Monday Notes: 5 Examples of White Allyship

The word ally has been thrown around the last few weeks. And I wanted to clarify a few things about the idea.

An ally, according to Merriam Webster, is one that is associated with another as a helpera person or group that provides assistance and support in an ongoing effort, activity, or struggle.

But what does this mean when we add the word white, as in white ally?

Loosely speaking, a white ally is someone who stands with Black people and our quest for equality and equity. However, I still want to go a little deeper.

Here’s what I’ve observed from decades of interacting with different types of white people in predominantly white spaces.

White allies speak up when something is “wrong.” Remember when I wrote about the girl who ordered a Jimmy John’s sandwich while I was teaching? Well, when I told the program coordinator about it, she called the student into her office and reprimanded her. This made space for the student to apologize and for me to handle it in a very upfront and authentic manner with the entire class. That same colleague also stood by and with me as we resolved the situation of the other student who’d failed. White allies do not shrink when faced with adversity that can be deemed wrong or read as racist.

45438037-7ef2-44a3-b5b7-b62d4915adf9White allies educate themselves about racism and then act accordingly. Many of the white people I personally know are either in academia or in academic situations. Consequently, my colleagues don’t ask me to recommend information; their reading lists are already extensive. These allies not only read, but they also apply information. During the first week of protests, a co-editor of a book I’m in process of publishing reached out to me and asked if she or the others could lighten my load. She recognized the trauma of watching a Black person murdered on video and offered a supportive solution.

img_4290White allies use specific language. Words matter. As I scroll through all of my socials, I can tell who is with me in the fight for dismantling systemic oppression and who is not. #AllLivesMatter and #BlueLivesMatter are hashtags that symbolize a lack of understanding of Black issues and create separation of the larger issue. Churches and organizations that sponsor events to feed the police, while never mentioning how they can or have supported Black families who have lost lives due to police shootings send clear messages. Instead, allies share useful resources. Allies don’t say, “but what about…” Allies use #BlackLivesMatter with confidence and as a way to decenter themselves.

White allies are aligned even when there is no headline. At the risk of sounding cliché, many of my good friends are white. One of my friends is a woman who, during our teen years, lived less than eight blocks from me surrounded by Black people. She recently campaigned for Beto O’Rourke and has been a champion for social justice issues all her adult life. I have a Facebook friend who I’ve known since first grade; he is constantly raising issues about the injustices that Black people face in his California community. Another friend is a woman I met during my first job in academia. She has spent much of her 30+ career teaching Black children in culturally diverse ways and modeling how to do that for other educators. A fourth person is a white woman who has collaborated with others to diversify Oklahoma’s curriculum to include lessons on the Tulsa race massacre. White allies use their voices at all times because they realize systemic racism is a persistent part of American life.

Finally, for those of you who are still subscribed to this blog and sometimes comment with mutual understanding or add your new perspective of a social justice lens, I appreciate it. That’s my 5th example. White allies seek first to understand, not to advance their pre-established privileged perspective. 

What else would you add to this list?

***

I also want to note that I have friends who are not allies and I know allies who are not friends; the terms are not synonymous. 

53 thoughts on “Monday Notes: 5 Examples of White Allyship

  1. Thank you for this post. It has been disappointing to see people I have known for years, families members even, post things similar to the meme you shared as a photo. You know from my blog about my brother’s issues with his mother’s family. Right as this was happening, an aunt on my father’s side posted some stupid meme that said something like, Egypt had slaves, are we going to tear down the pyramids. I sent her a private message and briefly described what was going on with my brother and how upset he’s been and why, and told her that if he had to deal with this now from his father’s side of the family it might drive him over the edge. I told her that I knew she wouldn’t want to hurt him. She thanked me and immediately removed the post. The problem is that she actually posted it in the first place. Some people just can’t be or don’t want to be educated. Not unless something somehow touches them personally, and even then sometimes still not. This same aunt recently started liking some posts I put up criticizing the current prez (who she has supported) and his stance on masks, and frankly I was shocked. I wondered if she’d had a stroke or something. Then I found out she and her husband had COVID. So her mind had changed a bit when it became personal.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. But, but…why? Why does it take the thing having to happen to you personally for you to care more or see the ridiculousness of a situation? I really think we need to begin teaching empathy in schools or work or somewhere. Sheesh!

