Being an ally is not a destination. It’s a process. Everyone fucks it up sometimes. I have made some spectacular fuckups myself, and that’s with trying to be very, very careful and aware. There is no get-out-of-jail-free card; there is no Magical Incantation. If you catch yourself thinking that of course you’re not like those men, stop and take a good hard look at yourself, because statistically speaking, chances are good that you might be patting yourself on the back and forgetting that you have to walk the walk as well as talking the talk.
If you consider yourself an ally, and you wind up doing or saying something that gets a really strong negative reaction, and you see one of your friends saying something along the lines of “it’s okay, he’s one of the good guys, it’s not like that”, that should be a warning sign that it’s time to immediately apologize. A real apology, not an “I’m sorry if you were offended” — because that kind of language isn’t an apology at all. You clearly did offend someone, or else the dogpile wouldn’t have happened. “I’m sorry that I offended you, and I’d like to make sure I understand why, so it doesn’t happen again; what I’m getting is that it was such-and-such, and I’m sorry I did that, and if that wasn’t it, I’d like to listen to anything else you have to say…”
Good talk! I also believe that being an ally is a journey, not some place with a finish line for sure. Scared of those folks who think they have gotten to some finish line. Angry Black Woman also touches on a particular dynamic concerning allies, and fine tunes it even more with her post, Things You Need To Understand #9 - You Don't Get A Cookie. I quote:
When a person or group does something to address the biases and imbalances in our culture, whether it be on a grand scale, in their own sphere of influence, or in themselves, this is a good thing. But doing so isn’t cause for celebration, congratulations, or a party. Why? Because it’s basic human decency. And people shouldn’t be over-praised for doing something they should have been doing in the first place. That leads to them doing the right thing for the wrong reasons — personal or professional accolades. i.e.: Cookies.Important reads! Been navigating the cookie minefield myself... Been super appreciating the love i have been getting for doing the Walk Against Rape, and for doing this blog, but been feeling antsy around whether it may be perceived that that is the driving impetus for my actions, or that it is expected. For the record, of course i appreciate the encouragement and love, and it does add to my inspiration to do this work, but it is not the primary force driving me to do this work. A sense of responsibilty, accountability, social justice, knowledge that i can do constructive things with my privilege, AND a burning, revolutionary love come from within and moves me forward.
Actually... you don't need to say anything.... :)