Acknowledge Privilege; Be A Better Ally

August 3, 2018

travelling as a brown personLet’s Talk About Being A Good Ally

Times are tough these days for basically all minority groups. Hell, unless you’re a straight white abled dude from a middle-class background you’re essentially screwed in the trying times ahead, right? The current political landscape has left most of us in a something of a spin (read: fucking mess). How can we look after ourselves? What can we do for each other? Who is the most screwed?

The time has come where we need to join hands and stand up for each other. Before I get full “LoveTrain” on you all, I want to state that I honestly think it is a necessary component of modern life to try and look at everything in terms of intersectionality and be a good ally. We have to be as empathetic as possible. And so, in the spirit of getting to a point of understanding, I want to talk about how you can be a better ally.

1 LISTEN.

Shut the fuck up and listen. If somebody does you the immense honour and privilege of taking time out of theirday to explain what their life is like, you sit down, and you listen. You don’t interject. You don’t query. You don’t wonder aloud. You don’t bring your own stories to the table (that one’s hard, I know). You listen. There’s a reason I like writing my perspective down as a blog, and that’s because it’s alot harder for the reader to argue with a piece of text than with my own live voice. Having the same conversations in person is very difficult – I’m much better now at commanding the conversation but it’s taken years of frustrating conversations and feeling like I might have to just scream at a friend.

2 DON’T RELATE EVERYTHING BACK TO YOU.

It doesn’t matter if the two transpeople you know are incredibly successful business owners. Nobody needs to know about the Mauritian kid at your school whose parents were richer than everyone else and smashing life. Hold back on the story about how you’re a guy and your whole life you’ve had a woman as your boss and they’ve always been paid more. There are always going to be surface exceptions. THE EXCEPTION IS NOT THE NORM even if it’s normal to you. None. Of. That. Matters. Open your mind to understand your experiences might be an anomaly and in dealing with structural, societal issues, we cannot pare it down to one singular perspective. See point one: listen.

3 DO NOT OFFER FEEDBACK.

Me, frequently: “I just know that growing up I had zero mixed race role models. I’d like to know that today’s kids have mixed race models, but I can’t think of any”.

Some white dude: “WELL I’M SURE BOOKS TODAY HAVE LIKE ONE MAURITIAN-DESI GIRL PER CHAPTER THINGS HAVE CHANGED YOU JUST HAVEN’T DONE YOUR RESEARCH.”

No, white dude, some hypothetical role models is not good enough, because I can name at least 20 white cis straight role models for kids today and if I can’t do the same for any kind of minority role model then that is not bloody good enough.

Also, they don’t.

4 SHARE OUR VOICES.

Great. You read a blog post of mine and it changed your life and you’ve left me a comment telling me all 129873 times your were unwittingly racist and how humbled you feel to have learned more. First of all, I can’t offer you forgiveness, that’s not for me to parse out. Second, please share the goddamned thing. How can I change your best mate’s life as well if he never reads it?

And whilst we’re on the topic of sharing, share the thing as it was originally intended. Don’t cut out a single paragraph and share that, and don’t write a thinkpiece about somebody else’s thinkpiece unless you’re linking back and playing thinkpieceception. Stop trying to co-opt other peoples work, perspectives and lived experiences for your own popularity.

5 ACKNOWLEDGE YOUR OWN PRIVILEGE.

I thank my lucky stars every day for being cisgender, for being in London, for being able-bodied, for having a white Mum, for being a native English speaker, etc, etc, etc. How much harder is life with a foreign accent in these grim Brexit times? None of us asked for privilege, none of us can give it away and try as we might, there’s little we as individuals can do to change it. All we can dois acknowledge it and move on. Part of my privilege is the fact that a) I’m in a society where I can write about these things and not risk being arrested/murdered and b) white people read this blog. It would be an awful thing not to use those things to try and raise awareness.

6 RECOGNISE YOUR OWN AUDACITY.

My boyfriend, Ryan, represents the holy grail of privilege. He is straight, white, male, cis, able-bodied,Western-born, first language English, whatever the privilege is, you name it, he’s got it. This goes for a surprisingly large number of my friends. What Ryan tends not to realise is that his voice, relatively speaking, is way louder than mine. If I share an article with a title like “My Life Being Mixed Race”, people would be like “oh, ok, yeah sure, she’s always banging on about politics”. By people, I do not mean you, Dear Reader, I mean Joe Public at large. Facebook friends; old schoolmates; a large chunk of Twitter followers, whoever might stumble upon the article. If Ryan shared a post with a title like “My Life As A Race Ally”, everyone and their dog is going to click on it. It’s unexpected. People with privilege are highly valued, and their voices resonate more. People like me are often relegated to talking about the things that make us different. People like Ryan could probably start a blog about rare Pokemon cards or types of lightbulbs and it would be successful. I’m not saying I can’t start a blog about those things but at somepoint people would be expecting me to qualify my own viewpoint as an”outsider”, whereas Ryan would never need to address that.

So if he DOES decide to address his privilege, then that’s massive. It goes against the trend of silent acknowledgement. It’s the kind of voice we could use more of.

7 PAY US.

Minority groups on average earn 30-40% less than the Ryan’s of the world, and I’m sure we’re all familiar with the shocking statistic that black women in American earn just 55% of what a white male makes doing THE EXACT SAME JOB. That ain’t right. If you’ve got some spare cash let’s equal out that difference. Many PoC (especially those speaking out and doing the educating) have taken to adding a Paypal or Ko-Fi link to their social media. Use it. (FYI, mine is at the bottom)

9. SHOW UP. What exactly are you doing? What is the extent of your activism? Could you do more? I find this question is almost always met with “I tried but it’s bad for my mental health”. Now, that’s clearly a valid concern and I’m not saying for one second saying you should put yourself in mortal jeopardy. But. It’s also worth mentioning that being able to “opt out” of activism/outwardly displaying that you give a shit is in itself a sign of privilege. Being able to turn off and go “lalala I’m watching Netflix and ignoring the news because it’s too hard” is a big privilege because many people can’t walk out the front door without being reminded of their “status”. I’m not saying you SHOULDN’T turn off because you 100% should from time to time. I don’t know anyone who is capable of fulltime following the news here and in the States at the moment because it’s just too depressing – we all need a break from time to time. But, as soon as you feel able to, get back out there and show some support. Literally RTing an article you’ve read or adding your name to a petition is a simple and relatively non-taxing way to show your allyship. Prejudice doesn’t take days off, and it’s about repeatedly showing up, doing the work, getting uncomfortable*, making points and deconstructing. Repeatedly! Being a good ally is not writing one post one time about privilege and calling it a day. Being a good ally is not having one enlightening conversation with your racist Uncle and then feeling confused for two years. You got to galvanise and keep going.

This is by no means an exhaustive list, but it’s a small and tiny start. I really cannot stress enough HOW MANY ways there are to be an ally and when it comes to

*And I just want to stress uncomfortable is not “the lowest ebb of mental health ever”. Please don’t ever get to that.

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