What’s beyond step six?

In general, I don’t know what I’m talking about, so I appreciated all the love and support from my first post about steps toward allyship.  Rereading through that post, I continued to pat myself on the back for articulating myself clearly and for inserting humor (treating yourself to compliments from yourself is encouraged – so I ask you give yourself a compliment right now).

I left a cliffhanger more cliffhangery than the Lost Season 1 Finale, so I’m back a whole eight months later with not four, but TWO additional steps to being an ally. You heard me, I cut my promise in half because this self-identifying dude is still trying to figure his s*** out.  If this stuff was this easy, they’d be teaching it as an elective in middle school. In all fairness, I loved middle school and had a hard time in math class learning PEMDAS, so props to middle schoolers for being legit and super smart.

TO THE GOOD STUFF

So a quick recap of 1-4:

Step 1: This step is unrecognized privilege.

Step 2: you’ve gotta do some self-work realizing your privileges and its affects on your relationships.

Step 3: beaming yourself down from some holy social justice pedestal.

Step 4: listen, support, and understand you still are clueless.

A bit of a reflection on steps 1-4, if I may.  I still like these steps because they don’t really give you an answer besides checking yourself. Based on my interactions, people still need to check themselves.  I still check myself every day.  A fun/sad activity I indulge in every day is to write down one way that my privilege showed itself that day.  It’s a good reminder to myself that just because I consider myself a social justice gladiator (thanks, SCANDAL), doesn’t mean that I’m perfect (steps 1, 2, 3, and 4 are reminders of that). So try that out and let me know how you do.

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**refer to the photo above for suggest facial expressions to each step**

Step five: Stay updated on the news front. Being an ally isn’t some party trick that impresses people and it’s not a way for you to feel closer to an oppressed group.  Being an ally is about understanding your privilege and dismantling that privilege.  Did you read about the SCOTUS decisions on DOMA, Voting Rights Act, or the Indian Child Welfare Act? Following the Trayvon Martin trial? Did you follow the Wendy Davis filibuster (so badass)? How about the Paula Deen situation? For me, reading this stuff isn’t on the checklist for being an ally, reading the news about social equality/equity/justice is my sports section. Luckily, I’ve created a network of friends who also love “sports” and send me articles/news.  You should develop that network! 

Step six: Start having conversations with your fellows privileged people. I know 1-5 are very internal steps, but what I have learned in the past few months is that working with other people in your privilege group to talk about your identity and its effect on others is enlightening. It’s funny how when I first started this whole ally journey that I found myself only talking about race with people of color or only talking about gender/sex with women.  This has to stop if you want to be an ally.  It’s not a person of color’s responsibility to hear you babble about your struggles with being white or explain to you what it means to be a person of color.  Go have those conversations with other privileged people and try to gain some understanding about yourself/your group.  That’s not saying you can’t have those conversations with people of color, just ask yourself why you want to talk to them about race.  

Beware, step three (standing on the pedestal) will bite you in the ass in this step. For some reason, people wanna dance around in their sashes of tolerance, acceptance, and knowledge when talking to others.  All conversations should be equal, even if the person does not have as much training or experience as you.  You’re trying to get people on the bad ass side, not scare people from your turf. So when you have conversations with people, have the courtesy to respect their opinions and thoughts and realize that you were both/all born into this world with whatever privilege and it takes people shorter/longer times to understand the scope and needs to dismantling their privilege.  It’s not a race, y’all, and the more people we support in becoming more tolerant, the faster equality is going to get here.

In closing, we’re starting to get more into the action-oriented steps, but I never believe that you should be leaving steps 1-5 behind.  Never get ahead of yourself and always be checking yourself – because that’s the most important step of all.  I also ask that you remember that people are individuals first and are not defined by the identities they hold.  Love them, support them, and dance with them. Dance with them to Robyn.

I have a good idea about steps 7, 8 (omg, this is getting excessive) – but I need to think on them a little bit more.

Give yourself some self-love. You deserve it.


Paula Deen, SCOTUS, and a Colorbound U.S.

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I’ll tell you one thing, people: we are not “post-racial.” If the Queen of Butter’s recently leaked deposition is any indicator, we are, in fact, in quite a bind. Here’s a taste of what we’re working with if you’re not keen on exploring the depths of Paula Deen’s mind (the Prosecutor’s questions in bold):

And could you give me an example of how you have demonstrated for them a nice way to use the N-word?
[Objection]
What about jokes, if somebody is telling a joke that’s got —
It’s just what they are, they’re jokes.
Okay. Would you consider those to be using the N word in a mean way?
[Objection] That’s — that’s kind of hard. Most — most jokes are about Jewish people, rednecks, black folks. Most jokes target — I don’t know. I didn’t make up the joke, I don’t know. I can’t — I don’t know.

