The Whitney Museum chooses silence in an effort to displace, downplay, and negate valid public outrage regarding their policies, ethics and leadership. By Jamara Wakefield May 17th marked the start of the 79th Whitney Biennial. The Biennial is a contemporary art exhibition, featuring typically young and lesser-known artists, at the Whitney Museum of American Art […]
Hey, White Allies? It’s Game Time.
White allies need to be leveraging your body, assets and privilege to protect the most vulnerable among us, not crying about how you don’t recognize this country now (because to be honest, most of us do and always have).
By Clarkisha Kent
I started this piece over a week ago. And it has taken many, many forms. Initially, I was planning on writing some scathing rebuke of white men like “Thick Wife Guy” who make everything about them and allies who do the same. I was planning on sticking to solely calling out the toxicity and paternalism of white allyship for the 363893836375th time. I was honestly planning on telling white allies to fuck off forever — especially after this weekend.
A lot has happened in a week. Thick Wife Guy’s asinine statements remain but Charlottesville happened. While Black people and other people of color remain un-shocked by the racism on display by white Supremacy, white America on the other hand? Well, they were shook. Seeing their sons, lovers, and YES, daughters out there in modern Klan rallies — faces uncovered — suddenly made the whole ordeal “real” to them. Even though it has been real for Black people this entire time.
Being shook in this manner led to different reactions. Most of it including hand-wringing. A lot of it included calls for kumbaya and flowers. And a lot more included gross denial. I could frankly go on and on about the wide spectrum of reactions from white “allies” that I found downright wasteful and useless.
But I’m not here for that. I’m actually here to tell white “allies” to but their grown folx pants on. You’ll have to forgive the quotations there. Because like Feminista Jones, I too don’t really think allies exist. But that ultimately isn’t up to me, folx. I also don’t believe in Santa Claus either, but that doesn’t stop other folx from believing he’s the real deal, now does it?
So rather than fight everyone about semantics (because I definitely believe in accomplices and race traitors, but that’s a story for another day), maybe a come-to [Insert-Your-Favorite-Jesus-Here] moment is in order.
But Clarkisha? I’m so distraught and shocked by all this hate! What do I do? Where do I go? What’s next? Well, start here:
1. Decenter yourselves in marginalized spaces and struggles.
In the case of Thick Wife Dude, he centered himself. He talked about how he felt about his wife being thick/fat; about how he was teased and bullied for liking thick/fat women; about how he was targeted for embracing them fully. Never mind the hardships that his wife probably experienced existing as a fat/non-thin woman.
In the case of Charlottesville, well, you literally had a Klan meeting in Emancipation Park and “allies” gawked at it due to shock and horror (no doubt because they ignored everything their Black friends/acquaintances and friends of color said up until this point) or “allies” argued that while it was a horrendous display, Chet Squad™ had a right to assemble their Klan meeting because blah blah blabbity blah free speech, assembly or whatever.
Look, y’all, if you are about this life and are ready to take down white supremacy, the first step to doing that is decentering yourself. You and your fee-fees should not outweigh the plights of marginalized peoples. And it does not matter how shocked you are at something like #Charlottesville or how it makes you “very, very sad” — what matters are the lives that are at stake and that need to be protected.
You need to be leveraging your body, assets and privilege to protect the most vulnerable among us, not crying about how you don’t recognize this country now (because to be honest, most of us do and always have).
2. Leave the paternalism at the fucking door.
Mother Monster learned the hard way this weekend—via this dreadful Twitter poll—what happens when you try to tell the marginalized how to win their liberation. Indeed, she committed back to back sins by pushing the #loveconquers all narrative in the middle of the #Charlottesville storm and then followed it up by declaring that #ThisIsNotUs. The latter was a hashtag she started to prove that America is definitely not comprised of the hate that we saw this weekend in #Charlottesville.
But what if I told you that America IS the hate we saw in Charlottesville? Greater folx and scholars than I have always explained how we — that is white America and the rest of us — live in two Americas, and this is not different. The only thing that’s different is that “allies” like Lady Gaga continue to try to distance themselves from this horrible realization and telling us how we can use bubbles, rainbows, and cotton candy to stop it all.
Fortunately for us, James Baldwin and MLK Jr. already clocked “allies” like this who want to impose some wack ass countdown clock on our freedom and condescendingly tell us how hateful we’re being or how much worse we are than our oppressors for daring to fight back.
So instead of regurgitating what they said, I’d rather reclaim my time and simply steer you in the direction of my last point:
3. Learn how to follow directions from people who, gasp, do not look like you.
In case you did not grasp my last point, the message here is that for you to be an actual ally, you need to accept that the marginalized must and will fight for freedom on their own terms. And in order for this to happen, you also need to accept that you will have to defer to and follow the directions of Black people and other people of color when the time arises (i.e. we are not your superheroes. Stop that shit). This applies to all “allies”. White ones. Cis ones. Straight ones. Able-bodied ones. Name an ally and these feelings and thoughts of entitlement, superiority, and false victimhood have passed through their heads at least once.
But if we are to dismantle the systems of power and oppression that operate here in America and abroad, you have to squash those feelings. Kill them. Nip them in the bud. Dead that shit. I’m talking total annihilation and subversion of all that privilege that is leering at you from the sidelines and waiting to corrupt you.
And this, white “allies”, is something I am charging you to do daily. White supremacy is not just some big, bad concept that works in the abstract. White supremacy works on a smaller, personal, and more intimate level too.
You’ll see it in your friends and the way they joke, your family in the way they talk and in YOU and the way your defenses form when some person of color checks you and says something you don’t like. Superiority will have you convinced you are better than this person of color who is taking you to task. Entitlement will convince you that you don’t have to listen to them for the former reason, and false victimhood will say that you are in fact the victim here because you gave it your “best” and it wasn’t good enough for said marginalized person.
Hate to break it to you, white “allies”, but your “best” got us here to begin with. It’s time to give it your all or go home.
Author Bio: Clarkisha Kent, aka Lex Luther, aka [REDACTED] doubles, triples, and quadruples as a Blerd, a Crystal Gem, and a Care-Free Black Girl. She is the co-creator of the entertainment blog Sublime Zoo and co-creator of the podcast We Robbed A Zoo. She has also been featured on The Root, The Establishment, and BET. Fun Fact: Her nemeses include Lena Dunham, Frank Grillo, and Taylor Swift.