Dear White People:The Problem With Allies
What shall we call white people who care about racial justice? Is “allies” a good name? I feel uneasy about this term and the reality behind it, that reality being that, for us, the struggle may ( or may not) be real but it is always optional in a way that can never be optional for black or brown people.
Our motives may vary. Some may engage in the work because it seems like a “good” thing to do and we do need to think of ourselves as good people, not racist, among the “woke” etc.. But at the end of the day allies still have the option of opting out. We can return to a comfortable whiteness any time and often do whenever the going gets rough and the cost is too high.Allies are truly fair weather friends.
So what is the alternative? I think it is to be found in a deeper level of introspection leading to a deeper and more existential commitment to the work. That is, we need to realize the truth of what James Weldon Johnson said in 1917 upon viewing the burned body of Ell Persons. ” the truth flashed over me that in large measure the race question involves the saving of black America’s body and white America’s soul.”
Dear white people, our very souls are on the line! I am often accused of self hate when it comes to why I do the work of racial justice. Nothing could be further from the truth. I love myself and, even knowing I can never fully emancipate myself from the chains that being born white into a white supremacist world have placed on my consciousness,I believe my soul is worth saving. I am not an ally who goes home after a few acts of performative solidarity. I am simply a woman doing whatever I can to save my own soul, trusting God’s grace to do the rest.