To be honest, I almost feel bad for her. Paula clearly feels uncomfortable talking about race, you guys. And I don’t totally blame her. I feel bad for her because she lives in a culture that promotes “Colorblindness” as a glossy term for equality rather than dealing with some of the social, economic, and political mainstays of a racist country. We all know that slavery was racist, but what about jokes told covertly in a private home or kitchen? We reject conversations about race as irrelevant for modern times and instead navigate race in more insidious ways, like through jokes or through the proliferation and acceptance of narratives that narrowly define people’s identities (think Welfare Queens, Pocahontas, or hey, this “Asian” Disney truck).

On the other side of these conversations, or perhaps underpinning them all, is an intricate webbing of media, political, and social norms that consistently imply that white is normal, beautiful, and almost always right. So, yes, I almost feel bad for Paula because, like she said, she didn’t make up the joke, she’s just TELLIN’ IT. And she doesn’t know better because who’s saying it’s wrong? I’ll tell you who’s not (spoiler alert!)…

Today, the Supreme Court of the United States struck down a key provision of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 – a provision that Chief Justice John Roberts has been eager to gut for a few years. Representing the majority opinion today, Roberts stated:

“The Voting Rights Act of 1965 employed extraordinary measures to address an extraordinary problem. Section 5 of the Act required States to obtain federal permission before enacting any law related to voting…This was strong medicine, but Congress determined it was needed to address entrenched racial discrimination in voting…There is no denying, however, that the conditions that originally justified these measures no longer characterize voting in the covered jurisdictions.”

Roberts goes on to say that people of color are now active voters at American polls and no longer need the federal protections put in place by Sections 4 and 5 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The law, he says, must evolve with the changing demographics of U.S. voters.

Sure, Roberts. But, did you sleep through the entire 2012 election? Revisions to early voting procedures and voter suppression initiatives across the country bottle-necked polling stations and deterred an estimated hundreds of thousands of people. Research shows that black and Hispanic voters had to wait nearly twice as long as white voters in 2012 elections.

We can create voting policies without talking about race, but they still have a racially-stratified impact. We can destroy equal protection laws by saying race is no longer a factor, but you would have to be willfully ignorant to do so.

Well, I would like to propose a redo: Let’s talk about race. Let’s talk about race and the way that it impacts our day-to-day lives. For white folks, that often means a litany of things that you DON’T have to think about:  you probably don’t have to think about whether you’ll be the only white person at the party (or meeting, or in the office, etc.), you probably won’t have to worry about driving at night, and you probably don’t have to think about whether a change in the Voting Rights Act of 1965 will limit your ability to walk to your polling station, wait in line for a minimal amount of time, and cast a ballot for your desired comptroller/city council member/president. You probably also don’t have to think about why you don’t have to think about all of those things and, HERE MY FRIENDS, is where people of color come in.

We people of color are constantly thinking about those things because all of the non-thoughts that most white folks have about their presence in the world equate to a pretty tumultuous world for people of color. When white folks continue to not-think and not-talk about the ways in which their decisions, their actions, their movement, and their jokes impact others, we persist into what I will call a Colorbound America. In this America, people of color’s place is constantly reinforced, reinvented, and retold by people in power, and white folks in general, through the invisibilization of — or reluctance to acknowledge — the different social and political contexts that people live within. The common phrase “Oh, I don’t even see race when I look at someone” only implies that you don’t have to because you’re not impacted by it and that you have yet to understand your impact on others. 

Colorblindness is real but its effect is not the great equalizer of people. Colorblindness has real, tangible impacts that many of us not only have to think about but also have to live out on a day-to-day basis. I say this all not to vilify white people–because, in reality, it’s much more complicated that just white people subjugating people of color–but rather to open a door to a more honest discussion about who we are as individuals and the impact that we have on each other. Our intention can be to love each other fully, without having to consider the archaic confines of race, and those intentions are beautiful. However, to gloss over another person’s experience by claiming that we are all the same, is a backwards step that will not only lead us to more politically and historically inappropriate decisions like the one SCOTUS carried out today, it will also lead us away from knowing and valuing each other in deeper and more accountable ways.