Centering white allies in our movements shifts them from being unapologetically pro-Black to becoming about what white people need to cope with their guilt. By Gloria Oladipo “Defeating White supremacy without White people creates Black supremacy. Equality is the truth. Like it
The ability to feel empathy is shaped by our genes, and empathy is pretty fucking important.by Sherronda J. Brown and Lara Witt Whiteness is nothing but power. It was given and attributed to some and then many, for the sake of creating an all-consuming, capitalist, cisheteropatriarchal white supremacy. Systemic power, passed down from generation to generation and woven into the fabric of our world, built in through legislation, behaviors and biases, wealth and economic opportunities, geographical location, and culture, all become the lifeblood of parasitic whiteness. Hierarchical social structures like white supremacy, patriarchy, and capitalism, depend entirely on the maintenance of that power. White people, through a series of tools, including the idea that whiteness is all at once the neutral embodiment of human existence and not a privilege in the least, continue to benefit from hundreds of years worth of colonization while Black, Indigenous and people of color continue to hold less power than they do and therefore lack access to opportunities and foundational aspects of human existence — including physical autonomy. Colonialism was rooted in denying humanity to millions, it justified centuries of violence. And white supremacy as we know it today was planned and maintained by people at all levels of society, it creates racial disparities in homelessness, racial health disparities and the racial wealth gap. Whiteness and white people like to frequently remind us of their power without ever discussing it openly or with intent to dismantle white supremacy. No, if anything, whiteness is the one thing—no matter how poor, no matter how angry, no matter how sick they are—white people still have their skin. While there are subtle exertions of white supremacist power—especially popular amongst liberals and within democratic party leadership—there are also very obvious examples of the ways in which whiteness has made white people less empathetic resulting in the systematic harm of Black, Indigenous and people of color (BIPOC). If white people do not view BIPOC as human through a series of dehumanizing tactics and tools, then has their power given them a sadistic pleasure in seeing our bodies harmed? It would be fair to argue that they do.
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LGBT organizations and the white LGBT community only center, honor, and see Black and Brown Trans people when we are dead.by Kay Martinez It's Transgender Awareness Week and I’ve been feeling erased by the Trans community and LGBT organizations as whiteness continues to be centered. This week, individuals and organizations will participate in Trans Awareness Week to help raise the visibility of transgender and gender non-conforming people, and address the issues the community faces. Yet how do these LGBT organizations internally treat their Trans employees, particularly their few Trans staff of color? Are Trans Black or Brown people in leadership positions? Are we tokenized? I can’t help but side-eye these organizations’ performative allyship this week knowing how many climate reports I’ve read about the racism and transphobia within these organizations and my own personal experiences with them. I’m currently in Boston where folks expect me to celebrate the recent win on Ballot Question 3 during the midterm elections. Massachusetts voters faced the first-ever statewide popular vote on protections for transgender people from discrimination. The referendum would have repealed our current state law that protects trans people from discrimination in public places, including restaurants, stores, and doctors’ offices. A “yes” vote on Question 3 kept the current law as it is. I’ve found myself asking, how did we get this win? I can’t fully celebrate because the visual marketing campaign led by Freedom for all Massachusetts did not prominently feature any Black or Brown Trans people in their videos and it has left me feeling erased, invisible, and degraded by my hometown. As election day neared, the face of the campaign I saw everywhere was Ian, a white transgender teen. In the commercials, I saw close-ups of Ian and his family having dinner in their beautiful home, playing on their yard and enjoying their Rockwellian upper middle-class life. I looked at all eight videos on Freedom for all Massachusetts’ website and I failed to see any Trans Black or Brown people prominently featured. In the video entitled, “This November, Massachusetts Will Vote YES for Dignity & Respect,” news footage of one Black Trans Woman, Chastity Bowick, speaking is used for a few seconds which made me feel like they Google searched for some diversity to tack on rather than affording a Trans person of color a featured speaking role like the other white trans folks and allies they included. How ironic that a campaign fighting