It’s frustrating to live my life in the body that I have and continuously bear witness to the dehumanization of my community over and over again and then be expected to behave or articulate civilly. Luckily, none of you asked that of me. I got more “thank yous” than I ever expected, frankly. I wish I could have said what I wanted to thoughtfully and not from a place of pain but, I don’t know, there’s a time and a place for that and there’s a time and a place for mess. And that was some mess. I’m just grateful that you have so much grace for me in my mess place. And I’m okay with it. I’m apologetic but I also don’t regret any of it… I’m holding both those things in the same hand.
Writing about my disappointment in my allies really opened my eyes to the way that I’ve failed as an ally to others. It wasn’t until I was broken and feeling so alone by the pain that affects me, specifically that I realized that I’ve done that to other people. And not just once or twice. I’ve done that over and over and over again when people that I claim to stand for have needed me to speak up and I respond to them with, “you can do it!” Last week I wasn’t asking for encouragement, I was asking for actual, tangible help and I felt deserted.
I’ve done that, though. I do that.
Nia Wilson is an 18 year old black woman who was murdered this week by a white man in broad daylight. Latifa, Nia’s older sister, also injured in the attack, held her as she died. Latifa saw her attacker standing off to the side, calmly wiping the blood from his knife.
To say that race had nothing to do with this attack is, frankly, utterly ignorant. To say this man was a maniac or that this attack was random is to ignore the very real white supremacist system that not only built this entire nation but empowered a person like him while devaluing people like Nia and her sister. Plain and simple, whether her murderer was a part of a white supremacist group or not, he murdered her because he did not see her life as of value. This was a racially and gender-motivated attack. It was far from random or unplanned–the man changed his clothes following the murder. It was a power move.
In my quest to be a “good ally”, I follow a lot of different people of color–primarily black women and femmes on Instagram and Facebook. Following Nia’s death, the mourning in that community was unavoidable and heartbreaking. I didn’t say anything because I felt like it wasn’t my place and because I wasn’t sure if I wanted to use my platform to talk about a heavy subject twice in the same week and a lot of other reasons that I only now recognize as very specific versions white privilege.
Then I happened upon a post by Rachel Cargle wherein she asked for people to tag their favorite white feminists who hadn’t posted anything about Nia’s death on their platforms. It was a Call In, asking for help in speaking out about this event that was grieving the community. Simply asking, “would you please tell this story while we mourn?”
Basically the same question I asked of my friends a week ago–only under far less dire circumstances.
It was when I saw that post that I was brought face to face with my own hypocrisy–and I understood something that I didn’t understand when I asked my allies to stand up for me. Because here I was not standing up for the people I claimed to fight for. Waiting for a literal invitation to do so. And how dare I have the audacity to write a whiney-ass blog post voicing my frustration about their silence when here I was remaining silent over an actual life-and-death-matter.
There’s a whole other secondary mess brought on by Rachel Cargle’s post involving an, apparently, very popular woman that I’d never heard of before called Alison Brettschneider who responded so violently to being called in by the people in her community. I was shocked at the extent to which Allison took her retaliation (calling black women “roaches”, doxxing people who didn’t agree with her, obsessively posting on Instagram) but I wasn’t surprised by the energy behind it. I’ve felt similar pain at being called out in the past–I’m just not the type of person who wants to hit back in public. That’s not my personality and I don’t have an audience near as big, so it’s nothing more than “there but by the grace of god go I” situation.
Some things I’ve learned in the past week:
-I don’t get to label myself an “ally”. That’s not a title you get to just apply to yourself.
-The White Supremacy isn’t some extremist organization–it’s the foundation of this very society that I live in and benefit from every single day.
-I needed to be humbled. There’s so much about race that I had intellectualized and compartmentalized into columns of “this is what a good person does” and “this is what a bad person does”. And as long as I saw myself as “one of the good ones” I was doing it right. This past week has taught me a lot about my feelings of superiority that I thought I didn’t have. I’ve been so smug.
-I’ve made it about me and my feelings and it has nothing to do with me. Even when I thought I was “doing it right”, any work I was doing was still centered on me.
It disappoints me that it took a tragedy of this magnitude to introduce me to myself (especially considering the tragedies that have been happening–I should have seen this years ago). It frustrates me that, even now, I’m talking about myself in the wake of Nia’s death. I could so easily just not publish this… but the point is that I’m a shit ally and I’m not going to pretend that I’m better or “more woke” than I really am. It felt inauthentic and a continuation of my superiority complex to quietly do more work without letting you in on where my mind has been.
I’m ready to learn about the ways that I’m complicit in and benefit from the marginalization of others the same way that I would hope that the people who claim to champion for me would do.
I just want to say that I want to continue to be humbled. I want to continue to learn.