      Thanks for adding this story Kim.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. The nicest person I got chatting to in London was a pleasant very warm lady from Nigeria, lovely girl she was selling doughnuts from a caravan by Victoria Railway Station, lol not sure what this has to do with your posting but she brightened my day and the direct opposite to glum commuters rushing to be somewhere else……….. funny that I remember only her and I better leave my anecdote there.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. 🙂 I always read both the posting (also comment thread) written by bloggers I Follow…. but thought to myself ‘Andrew perhaps not one for you to comment on!’………. lol she was daughter of first generation immigrants, happy and cheerful in the midst of a pandemic! (But no mask which was odd?)

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Thank you Dr. G.

    So many lessons here. Aha Moments, that give me goosebumps as I read your words. Encouraging me to step back and truly reflect on the depth and breadth of black lives matter.

    Your personal experiences continue to anchor my understanding.

    Particularly this passage:

    “During the first week of protests, a co-editor of a book I’m in process of publishing reached out to me and asked if she or the others could lighten my load. She recognized the trauma of watching a Black person murdered on video and offered a supportive solution.”

    Encouraging me to stop, think, deeply reflect from your personal experiences.

    AND continue celebrate your experiences and strength at an even deeper level.

    Thank you for being a light for all of us.
    I am so excited for what is yet to come.
    Including our mental health matters interview this week!

    Grateful for your writings,
    Dr. D xo

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much for this understanding and affirming words Dr. D! I appreciate them. So, yes…sometimes it’s as easy saying, “How can I help?” because at least it’s acknowledgement and empathy.

      Looking forward to our interview release ❤

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Thank you for sharing!… here on the path there is no black or white… “It is not the image without, but the spirit within that matters”… 🙂

    Hope all is well in your part of the universe and all your tomorrows are filled with happiness!.. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

      1. “No road is too long for him who advances slowly and does not hurry, and no attainment is beyond his reach who equips himself with patience to achieve it.” Jean de La Bruyere

        Liked by 1 person

  5. Great post, and thank you for giving living breathing examples of how it’s applied in your own life. I was curious about your thoughts on differentiating the term ally vs accomplice? I’ve read a few good articles in the last year or so which adds the term accomplice to better describe those who, like you mentioned in your post, actually stand beside you, i.e. those who are proactive rather than reactive when it comes to tackling racism and social justice / equity as a whole (walking the talk).

    Your post also reminded me of feminism and how many men say they support women’s equality, yet only a select number would call themselves feminist and get out there and march (think of how few men were at the Women’s March in 2017) and advocate. And of course the whole importance of intersectional feminism and how one cannot truly be an ally to women (or an anti-racist) without recognizing the unique compounded struggles of black and brown and lgbtq women.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you! I think what trips me up about the word, “accomplice” is its negative connotation. Usually an accomplice is someone complicit in your criminal activity, right? lol I’d rather have an ally. We have allies during wars. Countries have allies, other countries they can count on. Because I’m not trying to redefine words, I’d rather have an ally lol

      And I agree about the commonalities between this and feminism and the LGBTIQ community.

      Like

      1. Yep, totally know what you mean about the word, it’s a trip. I think they wanted to come up with something next level because lots of folks appear as allies but so many wouldn’t actually stick their neck out. Maybe just calling the less serious quasi-allies. Ahh, terminology 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  6. GURL!
    This is exactly the type of conversation that needs to happen.

    Actually, I think of it as a form of instruction. I do believe that a lot of white folks want to be true allies but they either fear what their friends and family would say, or fear for their careers, or they aren’t sure where to start.

    Kudos to those of them that have put it on the line for us.

    That said, here, you give some very tangible examples of what it REALLY means to be an “ally.”

    NOW THEN…..
    The examples that you gave about feeding police (especially when you were NOT feeding them before all this) and posting about BLUE and all these/them and those lives mattering—yet never once reaching out to help or support the aggrieved population (Black folks) is downright HURTFUL!

