5 Requirements for White Allies of Feminists of Color

In our own efforts to act in solidarity with people of color, white feminists can take certain steps to check our approach to the larger issue of exclusionary and silencing forms of feminism. Here are a few basic things white feminists should do, in order to act in solidarity with feminists of color.

1. Reflect.

“What can/should Ani DiFranco and allies do to heal?” blogger Tara Conley asks us. “Right now, nothing. Just reflect. […] Ask yourself: [who] am I aligned with? Is performing a public benefit concert or writing another public statement in the next month necessary for my personal well-being and for the spiritual healing of the collective?” (Tara L. Conley in In response to #ReclaimIntersectionalityIn2014 and #StopBlamingWhiteWomenWeNeedUnity)

2. Recognize privilege.

“Being a good ally means recognizing that sometimes your input is not needed or wanted, and that it’s incredibly inappropriate to demand that a marginalized group, […] restructure a conversation that is happening to serve their needs, in a way that is more “comfortable” for the very people they are mobilizing against. That is the very definition of flexing one’s privilege.” (Cate Young, in This Is What I Mean When I Say “White Feminism”)

3. Get uncomfortable.

“It is the onus of white feminists to shrug the cloak of privilege and “lean into” discomfort. That is, speak the fuck up. […] Name the issue, acknowledge it happened and make an editorialized statement that validates the dehumanizing experience that women of color are having (Shanelle Matthews, in The Soapbox: On #SolidarityIsForWhiteWomen; Feminism Is Not Black And White)

4. Be an Ally in Process

“Being an ally cannot be a fixed state. It is an ongoing process, not a permanent status that a privileged person can claim.”

(Melissa McEwan , in On the Fixed State Ally Model vs. Process Model Ally Work)

5. Listen.

“Working towards allyship means listening to the voices of the oppressed; it means being able to receive constructive criticism, to put it in our toolbox, and to improve. […] Above all, listen to us, and participate the way, and only the way, we’ve asked you to participate in our movement and our community. (Mel Hartsell, in On Allyship)

by Alice Obar, International Affairs MA candidate concentrating in Media and Culture at the New School for Public Engagement

 

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10 Comments

  1. John Dumey

     /  October 6, 2014

    Thank you for your frank and personal post about privilege. Recognizing our own privilege, and realizing that being a beneficiary of privilege in and of itself doesn’t make someone a ‘bad person,’ is so key to productive dialogue, building coalitions, and achieving real social justice progress.

    I suspect the author has already read this, but I recommend highly Peggy McIntosh’s 1988 essay “White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack,” which helped me to start to understand and acknowledge my own privilege as a heterosexual male.

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  2. Thank you for your frank and personal post about privilege. Recognizing our own privilege, and realizing that being a beneficiary of privilege in and of itself doesn’t make someone a ‘bad person,’ is so key to productive dialogue, building coalitions, and achieving real social justice progress.

    I suspect the author has already read this, but I recommend highly Peggy McIntosh’s 1988 essay “White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack,” which helped me to start to understand and acknowledge my own privilege as a heterosexual male.

    Like

    Reply
  3. Tahini rahman

     /  October 29, 2014

    Hi Alice,

    I really enjoyed reading your blog post. Women Power! 🙂 I also enjoyed watching the video on a few basic things white feminists should do, in order to act in solidarity with feminists of color. Really good to hear the different perspectives and thoughts of the different women presenting:) Great blog post!

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  4. Thank you for your comments! John, I have definitely read parts of Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack, but I should make sure I’ve read it all. – Alice

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  5. Chloe Stein

     /  November 11, 2014

    Alice,

    As a fellow white feminist I appreciate your blog post. It is incredibly important to be not only aware of how each of our identities as a feminist may be influenced by our background, but also how it affects other women in the context of structural inequality and social justice. While we are fighting for gender equality, many of us experience sexism differently. It is crucial to be reminded of this in order to affect the greatest change in our society. “Mainstream” feminism can truly be a barrier and overall detrimental to achieving equality for all women which is the ultimate goal of feminism.
    Again, I really enjoyed reading your post!

    Chloe

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  6. Abby Calhoun

     /  November 18, 2014

    Great post about the complexities surrounding feminism and race. It can certainly be intimidating to find a way to be productively involved in the feminist dialogue, and the 5 steps you outlined are critical for social change. I think it’s important for anyone working to make change, in any realm, to understand these 5 points, as they should be used as universal guidelines. I find it especially difficult and important to practice your second point, and understand that an input is not always wanted or needed. Having the grace to recognize when, where, and how to vocalize your opinion is just as important as the opinion itself.

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  7. Cydney Roth

     /  November 2, 2015

    I really enjoyed reading this post and related to its contest. I believe being aware of one’s own position in a particular matter is crucial in implementing the most effective impact possible. The article makes an important point about recognizing the white narrative and one’s own privilege in feminist discourse. As a white woman, I have learned about the different ways in which my background, identity, circumstances, and upbringing continues to influence my position and thoughts on feminism. Because of my identity, I interpret gender inequality and sexism in a contrasting light to people of varying backgrounds. This does not mean I am unable to play my part in the feminist cause. However, it showcases the necessity of recognizing the multiplicity of agents and actors involved in the cause.

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  8. Holly

     /  November 12, 2016

    Hi, I’m starting a group for allies in my small town to help us be better allies and organize. I love the image you used here, I was wondering if you owned that image and if so, would it be ok if I used it for our Facebook profile picture?

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    • Progressive Pupil

       /  November 20, 2016

      Great work Holly. This image is disseminated by Incite! a feminist anti-racist organization It is used widely throughout the Internet.

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  9. Holly

     /  November 12, 2016

    Oops I just noticed the image credit. Sorry, could hardly see on my phone screen. Disregard my last!

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