Why I’m Not Your Ally
I support a lot of causes and I support a lot of people. I am uncomfortable with calling myself an “ally.” One reason is that I’m not particularly fond of labels and the other reason is what the world “ally” represents to me. When I think of allies, I think of the allies that grouped together to fight the Nazis in World War II. They were together for one particular cause, even if they had different forms of government and different opinions on different sociopolitical and economic issues.
The thing about the Allies, though, they were in the front lines. They were in the trenches. They were dying. Once they were in, they could not leave. They did not leave until the war was over and the last prisoner free.
Even the white people who aligned themselves with the Civil Rights movements were allies. They took beatings. They marched for miles, and some of them were murdered along with their Black comrades. They were true allies.
I have marched in protests. I have signed petition after petition. I have voted my conscious even when I knew my candidate would lose because they were, in my heart, the right candidate for the job. I have spoken up at the Supermarket, at the bank. I call my coworkers on racist behaviors and let my Black and Hispanic, and Indian coworkers know that I will back them up if they need it.
But when I write, when I speak out, people do not threaten me. People do not threaten my children. No one is trying to find out where I live and publish that information. When I talk about my struggle with depression, no one tries to contact my primary care doctor and send them my Twitter logs. I am generally unafraid of the police. All of these things come to me because I have white privilege. I am not straight, and I am not cis, but in not being vocal about my gender status, people assume I am. I am weak because I do not speak out about my status, but I am not ready for that battle.
I do speak out. I do speak up. When someone is being attacked on Twitter and asks for help, I join in. When someone is being discriminated against in public, I say something. If I see a mother struggling with groceries, I try to help pay. I donate what I can. But when I speak up, the tone of the conversation immediately changes. The person being racist changes their bearing. Now they are talking to a white person, and they are suddenly more respectful. If they are being a troll online, I can use the same derailing tactics they are using to get them away from the person they are trolling.
I’ve been called a race traitor, I’ve been called a N—– lover. None of that is anything near what people of color go through. No one has threatened my children. No one has threatened my life. No one has threatened my safety. Indeed, even on my most controversial, viral blog post, the most that happened was that people said I should quit my job. Even though my boss read the post, she never thought I should quit, and her opinion is all that matters in that situation.
So I am not your ally. I wish I could say I was. But the things I do are not sufficient for me to call myself your ally. I am your supporter. I will support you, with words, with money when I have it, with friendship if you need it, but I cannot be an ally. I cannot be on the front lines of the fight you are in. You cannot leave the fight you are in, but I can. White privilege affords me that opportunity. My efforts are not enough to call myself your ally. If there is another war, I will join you. I will put myself in 100% and I will not leave. And then I will be your ally.