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Let’s Talk about White Allyship…

As a white folk in the midst of the next wave of Black liberation, it can be confusing where our place in the fight against racism lies.  First of all let recognize that ending racism is not the job of solely those who experience it, it’s going to take the action of folks who hold power and privilege because of being white. Right now, our job as white folks is to use that power to no to racismsupport folks who experience oppression, despite the fact that we don’t personally experience: racism.  But one does not just all the sudden “be” an ally, ally ship is a verb- an action we need to be constantly enacting.  “Ally” as a verb is something Franchesca Ramsey speaks about in her short and informative video “5 tips to be an ally” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_dg86g-QlM0

Some other things to think about as a white ally is being careful not to develop a “pat on the back” mentality about fighting racism.  It totally is super duper to be an ally fighting racism, the work you do it super important- however its more common decency to fight for everyone’s rights rather than self-congratulatory.

Brit Bennett states in her article I don’t know what to do with good white people, “Over the past two weeks, I’ve seen good white people congratulate themselves for deleting racist friends or debating family members or performing small acts of kindness to Black people. Sometimes I think I’d prefer racist trolling to this grade of self-aggrandizement. A racist troll is easy to dismiss. He does not think decency is enough. Sometimes I think good white people expect to be rewarded for the decency. We are not like those other white people. See how enlightened and aware we are? See how we are good? Over the past two weeks, I have fluctuated between anger and grief. I feel surrounded by black death. What a privilege, to concern yourself with seeming good while the rest of us want to seem worthy of life.” This may seem harsh or angry in a way that makes you react as a white person. But I would invite you to pause – take a moment to remember that racism is a built on a system of oppression, not solely you as a person. Thinking about your own privilege as a white person can be overwhelming and lead to guilt, but I would challenge you to push past those feelings and recognize your privilege as an opportunity to leverage your power to support folks of color. 

 With that in mind, lets keep thinking about what it means to actually embody being an ally. A huge and often overlooked point that Jamie Utt makes “Part of being an ally means giving credit where credit is due and never taking credit for the anti-oppressive thinking, writing, theorizing, and action of the marginalized and oppressed.” Ideas around-oppression may be new to you, but they aren’t new –they come from folks that have been experiencing oppression- so its important to recognize that.

Here is a link to Jamie Utt’s article “10 things every ‘ally’ needs to remember” that references ideas Mia McKenzie of Black Girl Dangerous talks about. http://everydayfeminism.com/2013/11/things-allies-need-to-know/

 

 

 

 

 

Considering Intersectionality to Strengthen the Fight Against Racism

Credit: Jim ChuChu

Credit: Jim ChuChu

Intersectionality is an idea that recognizes that humans hold myriad identities that have the potential to overlap and inform each other to result in a complex experience. It considers that each complex part of an identity plays a role in the overall combined experience of a single person. It recognizes that people can be privileged in some ways, and certainly not in others. Intersectionality allows us to examine these varying dimensions and degrees of discrimination while raising awareness of the result of multiple systems of oppression at work. Individuals have unique and simultaneous engagements with race, gender, class, ability, sexual orientation and citizenship.

Oppression and domination do not exist with neat boundaries around where one system ends and another begins, there tends to be overlaps that can and inform and even exacerbate the experience of one another. Of course this is not the oppression Olympics of who is the most oppressed, moreover highlighting the importance of approaching systems of oppression in a holistic manner that recognizes and creates space for the complexities of identity. Interlocking oppression is not a new concept, but one that women of color have particularly been talking about in terms of overlapping domination in racism and sexism. You can hardly address racism without addressing sexism, and you can’t really fight sexism without an anti-racism agenda. Or considering classism, sexual orientation, trans phobia, ability, and citizenship.

Once you start to consider how linked forms of oppression are with one another, it can seem overwhelming, like you can’t take on fighting ALL forms of oppression. However in what some call a specific target to fight oppression, like only taking on racism, or only taking on feminism, such a narrow focus denies individuals from a whole vision of themselves and their experience. In denying someone’s whole experience to inform our fights against oppression, I think we become complicit in enforcing other systems of oppression. A specific example is in white power feminism working to challenge sexism, without creating space to talk about feminism in the context of racism. Or Classism. What you end up with is an idea of feminism that becomes complicit in white privilege dominating and enforcing systems of oppression like racism and classism rather than opposing.

Bell Hooks write in her essay The Integrity of Back Womanhood, “Challenging and changing devaluation of black womanhood in this society is central to any effort to end racism.”

Learn more…

From the website Black Girl Dangerous,

Glimpse into the mind of Christal, an 18-year-old Black queerling, who ponders events and ideas pertaining to race, queerness, gender, feminism, awkwardness, etc., while making crafts.

http://www.blackgirldangerous.org/2015/02/qraftish-intersectionality-ep-2/

An excerpt from Barbara Amolade – It’s a Family Affair – talks specifically how systems of oppression around race, gender, and class intertwine in the US.

“Black women who do need welfare are subjected to a system whose implicit assumption is that it’s a crime for men not to support women and children and women not to force men to support them. That system blames black women for ‘allowing’ men to impregnate them without the benefit of marriage or money. Welfare policies confuse the economic issue of how to support a family with the personal issues of sexuality and procreation, and this confusion shapes the perception of black female headed households as lacking men rather than money.”

An in depth view of Black Feminism and Intersectionality can be found here

http://isreview.org/issue/91/black-feminism-and-intersectionality

Author Sharon Smith starts with Black legal scholar Kimberlé Crenshaw coining the term “Intersectionality” in 1989, and finishes calling for black feminism as a politics of inclusion “that provides a strategy for combating all forms of oppression within a common struggle.”