I Don’t Decide If I’m an Ally

There are very few times in my life where I’ve felt a loss for words. I’m full of them. Some of those words come to the surface automatically and make my mom blush. Others are thoughtful and well-rehearsed. I’d like to think I have more of the latter.

Recently though, I  cannot find the words to say. Unless my grandma comes over and starts spouting off lines she’s heard on Fox News, I don’t  know where to start. In my heart, I know where my morals lie. I know which Facebook posts from distant family members make me say “Wow, that’s blatant racism,” under my breath while some Twitter videos make me so prideful to be part of this generation of change. In my head, I know that any black person has a place at my table, in my home, and ALWAYS in the nation I want to be a part of. For so long, I thought that the absence of hate made me an ally, but I don’t get to choose if I’m an ally to the black community. It’s up to them.

Photo credit: Hunter Hanthorn (Milwaukee, WI)

I recently wrote a blog post about my white privilege. It’s centered around the fact that I don’t walk around this world aware of my skin tone. The lack of awareness is a privilege in itself. I acknowledge that I will never know the full capabilities of my privilege because that would be fully understanding the experience of those who are oppressed. I can empathize but I will never truly know what it’s like to have to be aware of the color of your skin at all times.

I chose Political Science as one of my majors because I saw how many men were in the program. My ego definitely played a big part in the decision. I’ve been ready to argue about politics for most of my life. In feeling so “woke,” for lack of a better term, there were times when I thought I was the best ally that I could possibly be. Because I spoke up in my lectures against hate, I pat myself on the back for supporting the movement. Because I retweeted something, I snubbed my nose at those who weren’t educated on politics around the world. Because I had been to a protest or two, it wasn’t my job to keep showing up. Yet, I still thought of myself as doing everything that I possibly could to show that I cared.

In all honesty, I was doing more than most. However, when some people are doing nothing, doing the bare minimum is nothing to feel proud about. More importantly, it wasn’t my stubborn ass that needed to be heard in those lecture halls. It was the black students. It was their experience that I needed to learn from before I spoke.  By encouraging their voices, I could have asked questions and found a path that better suited my allyship. Maybe then, I would have realized that it’s not my place to announce to the world “I AM AN ALLY!”

I don’t want to make this confusing. Announce to the world that you are open-minded, full of love, and tolerant as much as humanly possible. Make it known that you are trying to do better and learn more, but don’t take this time to boost your own ego in being the “performative ally” that no one needs right now. It’s not black people’s responsibility to teach you, however, they have the right to decide if you are an ally to the Black Lives Matter movement or not.

Photo credit: Hunter Hanthorn (Milwaukee, WI)

The movement has done an amazing job in providing resources to donate to, petitions to sign, and events to attend that allow you to be the kind ally that they are looking for. It allows you to be a part of the movement without taking the microphone from the community that has gone unheard. It’s our job to LISTEN. It’s our job to LEARN. It’s our job to CHANGE.

That being said, there are some amazing ways that you can support that don’t always include joining the ranks on the street. Protests are SO important, but so is funding, supplies, and political advocacy all of which you can do from your  couch. There really is no excuse for not getting involved.

Here are some amazing resources that I found (sponsored by the official Black Lives Matter website) if you want to be a better ally:

  • Donate to Black Lives Matter today!
  • Sign the #DefundthePolice petition here to speak out against racism in incarceration!
  • Contribute to the GoFundMe of Brandon Saenz who lost his eye due to rubber bullets shot into peaceful protestors by police in Dallas, TX
  • Start reading about race in this country as it’s presented through the eyes of black authors
  • Call the Louisville Mayor at 844-298-2731 and demand justice for Breonna Taylor who was killed after a no knock warrant was served on the incorrect house. Demand that the officers involved be charged and fired!
  • Sign the Justice For Breonna Taylor petition that’s almost 6 million strong!!

I have done all of these things from under my comforter in my bed. Chapters of Black Lives Matter in your area can be found through their website (most of which will accept Venmo!) if you’d like to see your money going directly to protestors in your community. If you’re uncomfortable being in the thick of it, donate. If you don’t have the means to donate, call, sign, or post. You know what’s best for you. But know that sometimes, doing what’s right isn’t always the easiest path to take. You might get push back. You might feel a little helpless and you might feel overwhelmed, but it’s a big part of learning as you go. 

No, you don’t get to decide if you’re the best ally. You don’t get to receive a Political Science degree and debate some close minded kid in class and think that your work is done. As white people, there’s SO much this movement can help us learn about ourselves, our community, and the fractures within our system that we might have been blind to. You might not get to decide if you can be labeled an “ally” for the cause, but what you can decide to do is learn, grow, accept that your allyship might be off course, and just listen to those around you.

Special thanks to Hunter Hanthorn for these photos from the Milwaukee protests! Like I said, I want to learn & grow to be whatever this movement needs me to be! If you have resources that should be added to this list, please contact me at any of the socials below!

Edited by Vanessa Reza. Contact info can be found on the ‘Contact Me’ page.

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