An Open Letter To White Dudes From A White Dude (Or The Problems Of Being An Ally)
|No. Really, I'm pretty pasty-white.|
An Open Letter To White Dudes From A White Dude
Look, it's fucking scary.
Not that women are doing things or minorities are doing things or people with different sexualities and gender identies are doing things, or that they want to be treated with basic human dignity.
That makes sense to you. And you intellectually understand that you're "playing on easy" and that you have "white privilege", though sometimes you still have a hard time remembering that, or feeling like life's cutting you any breaks. You recognize that you've said (and even believed) some really misguided shit over the years.
You recognize that you don't want to be part of the problem.1
None of that is scary.
What's scary as all hell is that every so often you see someone "slip up". That there seems to be a whole mess of rules that you're supposed to follow, and you think you are, but then all of a sudden wham! Out of nowhere the Internets descend on someone saying the same thing - or if you're really unlucky, they descend on you.
And it's not that you meant to be shitty or bigoted. Maybe you still don't understand how it's bigoted.
Want an example? Let me give you two.
First, the #SoWhiteOutside hashtag. About five out of every six were hilarious, pointed, and spot-on. I grokked them, even if they didn't directly apply to me.
It's #SoWhiteOutside Samuel L. Jackson's snowman just got mistaken for Laurence Fishburne's.
— BlackGirlNerds (@BlackGirlNerds) February 13, 2014
#SoWhiteOutside the snow saw me, stopped, and started snowing the other way.
— Joshua Rodriguez (@joshrod17) February 13, 2014
But there were others that I didn't wholly agree with – like this one:
#SoWhiteOutside it's SURE class is the primary axis of oppression and is kind enough to explain 'in layman's terms' to me exactly how & why.
— Funner Than Fun (@ulikemealready) February 13, 2014
And some where I simply just... don't get it.
#SoWhiteOutside i had to forcibly remove a TED talk from my front porch
— parva (@parva_x) February 13, 2014
Is there something I don't know about? If I refer to a TED talk, is that somehow now a thing? I have no idea. Which brings us to the second example:
I have a grand total of two experiences in my life where I had even the slightest taste of what racism is like. Those two experiences - which were stupid, minor things while overseas - were a huge shock to me.
Do I "understand" what it's like to be discriminated against in this country? Um, no. Not in the slightest. Does that give me somewhere to start imagining what it must be like? Yes.
Can I come across as a bigot by telling that story? Fuck yes.
It can be really challenging and scary. Because you don't want to be part of the problem. And you don't always understand how to be part of the solution.
Sometimes you're even told you can't be part of the solution.
Like I said, it's scary.
But you already know this: That you can't - that you won't - continue to being part of the problem.
So yeah, it's scary. It's fucking terrifying.
And the only choice you have – besides intentionally being a bigoted asshat – is to learn to seek out that uncomfortable feeling. To challenge yourself.
To be scared that you're going to say or do the wrong thing.
Because the alternative is so much worse.
1 And if that doesn't describe you, then you're probably not whom I'm talking to.