This last month has been hard. In the past 30 days, the United States has seen 3 Black people murdered.
And these are just the ones we know of. These are the PUBLIC ones.
This seems to have hit harder than most. This time of year is often difficult for me emotionally. The anniversary of my father’s death was May 28th. His birthday is June 12th, and then there’s Father’s Day. We also have the added stress of COVID-19 running rampant in Black and Brown communities. All of that is compunded by the fact that we are all living our lives and socializing almost exclusively on social media. Seems weird, but that’s SUPER exhausting.
In all of this, I am seeing new allies coming out. The OG allies are there, and we see you! We appreciate you! And we know that you are tired, too! Which is where the new ones come in. Welcome! One of the things I keep seeing and hearing from new allies is apologies.. While that seems like the right thing to start with, it’s not always the most effective thing to say in these moments. Let me tell you why.
The apologies aren’t yours to give
The apologies that you are giving, Junior Allies, are not yours to give. You are not the ones that created the system of racism that we live in right now, you simply benefit from it. That’s not entirely your fault. Your whiteness was something you were born into. You didn’t choose it, similarly to how I didn’t choose my blackness. Racism, as a system, rewards you for how you were born, and punishes me for how I was. That’s not something that you put together. No apologies necessary.
The apologies aren’t mine to accept
This one, I think, is tougher to grasp, as I do have to deal with racism and it’s effects on me. However, these apologies run way deeper than that. My kidnapped, raped, sold, and enslaved ancestors deserve these apologies. Those who lived through the initial greatness of the Reconstruction Era only to see it be torn down by white people who didn’t believe they deserved more deserve those apologies. Civil Rights leaders who were jailed for daring to fight for basic rights deserve those apologies. Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, George Floyed, Trayvon Martin, Eric Garner, and COUNTLESS others, whom we know and don’t know deserve those apologies.
I don’t want to tell you that ‘it’s okay’
I live i nthe midwest. We have this thing called “MidWest Nice”. The culture here is nice at best and passive aggressive at worst. When someone apologizes, the standard expected and accepted response is “it’s okay”. When you, Junior Allies, say that you’re sorry, my instinct is to say “it’s okay”, or “you’re fine”, or “I accept your apology”. I already tackled why the last one is not a thing (see above), so I’ll focus on the other two. Basically it’s this: it’s not okay and you are not fine.
So what do I say instead?
That’s a great question that I can go into more detail about later, but to get you started, here are some things you can say to Black and Brown people during a racial crisis. When you say these things, say them without expectation of a response. Even if there’s a direct question, you may not get immediate communication returned. Be okay with that. We all cope in different ways, and sometimes, that means unplugging for a while.
- I see you/I hear you
- Thank you (in response to being corrected)
- I support you/How can I help?
On top of those things, start correcting other white people and Junior Allies when they say something incorrect or hurtful. Confront racist behavior EVERY TIME you see it. That’s step one of allyship. Be willing to put your reputation with friends and family on the line to support those that don’t have the same privilege that you were born into.
Peace and Love.