When you see or hear your people/women of color associate or friend bemoan the injustices towards people/women of color, RESPOND to their concern and identify with their pain.
All too often, our White associates and friends are SILENT in the face of things that directly affect us as women/people of color, but then turn around and say “not all White people” when we protest the oppression of people of color by White folks. Whereas I agree “not all White people” as my entire family and support team are White people, nevertheless, I am nevertheless distressed that when something happens to Black bodies and I am crying out, I don’t see any of my White associates acknowledging my pain or distress; responding to my “lament;” and crying out WITH me too.
I know some White folks advocate on their own, but I’ll tell you this, if you say you are friends with a person in the persecuted group, yet can never reach out to them and publicly support and or support their outcry, aren’t you leaving them to take the heat alone and even if you go and do your own advocacy, doesn’t that mean you’re neither a friend nor an ally???
You see, I can’t sit quiet when something happens to Black or Brown bodies because I happen to be a member of the targeted demographic. I live with discrimination in many spaces. I see it happen to my Black family on a daily basis. When I cry out, speak out, criticize racism, it is not simply to be vocal or make some noise. It is because of the real anguish me and my folks live with!
I’m going to challenge all my White friends in every space: if you are a friend of a Black or Brown person and you see that they post or share something about the injustices happening to Black and Brown bodies DAILY, JUMP IN and acknowledge their pain!
Jump in and acknowledge you saw them cry, complain, lament, seek justice. But DON’T be silent, because silence in the face of another’s pain means you don’t care.
No matter how highly placed or how educated a Black or Brown person is, he or she is most likely subjected to racial injustice EVERYDAY. My White brothers and sisters, you don’t know what it’s like to live with the knowledge that you’re hated for no reason other than the color of your skin which you can’t change and which you shouldn’t have to change!!!
Today, I want to say to all those who identify as “not all White people:”
start to actively demonstrate the “not all White people” in the spaces where your Black and Brown brothers and sisters are lamenting the daily assault on their bodies.
I cannot fully trust “not all White people” when the “not all” in the “not all White people” choose to be silent and ignore the injustices afflicted on Black and Brown bodies daily.
We combat systemic racism by making our voices and actions heard and seen when something happens. To ignore the lament of your Black and Brown-bodied friends and associates even if you do your own independent advocacy is to devalue their lives.
Ally-ship means the “not all” in “not all White people” are actually outraged, pained, and stirred up into action when their Black and Brown-bodied neighbors lament/cry.
Ally-ship means you don’t just walk on by, SILENT, your day unruffled, in the face of your neighbor’s pain.
Racism is real and its effects on Black and Brown bodies is real.
So let’s get some REAL ally-ship going by having all our “not all White people” become MORE visible in uniting with our Brown and Black voices, and not simply going off on their own. To ignore our lament and go independently start your lament is to foster racism because that does NOT affirm our BLACK & BROWN VOICES, instead, it DIMINISHES THEM.
Being an ally means the actual practice of “mourning with those who mourn” and “rejoicing with those who rejoice.”
In order to mourn with those who mourn, you must go to the house of mourning! [Even Jesus did that!] You don’t go sit in your own house to mourn with your friend (how would he/she benefit from that???). Yet, this is what some in the “not all White people” demographic do: they do not acknowledge our right to cry by standing alongside us and joining our lament. Instead, they go to their own places and spaces to cry and leave us standing alone when we need them the most!
Allies, we must GET RID of the practice that says the voice and testimony of a Black or Brown person isn’t trustworthy EXCEPT a White person corroborates it. This is racism at its finest and this is what you do when you advocate independent of us.
People/women of color allies need to be the kind of ally that can stand beside their Black and Brown neighbors and hold up their hands as Joshua and Aaron held up Moses’ hand so Moses could call down the victory for his people.
Black and Brown people are just as capable, just as intelligent, just as gifted at whatever it takes to communicate, but racism has locked in these systems that diminish their voices.
Allies, because the racists are from people of YOUR skin color, the way you show your allyship is by insisting that Black or Brown voices be heard, be acknowledged, be given consideration and importance. And the way you do that is by demonstrating your own willingness to listen to and acknowledge your Black and Brown neighbors, not by be being silent and going off and doing your own thing (of course when you do your own thing, as a White person, YOU WILL BE HEARD, but that doesn’t mean the person/woman of color will be heard on their own merit. So have you really helped your Black or Brown friend be treated as an equal, as you?).
Love your neighbor as yourself and so fulfill the law of Christ.
Rev. Oghene’tega Swann is an ordained Teaching
Elder (Pastor) in the Beaver-Butler Presbytery of the Presbyterian Church(USA)
. She is the founding pastor of Refreshing Springs Ministry
, Aliquippa & Ambridge. She has the honor and privilege to be mother to one wonderful, biological child and many, many more non-biological children.