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.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HgczM5z6Fkc

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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4 Comments

  1. Andy P

     /  March 30, 2015

    I really like this post. These guidelines really work for ally-ship with any oppressed group – especially the need to recognize and acknowledge one’s relative privilege when acting as an ally. While it’s not a cure-all, I think it does help to reduce skepticism and demonstrate an understanding that complex structural or institutional issues are at play. The idea of getting uncomfortable also really speaks to me. A major criticism of allies is that they often don’t have as much to risk and therefore don’t have the same stakes as the group they stand with. “Leaning into discomfort” is a great way to show solidarity by physically creating some level of risk and demonstrating a true willingness to stand alongside them.

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  2. Hanna

     /  March 31, 2015

    The list of requirements for being an ally is quite helpful. I, along with a friend, am creating a series of workshops to discuss the role of the educator of color in the education reform movement. (Quick context: Many educators involved in the ed reform movement – think charter schools, programs like TFA – do not match the demographics of the students they serve. A few do match that demographic and this is a conversation around their role and their experience.)

    There are a lot of allies in this particular work – many of whom I am friends with and many of whom I told of this workshop as I was originally designing it. In the end, I decided to not include allies in the conversation – or at least not in this round.

    I was feeling torn about that decision – but this post has really helped me to feel settled about my choice. The idea that sometimes ‘being a good ally means recognizing that sometimes your input is not needed or wanted.’

    I also appreciate the 5 requirements because they give me a framework and approach for including allies in this conversation… when that time comes.

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  3. Layla Nunez

     /  September 28, 2015

    This entry really allowed me to gather knowledge on the broad spectrum of feminism. As a former literature major, the term womanism would come up but would be elaborated for a couple of minutes before we moved on to something else. This entry allows me to clear what I thought I knew about Walker’s term, which was that the term empowered colored women. I also had to think of how important race is among women and what that means in terms of fighting for equality among the sexes.

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  4. Ksenia Voropaeva

     /  November 1, 2015

    This is a dialogue that has to be brought up more often. Reality shows though, that typically, the topic is brought up after an offence occurs. In media, we see this conversation take center stage when it is raised to the level of a feud between Nicki Minaj and Miley Cyrus. Ladies, can we try to come together and form communities before things take a bad turn? We should be sharing stories of possible oppression day to day, and in a constructive manner. What are the daily privileges of a group? Self awareness can only be gained if we ask this question of ourselves in our surroundings. I say yes, let’s widen the view if it’s narrowed. I think the premise that an activist, or a feminist will always get it right every time is a demise. As a leader, you are always correcting yourself and growing, while making mistakes. This should be applied to those affecting change, as well. I appreciate hearing mainstream feminism enforces white supremacy, because feminism is what we make it, and through this dialogue, more can take a stance to guide the direction of an inclusive and allied feminism.

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