2020 was one of the most traumatic years for modern generation Black people.
School closings/at home school
Lack of professional diversity & inclusion
Black people made up over 27% of COVID cases and 60% of deaths in urban centers. Add to that, the deaths of unarmed Black people by police and the emotional trauma of waiting for justice, despite being used to injustice. How having to figure out how to facilitate school at home for children, often multiple children and work proved almost impossible. Then the blatant racism in the administration, towards the first Black female VP candidate, and in our workplaces… the amount of PTSD Black people had looming over their head was almost palpable like a nimbus cloud. In many cases it was the presence and recognition of our allies that made us felt seen outside of our own community on the larger national and world scale. I understand it can be hard for a person born with privilege to understand the reality of someone born with a biological truth that is a social and political disadvantage. However it is in the attempt, their education in the nation’s history of discrimination and racism, and the acceptance of their privilege that we can actually consider them a true ally. Our very own Ally McBeal.
I have one. I happen to work with her, in a place where I have experienced the worse racism and discrimination in my life. I didn’t pick her, she just decided she valued humanity over hatred. I have never asked her if she studied the art of allying or it just came natural to her, but she is very deliberate and purposeful in her role. I was registering for class today, and she had written me a letter of recommendation the selection committee praised and that seemed to describe some awesomely brilliant woman I didn’t even recognize as myself. I read it again waiting for my class to load and was reminded how important allies are… even when you are Blackity black, rooting for everybody Black, pro-Black, and dressed in all Black.
We’ll call her Ally, and this is the recipe for an ally.
First, Ally recognizes her privilege and deliberately educates herself about the experiences and realities of marginalized people to better understand the human experience. She is also very aware of her actions. During the Black Lives Matter protests, she actually mentioned that she felt bad she hadn’t marched, but was simultaneously afraid of COVID and unsure how to resolve the two. I was impressed with her compassion and awareness. I didn’t fault her for not going to a rally. I too stayed at home. However her level of self-awareness and her want to protest brutality against other people was impressive.
Second, she isn’t one of those “I don’t see color” folks, her eyes work, her prescription is current and valid. But she treats everyone equitably all the time. If you are an idiot… she’ll call it out, color lines be damned. If you are smart, she will also ensure you know she recognizes your skill. Her recommendation letters, gold star emails, and just simply her seeking out and acknowledging my intelligence and knowledge are always good to hear, but especially from someone I equally respect. An ally is not just, or may not even be, a friend… but stands in solidarity with you against the racist notions and actions that keep you from opportunity. Recognizing that your difference doesn’t make you lesser and them better… but simply different, and that difference is to be celebrated!
Third, my dear Ally is supportive of my pro-Blackness because she knows it does not mean I’m anti-White or against her in any way. She likes my social posts, reads some of my blogs, was willing to stand with me when I was being discriminated against, and is as against white supremacy and racism as I am. She can identify that my pride in myself, my culture, racial identity, and Black womanhood doesn’t infringe on her right to be proud of herself. We also share a place in womanhood that is at times just as difficult and complicated but rewarding as Blackness. Mostly, she knows that I don’t devalue her because she is White, but I appreciate her because she has used her privilege to help me, in what small ways she could. I appreciate her as is. That is what allyship is all about.
Now to convince her we should do this dance every time we see each other…