Dear White Friends & New Allies: It’s Not About Intentions
Author: Dani Authentic (Instagram: @dani_authentic)
Dear white friends and new allies,
Let’s have an honest chat about race, good intentions, and what you should understand.
If you recently made vows to be an ally, to fight with us, and do the work, welcome. Even though you are very late, I’m glad you are here.
PERFECTIONIST NEED NOT APPLY
I have noticed with the increased talk of ally ship, there is more fear of the discomfort that goes along with it.
Who told you that now that you’ve decided to openly talk about race that you would be immune to making mistakes or even backlash for your good intentions?
Is your promise to be an advocate stronger than your hurt feelings?
It’s about the forward movement, the growth, the learning. Of course you’re going to say or do something with the best intentions and those good intentions will not be seen as such.
Why do you expect to be good at something you’ve never had to experience or address before?
Get used to the fact that you still might end up offending someone or missing the mark. If you pledged to be a better ally than you need to accept criticism, feedback, and keep it up! Humble yourself, listen, and drop your defenses.
DO THE WORK
If you are truly committed to being anti-racist then in your efforts to educate yourself know that you will stumble, you might even embarrass yourself but don’t shut down.
Do the work, put yourself out there, and grow a thicker skin.
This does not mean approaching a black person with the intentions of having that person be your own personal resource on what is and isn’t OK to post, share, or say.
That is not educating yourself or “doing the work” we are not your spokesperson for the entire race, simply because we are black. I’m only an expert on my own Black life. We are not all race educators and activists. Not to mention, we are tired! We are emotionally exhausted.
I don’t have all the answers for you and I will not hold your hand or wipe away your white tears. Keep your promise and face any criticism you might get. You can hold on to your good intentions and while “doing better & being better”.
“Learning is about opening yourself up to people and experiences and seeking to understand. And when you’re talking about race, it involves making horrible mistakes and getting your feelings hurt and not closing the door when that happens. White people can’t content themselves with asking questions of black people. They should be prepared to face a lot of anger and not shrink from it. Too often, they’ve shown themselves to be unprepared for the emotional heat, too willing to check out.”-I’m your black friend, but I won’t educate you about racism. That’s on you.
DON’T EXPECT ANYTHING FROM BLACK PEOPLE
Where was this energy when 17 year- old Trayvon Martin was murdered in 2012? Now you want to start publicly supporting #BlackLivesMatter and open your eyes to America’s racist foundation and the absolute crushing truth that is police brutality? Good. There is work to be done and I expect you follow through and get to it.
I can be empathetic to your new awakening solely because I want you to continue taking any and all steps in the war against racism. I can recognize good intentions for what it is while also demanding a better impact. Don’t expect anything from Black people and POC who have been screaming BLACK LIVES MATTER long before black squares. This has been our reality you just finally decided to pay attention. Don’t expect sympathy on how you’re afraid of making mistakes from people who are afraid for their lives.
WHAT I CAN DO FOR YOU
In the war against racism we need each other. I need you to keep doing the work. I can use empathy to recognize your efforts while expecting more. You are already late, this isn’t the time to be handing out participation awards.
However, I will not belittle or shame your public efforts solely because I want the lines of communication to remain open. I won’t scoff at you for sharing content on social media even if it’s a pretty illustration from an ugly situation because I want you to publicly show any support in hopes that maybe a PTA mom or your uncle from Florida will see it and ask questions. You need to be having these tough conversations with your fellow white people on why Black people are angry, why you’re less concerned with damaged property, and more concerned with loss of lives, and why all lives matter is an unacceptable response.
I won’t shut you down solely because your methods are messy and unrefined. However, I’ll probably point that out you. I will not educate you on how you benefit from pretty much every system that is in place in this country but I’ll remind you to put your money where your mouth is. Use google because my energy is precious.
If your intentions are to educate yourself, share what you learn with your peers, and children then I will dwell less on why it’s taken you so long and be more concerned that you keep your foot on the gas pedal.
UNDERSTAND EMOTIONAL LABOR
Your checking in texts might be well- intended but you could be potentioally throwing us back into emotional turmoil after we used self-care to climb out.
In the future there might be days when I am open to sharing my own lived experience to help connect the dots in between your research. Right now, I do not have that mental energy. Maybe I will tomorrow, but maybe not. Be cautions. Be considerate of our mental load. My own needs and mental health will always take priority over your comfort .Do you really think we want to answer your very google able questions?
I suggest starting the conversation with, “ I was listening to a podcast on X”, “I was reading an article on Y”, or “I just finished a book on ZYX, if you have the time or emotional energy would you be willing/ interested/ to __ your request __later this ___timeframe__?
If you do approach me, be prepared to not receive this gift. A well- intended approach might work for one and not for others. Don’t take it personally but adjust accordingly.
You are already late, don’t expect to receive a pat on the back. Anything that is given or shared with you from a Black person to help white people further your own anti-racism education is a gift.
GOOD INTENTIONS ARE NOT GOOD ENOUGH. IT’S THE IMPACT THAT MATTERS
In summary white friends, being an ally will be hard and sometimes thankless. You might get criticized for your attempt from both sides. Focus on your impact, dust yourself off and get back to work.