So I have been having this conversation with a lot of people lately. For some odd reason, no matter what the struggle is, the privileged continue to have NO GRASP on what oppression is, what it means to be an ally, or how to just not be an asshole. So I decided to do a quick summary post on what allyship/wingman-ship really is and what it definitely is not. Privilege is not additive. So as an educated able bodied poor cishet Black woman in America I have to understand the importance of my cishet able bodied privilege and put myself in service of the LGBTQIA* and disabled communities. That means I use the proper pronouns and language. I decolonize & depatriarchalize my language as not to oppress members of marginalized communities. And most importantly I correct ANY and EVERY oppressive statement spoken in my presence NO MATTER WHO it is or WHERE it is said. Below are some rules that I have learned along the way and that I use EVERYDAY to ensure that I am being an ally and not a privileged asshole.
(1) Acknowledging your privilege DOES NOT make you an ally
You are going to have to do WAAAYYY more than acknowledge that you have white, cishet, class, or ableist privilege, this doesn’t make you an ally at all. Acknowledgement of your privilege is a step and a tiny ass step at that. Do more, don’t stop there. The problem with the world we live in now is that so many people believe that if they acknowledge their privilege then the conversation is over. No honey, it just got started. You don’t get a cookie for admitting the obvious.
Yeah I said it, shut up. Your job as an ally is not to continously co-opt spaces and run your mouth. Marginalized/oppressed peoples can advocate for themselves in their own spaces. Unless you are asked to speak, don’t speak. You have no business going to an LGBTQIA* safer space and running your mouth if you are cishet or going to a Trans* safer space and running your mouth if you are cis. The same goes for White people, in a space/venue made by and for people of color, you need to shut up. Don’t make suggestions, your job is to sit there, listen, and learn.
Its not about you at all if you are a privileged person. So DO NOT go anywhere co-opting the space, movements, conversations, & narratives of marginalized peoples.
(4) Ride &/or Die!
That’s right. Ride or die. You don’t ask where we riding to, you don’t ask why you have to die, you just do it. Your job as an ally is to take your privilege and relinquish it to service the oppressed. That means that if you end up somewhere where somebody makes a white supremacist racist, classist/capitalist, sexist/cishetpatriarchal, ableist comment you correct them. It is NOT the job of the oppressed to continuously keep the privileged communities in check, its the job of the allied community.
(5) They don’t need your pity & you aren’t super-save’em-hoe *side eye*
If you are privileged, you aren’t doing anyone a service by going into marginalized/oppressed communities to do ‘community service’. Take your privileged ass to your privileged community & do activist, social justice, educational work there! People of color don’t need White people to come into our communities to save us. Take your ass to the White communities and do panels on Anti-racism and the deconstruction of White supremacy. Get it? No marginalized/oppressed population is a charity case, we aren’t here to help you feel better about yourself or so you can earn some kind of cookie that makes you feel a bit better about your privilege.
(6) Google it, check out a library, read the millions of blog posts on the topic!
Look, oppressed peoples aren’t responsible for educating you on your privilege, take the initiative and google it. There are soooo many resources at your finger tips, if not google, check out your local library, read!
(7) The ONLY time the privileged get to be on the front lines is if somebody is shooting
Yep, if you have privilege, you only get to be the center of attention or on the front lines if there is danger in site. If this seems at all unclear refer back to #3.
(8) Privileged people DO NOT get to decide what’s oppressive
Privileged people have not just economic, social, and political privileges and protections but they also have epistemiological privileges aka the privilege of the control of knowledge production. They have the privilege of acting like they can decide what is valid and what is not. This is in and of itself oppressive and a core component of the privileges bestowed upon certain populations via imperialist White supremacist racist cisheteropatriarchal capitalism. So no, its not about you or your perceptions. If a member of a marginalized/oppressed community points out that a behavior is oppressive or that you are being oppressive then shut up and listen (#2), ask for references on the topic if necessary then go home and do your research.
(9) Be CONSCIOUS of your language!!!!!!!!!!!! Watch your damn mouth!!!
By default the language that we are taught and that we use everyday is oppressive, its a reflection of the hegemonic society that we live in. With that being said be aware of cisheteropatriarchally oppressive language that is used to sensationalize the LGBTQIA* community and oppress them, so learn the damn prefered pronouns!!!!!! So when an individual who is a queer person of color comes in my presence I try to make sure I remember that common Black Diasporic terms of endearment like “girl, child, dude, guys, etc.” are all oppressive. Common words used as insults are also oppressive to the disabled community, stop using words like: retard or crazy, etc. All of those words have long oppressive histories and modern hegemonic trajectories. Remember that common social terms for people of color are oppressive and racist e.g. red, yellow, N-word, Natives, etc.. Be aware of how language is commonly used to make one group superior to another. For instance, once I learned more about history and racial politics I began to refer to who many people call Native Americans as First Nations peoples, I have First Nations heritage in my ethnic heritage yes but its important to realize, respect, and praise the knowledge production and identities of marginalized people, if you somehow don’t understand this, refer back to #8.
I hope these tips are helpful to everyone. Now go out into the world with your privilege checked & your critical counter hegemonic mindset locked & loaded. I leave you with the wonderful & brilliant words of bell hooks:
“It is necessary to remember, as we think critically about domination, that we all have the capacity to act in ways that oppress, dominate, wound (whether or not that power is institutionalized). It is necessary to remember that it is first the potential oppressor within that we must resist – the potential victim within that we must rescue – otherwise we cannot hope for an end to domination, for liberation.” – bell hooks, Talking Back: Thinking Feminist, Thinking Black