I'm Hurt and Confused - But Maybe This Isn't About Me - Being a White Ally to POC
One time I took a quiz that was to determine how "white" I am.
In order to determine this, obviously one of the questions was "have you ever been jealous of Lauren Conrad?"
I responded with, "not only was I jealous of Lauren Conrad, but I was jealous of her because she had had an article in Martha Stewart Wedding Magazine." Which may be the whitest reason ever be jealous of someone.
The quiz came back with:
"you got sunburned on your yacht white"
I'm being glib. But I only laugh to keep from crying. Because I've been doing my fair share of crying. I at once can't believe, and totally expcted this. Really, really bad shit has happened in the world thanks to white people hating people of colour and I'm feeling very ashamed of my race. I'm hurt and confused. But maybe it's not about me.
More to the point, this is not about me.
To that point, I'm not an expert on any of this. But I'm more worried about staying silent than saying the slightly wrong thing right now. Because I'm "burned on the yacht white," and have all the privilege that comes with that, I'm pretty sure it's my duty to say something condemning the actions of white supremacists.
White supremacists, racists, nazis, whoever you are, I'm burned on the yacht white, and I publicly condemn what you are doing.
Kyle pointed me to a podcast, "It's been a minute" where a Person of Colour (POC) interviews white people about how to be better allies + that's where I got the sentiment "You're hurt and confused and it's not about you" from + that's been handy for me moving forward + just in case that's going to help someone I thought I'd share.
Here's what I've learned over the last little while:
Don't ask your POC friends to absolve you of guilt or explain things that you can just look up online. There's a lot of resources out there for how to be a good ally.
Don't add to their burden. Accept when they say they're tired. Offer to help if they need it. (Want me to make that poster for your rally? NBD.) But don't try to rescue anyone. Also don't expect every POC to be out rallying the same way you don't expect every white person to do it either.
Spend your money at places that promote diversity, and don't spend your money at places that don't.
Be a role model.
Lend your body to the fight. Head down and peacefully protest. Fill up the streets.
Ask yourself what are you doing to be a good ally and could you do more? For me that meant today I asked for resources on how to write job posts so that diverse people apply and are given equal opportunity to work at my organization.
I'm not saying anything bad about my organization by the way. They have an incredible diversity statement that makes me proud + they welcome + advocate for people of all walks of life. But the thing is, we could do better, because all of us can always do better.
So in this case, I was recently told that people who come from marginalized groups may be less likely to apply or get certain jobs for a double reason:
- they may not feel they are qualified (life has probably taught them to not think they can succeed in many places, because, the world can be really shitty sometimes)
- they may not have the same qualifications but may be qualified for the job. For example, maybe they have led community groups in traditional healing but do not have a certificate to say that they are community planners, but really a community traditional healer may be better for the job + who you want working for you.
If someone calls you out on your shit, acknowledge it, apologize, internalize + change. I got called out recently. As soon as the words were out of my mouth I realized I was wrong [it was a microagression people, like not something terrible, but like, I wish I hadn't said it.] It was embarrassing + awful, but I apologized + I moved on. I know that means that I will do better + if I make more mistakes I'll be told because I didn't shut it down.
Don't stay silent. This may not be the most eloquent post but I think it's better to say something rather than saying nothing.
If you hear something, say something. At my job with the youths I find it really easy to shoot down the negative things they say because that's my job as an adult, but I find it way harder in my "real" life + I need to be better about speaking up when I hear racist comments.
Check your privilege. Recognize how systemic racism has helped you in your life, and how lucky you are that you get to consider if you want to engage in a discussion about race and racism or not.
Also, to those last 2 points, talk to kids + young people in your life about race + racism. You can either do it or they can figure it out on their own, + generally the conclusions they draw by themselves aren't ones that you'd like. Not talking about it doesn't make it go away, it just makes it hard to understand. Use age-appropriate language + examples, but it's always the right age to start the conversation.
So here's where I'm at right now:
I cannot, will not, and should not fight this fight on behalf of you, POC, but I will do everything I can to stand beside you. If your load gets too heavy please feel free to lean on me. I've got a full history load of privilege to support me in this fight, and I want to use that to support you.
I acknowledge I probably got a lot wrong + I'm willing to hear different points on this.
I think diversity is cool.
It's what makes life interesting.
There's so many more people to love + learn from + laugh with if you're willing to do those things with people who aren't the same colour as you.
Nobody's perfect. We can all do better. Love with your whole heart.
I would like to acknowledge that the land on which this is written is the unceded territory of the Coast Salish peoples, including the territories of the xʷməθkwəy̓əm (Musqueam), Skwxwú7mesh (Squamish), Stó:lō and Səl̓ílwətaʔ/Selilwitulh (Tsleil-Waututh) Nations.