    But to me, it tells a bigger story and that is, I DON’T CARE about YOU—-and we all know who “you” is!

    Chile, we know what time it is with some of these folks.

    I can respect you more if you just go ahead and tell me you don’t like me and you have no plans on sticking with me.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That part. What has been reinforced during this whole situation (over the past 8 years) is I do not have the time or energy to teach people or to deal with what I can clearly see is a branch of racism. I just don’t.

      Anywho, thank you for this comment ❤

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Yes to every single word of this. I love that you are talking about this because to dismantle systems, we need a village. We need a team of individuals dedicated to making the world a better place for everyone regardless of nationality, skin color, or any other measure that seeks to divide.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Exactly. A village. A team. And the village and team don’t have to be homogeneous because the world isn’t all the same, but when you get down to it, we all want the same/similar things.

      Like

  8. Good list. I’d also add that white allies are shields. I don’t know about you, but I’m pretty exhausted from all this super-racism and it sure is nice to have a white friend mouth or signal with an empathetic expression “I got this” to me when someone is crying white tears or deploying or excusing racist behavior and step in front of me to handle the situation. Not because I couldn’t, but because they thought I shouldn’t have to.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I haven’t experienced that ever, but it seems like a nice concept, and I thank you for adding it. Having a shield to step in to kind of check their peers is important. It also would make me feel less crazy lol because then I’m not the only one always saying something.

      And yes…all of the things are exhausting right now.

      Liked by 1 person

    2. Yes. I’ve had some of those experiences–especially when I was in grad school. I so appreciated the white woman who went in on the white man who kept “coming for me” in my first graduate school presentation. You know, the type, when the prof turns the class session over to you. I guess, he couldn’t believe this “lil’ black girl” could wow the teacher and hold her own while talking about a Ford Maddox Ford novel. It was exhausting, and this white woman who I did not know out sideof class, just stepped in and set him straight once and for all. As you said–not because I couldn’t, but because I shouldn’t have to.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. I’m glad she did that for you because it sounds like that fool was aiming to humiliate you. I’ve never had a white virtual stranger shield me (just friends), so this one was doing a lot more than most. But, we’re exhausted, so they can step in every now and then and speak truth, so we can catch our breath.

        Liked by 1 person

  9. Understood every word. It’s a constant – well, yes, battle. Some white people say and do things and don’t even realise the racism in their conversation and actions convincing themselves how good they are (non-racial). The typical I’m not a racist but … one often has to simply walk away. Some act an equality they don’t feel in the company of black people and in privacy carry right on as if there’s nothing wrong. There are so many examples I don’t know where to start.

    In my experience, it’s always been black people who are the strong, forgiving ones. Who takes the blows (it’s nothing less than that even if it’s verbal) with no retaliation. How a black person or group can relax, visibly, when there’s a white around who has some sort of sense. The smiles, the deepening of their eyes, their spirits reaching out to one, viscerally.

    This is turning into a very long comment and perhaps I should do a post of my own about the subject. I sense South Africa is going through a very intersting time at the moment as far as racial relations are concerned. One thing I’m sure of, no white person ought to be, what shall I call it, awkward (?) about the topic. Honesty with oneself first and foremost and take it from there. Sincerity. Humility even. Open one’s heart. I feel very strongly about this. I also spent many many years living alongside black people while in the inner city of Johannesburg. It shapes one … beautifully.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. You have said quite a bit, and I’m thankful for this lengthy and thoughtful comment. I understand exactly what you’re saying. In terms of how Black people act when they realize there’s an ally in the room, is pretty true. It’s like you can just be, as opposed to being on the defense because you’re unsure of what’s about to be said, or what you’ll have to defend.

      It’s seems South African has gone through quite a bit transition already, but then again, so have the States. I know what you mean about living within a culture; it changes your perspective.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Interesting definitions. In addition to speaking up when something is “wrong”, I think allies also need to ‘live out’ their support and values. For instance, if a prospective employer has an approach of promoting under-represented groups (e.g. all applicants meeting the criteria plus also from certain groups are guaranteed an interview), I support that whatever the personal outcome of my own job application. Hope that makes sense.

    Liked by 2 people

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