be extremely offended that I was being *called* racist. Even when (or even *especially* when) it was POC calling me out.
So when I say I am racist now, I say so because it helps me look at my actions and behaviour through a potentially racist lens. If I get called out, it helps me see whether or not I actually was in the wrong. It means I’m actively trying to stop being racist, instead of avoiding being *labled* as racist.
This is what I mean when I say “all white people are racist”. Because while we might not be actively trying to discriminate against POC, we fuck up, and it’s extremely important for us to challenge that behaviour, instead of challenging the possibility that the behaviour was racist.
The next point is actually my main point, which made me start writing this. Something I have noticed on several different discussions about racism over the last few days, is the response of white people who want to be allies to POC, saying things like “I’ve tried to be an ally but it’s just so hard”, “I tried to speak up for POC but POC shouted me down and told me to shut up”, “I’ve experienced discrimination because of my skin tone from POC.” or something along those lines. Basically, complaining about how hard it is to be an ally, sometimes even saying it’s exhausting, it’s putting them off wanting to be an ally at all.
The frustrating thing about being an ally, and the thing that makes being an ally hard, is that there are often so few white people joining in the discussion about racism as allies. The majority of white people I see in Facebook arguments about racism are saying shit that isn’t helpful to POC. We play devils advocate, we point out technicalities in the language used by POC, we complain about “reverse racism”, or bring up bullshit statistics that don’t reflect reality or ignore the systematic racism behind them. But I see so many people complaining about how it’s hard to be an ally because POC get frustrated and angry. That’s not something to complain about – that’s something to be expected. Of course POC are going to be frustrated and angry and upset, because POC struggle through racism every single day.
Something else I see people talk about is this idea that there is no “right way” to be an ally, that there is somehow no rules to being an ally, and even if you do all the “right things”, you’re still gonna get “harassed” by POC.
Here is a non-exhaustive list on how to actually be an ally:
You shut up, and you listen when POC are talking. You make space for POC, you step back when the platform can be better said by POC. You call out fellow white people when they say racist shit. You accept that being white means you’re more likely to say and do shit that is racist, even unintentionally.
You do not get to complain about how hard being an ally is, and you especially don’t get to complain about that in POC spaces, or in spaces where the discussion is specifically about racism. Like, maybe it’s hard and frustrating to be an ally because of the things I listed above – but it’s a bruise compared to someone else bleeding. A bruise doesn’t need immediate medical attention, but bleeding DOES, so the bruised person sucks it up and helps the bleeding person. And it’s not the POC doing the bruising. If a person of colour lashes out at a white person, it’s not literally because you’re a terrible person, it’s because gee, for some reason, they’re frustrated and angry at, you know, the constant racist bullshit they have to put up with every damned day.
This is not going to get better by white people deciding to stop being an ally because of how hard it is, and it’s not going to get better by white people complaining about how hard it is. It’s going to get better when more and more white people LISTEN to POC, and challenge racism wherever it rears its ugly head, and fight against systematic racism whenever they can. We need MORE white people, and anyone who steps back “because it’s hard” is going to make the situation worse.
I’m not saying that this is the definitive answer on racism, I’m certainly not an expert, but please before you leave an angry comment about how you are definitely not racist and how dare I insinuate that you are, please really think about why you need to tell me that. Why does it matter that I’m calling you racist, when it’s your *actions* that define your racism, not some nobody illustrator on the internet? If you’re really passionately angry about being called racist, please please reflect on what that means to you, and how you can best avoid being racist in the future – because actual racist action is 100x worse than the label of being a racist.
PS Feel free to share and comment and all that jazz, and let me know if / where I’ve fucked up if I have (I almost certainly have).