5.06.2008

On Being an Ally: Admitting When You're Wrong


In honor of The Angry Black Woman and her call for a Carnival of Allies (which by the way I'm late for, the deadline was May 5th, oh well) I would like to briefly write a post on what it means to be an ally and on how being an ally doesn't mean you stop being racist and benefiting from white privilege.

In order to be an ally one has to, first and foremost, look critically at one's self and one's own privilege before one can start pointing out the ills in the greater society and in pointing out the racism of others. It's kinda pointless to go around pointing out the white privilege of others when one doesn't critically examine their own white privilege and how they got to the point where they are at right now.

Of course, this doesn't mean that you become like an Irish hermit and retreat to the hills and critically reflect on your self and fast for five years, you should still study how white privilege affects the broader society, how racism is institutionalized in this country, and one should always be aware and attuned to racism. However, first and foremost, at least in the beginning, one should spend time on being critical of their own privileges, male, heterosexual, white, class, etc.

And even when one does this, this doesn't mean that they are "cured" of racism. Racism in endemic in this society and whites are, in a way, stewed to perfection and marinated in this racism and white privilege and grow up thinking that white privilege doesn't exist and thinking that they got everything off of their own merit. This doesn't go away easy, and in my opinion, it never goes away fully. So one can be an ally and still be racist, hetero-sexist, classist, etc.

Case in point from my life. I recently incorporated a racist title in one of the my posts for The Blog and the Bullet without even knowing it. Why is that? Well, for one, even though I am a self-proclaimed ally and have been called an ally by others I can still be racist due to the fact that as a white heterosexual male I'm still not fully attuned to racism within society and within myself because I benefit fully from a white supremacist society and a heterosexist society and a sexist society. Despite my fight against white supremacy I can still be racist due to my privilege.

On The Blog and the Bullet I had posted a blog post by Phil Yu on a bunch of racist t-shirts being sold in Chicago, in....errrrr...."honor"? of Chicago's newest acquisition for their bench, Kosuke Fukudome. All of my posts on that blog are automatically cross-posted to the larger Alas, a bog, by Amptoons creator Barry.

The title for my blog post was "Horry Cow, That's Racist!" a play off of the slogan on the racist shirts in Chicago and on Phil Yu's catch phrase, That's Racist! Well, if Phil Yu was to blog on my title for that post he would most definetely say, That's Racist! Because despite me trying to do a play on words in that post it ended up being completely and utterly racist and offensive. The reason why it escaped my attention was because of my white privilege. Thinking it was only a play on words but not realizing how racist it truly was. I didn't pay too much attention to that post until Barry, a fellow white ally, e-mailed me to check out the recent comment thread on that post. And I did.

On the tread Tom Autopref rightfully pointed out:
The shirt really is obnoxious.

Hey … I can’t speak for Japanese or other Asian folks, but is the post title here problematic?

To which Katie replied:
Asian person here.

Yeah, I’d *really* rather not see the original slur repeated as the title of this post. Wow.

As well as Kai rightfully pointing out:
I found the original title, as well as the previous post title pointed out at Resist Racism, to be, yes, incredibly racist. Snickering at stereotypical Asian accents? Really? Unfortunately, these titles have forced me re-think my view of this blog, its authors and its commenting community.
And:
I hope you see where I’m coming from. I’m sure it’s all been well-intentioned but I was rather stunned by the lack of consciousness on this front.
To which I replied:
Sorry for not posting this earlier. I never read the comment thread until now nor did I receive Barry’s e-mail (not sure why).

I sincerely apologize for that racist title. Kai made some great points in pointing out that reusing the racist slogan from those shirts in Chicago was, in itself, racist and hurtful and I apologize profusely for that error and for the title post. I essentially was playing off of the title on the shirt and on Phil’s catch phrase but it ended up being racist (not coming off as racist, but simply racist). And again, I apologize.

I’d like to thank Barry for pointing this out in another e-mail (in where he mentioned the previous e-mail that never got to me) and to Tom Autopref for originally pointing it out and for Kai as well.

As a white male I am obviously unaware, no matter how hard I try, of certain aspects of racism within this country, even if I try to be anti-racist there is no such thing as erasing one’s white privielge and raicsm and therefore anti-racist allies can still be racist despite striving to be anti-racist. So I again thank Kai and Tom for pointing this out to me and for Kai in making his very apt commentary on the racism of my title.

Being an ally doesn't mean you stop being racist and stop receiving white privilege and one shouldn't be shocked at being called racist despite their self-proclamation (or through the proclamation of others) that they are an "ally."

"I can't be racist! I'm an ally!" or liberal, or a democrat, or that you have a "friend," etc. Because the fact is, as my lapse in judgment has shown, that one can be racist and consider themselves to be an ally.

As an ally one should also expect, and be thankful for, confrontation from their other allies and from those whom they organize with if they perceive a certain aspect of racism, sexism, classism, hetero-sexism, etc. seeping through. As an ally one needs to be receptive to this and not simply brush it off as being "too sensitive," "not gettin' it," "misinterpreting it," etc., because that would automatically puts you in the camp completely opposite of an ally and you end up using the language of the oppressor to defend yourself instead of using the langauge of an ally and a self-critical person to correct one's self.

If one is an ally than one would truly show it when they do get called out; will you react defensively or will you self analyze critically? That's one of the tests. And when you do self analyze it doesn't mean you get a cookie; one shouldn't get rewards for doing the right thing.

Image From:
Zuky

1 comments:

blackwomenblowthetrumpet.blogspot.com said...

Hi there! {waves}

Thank you for this post.

At my blog, BLACK WOMEN BLOW THE TRUMPET, we spent several days in an intense (sometimes combative) group dialogue about "The Self-Inflicted Wound Of Bigotry" and examining the ways that black people condone and perpetuate bigotry towards other groups.

The purpose of my post was to call attention to the need to examine OURSELVES honestly before attempting to lambast other groups for their discriminatory thinking.

Many left that discussion realizing that there was still much work to be done.

I am an advocate of black people forging alliances with non-black groups - but as your post mentions also - there is some PRELIMINARY ground work that must be laid that includes self-examination.

Continue to blow the trumpet!
Lisa

http://blackwomenblowthetrumpet.blogspot.com