to protect Trans people from discrimination in Massachusetts excluded Black and Brown Trans people from full participation in the visual campaigning. Seems discriminatory to me. But why? Who were these advertisements for? [caption id="attachment_50231" align="aligncenter" width="800"] Kay Martinez by Rai McKinley[/caption] Massachusetts is 81% white.These ads were designed for white people to see the plight of Transgender people reflected in the upper-middle class struggles of Ian and his family so they would see themselves—and how could anyone vote to keep another white family down? Is an appeal to whiteness going to lead to Trans liberation for all of us? What Freedom for all Massachusetts’ ad campaigns showed me was that the voters of Massachusetts could never see me or my Trans Black and Brown siblings and deem us as worthy of humanity. Yes, the legal protections for Trans folks in MA are intact, so perhaps we won, but would the results have been the same with a diverse and inclusive ad campaign including people who looked like me? Had I seen myself in these ads, I would have felt like I had a Trans community in Massachusetts that was truly fighting for my freedom. I feel like this organization did what white LGBT people and white cis-led LGBT organizations are currently doing and have always done to Black and Brown people, which is further pushing us and shushing us out of sight and out of mind to the margins because they think they know what’s best for us. Transgender Awareness Week is followed by Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDOR), an annual observance on Nov. 20 that honors the memory of those whose lives were lost in acts of anti-transgender violence. At TDOR ceremonies I’ve organized and participated in, Black and Brown death take center stage and are focused on because of the sheer volume of atrocities my communities disproportionately face, particularly Black Trans Women. I’ve also been to ceremonies where my dead siblings’ names were mispronounced by well-intentioned allies amid chants of "Black trans lives matter". LGBT organizations and the white LGBT community only center, honor, and see Black and Brown Trans people when we are dead. Ever since the news of this administration’s plans to write Transgender people out of existence, my whole body has been tight. I’ve been breathing shallow breaths and experiencing whiplash every time I looked at my newsfeed. Every bit of legislative progress we’ve made on Trans rights is being knocked back and it takes a piece of my resolve with it. How can we chant, “won’t be erased” in the streets together as a community, when white Trans people and LGBT organizations erase us from within? That’s not freedom for all.
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If your allyship only extends as far as your comfort, you are not an ally.John Brown was an abolitionist who died in 1859. He was hanged after a failed attempt to attack a federal arsenal to provide arms to a future slave rebellion. He was a flawed human being but he lived by his principles and died by them. And in 2018, that's the kind of energy allies really need to have. I'm not saying you need to attack the government (but that's absolutely an option that is open to you, put a pin in it), but I am saying that you need to sacrifice your own privilege in order to fully combat oppression and make a real change in the world. And if you're not willing to do that, fuck you then. You read that right. In 2018, in a world where rapists are being voted to the Supreme Court and there are literal Nazis in the street, we just don't have time for platitudes. We just don't have space for people who are merely paying lip service to a cause without fully investing themselves in the cause. This message is specifically going out to white people and men. In 2018, you need to do way better than you are. You need to engage. You know it's bad out there, you know that people who have far less privilege are taking the brunt of the abuse while still fighting against oppression every day. As a real ally, you should be engaging those systems in conflict from the door. In Brown's time, he saw what the pro-slavery group was doing and imitated their tactics to further his side. He rejected his own privilege. He helped slaves escape, he formulated plans to create a stronger system of safety and escape and fought for full-scale end to slavery. We can find people like Brown throughout history, many have been turned into memes that we share because we love a good hero. People who rode bikes through war zones to deliver coded messages, women who seduced Nazis to shoot them in the head. Sometime in the last few years the title of ally has been co-opted. It has come to mean a person who is just not a flaming a bigot. But go into any ally group and you'll see, quite quickly, that there are lines to how far they'll go. They believe in equal rights but won't step to their dad when he makes a sexist joke. They're not racist but won't confront their neighbor on their “all lives matter” sign.
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