Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Real Allies Don't Expect Cookies

Latoya Peterson at Racialicious (awesome blog!) has been doing a piece called "On Facing Your Bias, Owning Your Predjudice, And Allies." (part one here, part two here). I am feeling this quote she excerpts from Synecdochic speaking on the nature of being a (feminist) ally:

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.

Say Word!

Actually... you don't need to say anything.... :)



richard said...

This seems to be a hot topic in the blogosphere, also see PortlyDyke's post How To Fuck Up.

Chris said...

Aaminah Hernandez has a great point here:

Grow up already. Help make the world better because it’s the right thing to do. Treat all people with dignity because it’s the right thing to do. Examine and acknowledge your privilege because it’s the right thing to do. Speak up against injustice because it’s the right thing to do.

Chris said...

Why does blogspot keep cutting my links? (grr)

richard said...

feelin that quote! i checked her blog, i also liked this:

"Anti-Racist = Actively Against Racism. This means that you are taking action against racism in yourself and anywhere you see it. To take action against it, you have to first admit that it exists and second recognize it when you see it. You can’t just teach your kids a few words of Spanish or dress them in pretty textiles, or read them a book about Martin Luther King Jr. Anti-racism is more than just exclaiming how “cute” or “exotic” another culture is or appropriating the things you like about different cultures. It’s about dealing with real live human beings and listening to what their experiences of racism are and then being outraged and wanting to speak up or do something to stop such incidences. It’s not about you feeling good and “multi-cultural” while avoiding dealing with anyone real."

how awesome was that. should be posted all over Berkeley. :)

sorry blogger keeps dissin yer links... must say, although i love my blog, there is a large probability i woulda rolled with wordpress had i known a bit more about blogging.

you gonna submit something to the Carnival Of Allies? i am on my third draft.

Anonymous said...

If you do decide to switch over to wordpress, let me know, it's pretty well set up.

I might contribute- right now my own public blog is making big changes into being more political (which mostly has been my Livejournal for that).

leslie said...

hey richard, while it's true i won't be baking you cookies anytime soon, i think it's important to let people know you appreciate their work. THANKS my friend.

richard said...

thanks Leslie, really. your awesome. it was really good to see you the other day too, i hope to come thru and see you again very soon!

i agree with you, and value your thanks. i think the fine line is if i started talking about my work so much that a dynamic developed where you might feel obliged to compliment me about it, like praise was being pulled for, consciously or unconsciously. i would imagine that might feel icky after awhile. i know that if a white ally kept mentioning how they do all this hard work with black youth, i would feel wierd about it pretty soon.

its a tricky line! i am very proud of the work i do, and most of my friends are female. i have been really deliberately trying to process my feelings about my work with men, lest i get into unintentionally weird dynamics with my female friends.

all that said... thanks again for your freely given words of support and thanks. i hope that you can also feel free to critique me if you aren't feelin some of my actions in this arena! :) bless up