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Whites Who Use Conditional Anti-Racism “Allyship” As A Bargaining Chip


Conditional anti-racism “allyship” from Whites used as a bargaining chip is a nuisance at best, abuse by the norm and dehumanization at worse. It is ridiculous and it is common. I don’t think in a binary thus I am not suggesting unconditional ”allyship” as if I’m discussing conceptions of love as “unconditional.” No. Allyship should not exist within this binary in the first place but be a process involving consistent introspection and reflection without centering White privilege over the lived experiences of Black people as the praxis. As the brilliant Black feminist @FeministGriote has said "being an ally is a process, not an identity."

I recently tweeted about the irritating “threats” from Whites who “warn” me and other Black people about how they will stop being an “ally” if we challenge them when usually what happens is they barged their way into a conversation or space, demanded to be centered, tried to change the topic, engaged in gaslighting or did something else clearly abusive.




This thing where White “allyship” (already regularly problematic, abusive, flawed without concern, and at times just the same racism as non-allyship) is held over my head like some sort of “special gift”—that I should be thankful for to the point the actual oppressions that create the potential for allyship cannot be critiqued and I cannot even disagree with something someone White says to me where they think they are going to “debate” my humanity as if there are 2 “sides” to an issue when one side is dehumanization and the other side is survival—is so disgustingly vile to me. Worse, many who think these unacceptable actions online is allyship shudder when it’s time to support a Black woman like me offline. Believe that. I’ve seen it and lived it.

Certainly this critique could apply to many oppressions in terms of privilege being leveraged over the oppressed person’s head, but I am speaking about RACE right now. And how I experience multiple intersecting oppressions is always a factor, but let me be clear that this conditional “allyship” most frequently occurs by Whites and in regards to race; sometimes specifically anti-Blackness where they strut non-Black women of colour in my face as a model of what I should be like versus “angry” and Black (which directly connects to misogynoir). Sometimes it is in regards to the intersection of race and gender for me as a Black woman since the additional expectations of servitude shaped by the mammy archetype accompanies their expectations to not be critiqued and how they will still hold a Black man’s opinions/experiences over mine, while still holding unexamined racist and anti-Black views on us both and all other Black people.

Irritatingly enough, instead of considering why I experience this “conditional allyship” on the hour online (I mean, most recently this morning in fact; twice) and regularly offline when in political spaces with Whites, most Whites who consider themselves “allies” are already ready to: proclaim “not all Whites,” email me some guilt-ridden email where they expect to be reassured on how good their “allyship” is and shift attention to their privilege, not my experience with racism, say “fuck” allyship altogether when they weren’t good allies to start with or respond in a completely overtly racist fashion. Then there will be the ones who will Whitesplain everything I just wrote/alter my words to other Whites and think that speaking over me is “allyship.” 

If the affirmation and protection of my humanity is a conditional “gift,” that I should jump through hoops to “earn” (since anti-Blackness means the denial of Black humanity through words all the way to dehumanizing violence is boiler plate) then they’re suggesting that I am not really human and there’s nothing worse that they could suggest. (I mean, even in the smallest circumstances Whites operate from a plane of dehumanization when interacting with me, which I’ve discussed many times, most recently in a Storify: "I Didn’t Know You Were A Person" and Other Tales of Dehumanization of A Black Woman.)  

How are they “good allies” when the complete lack of introspection and self-awareness regarding their behavior is there? Clearly their endless consumption (and consumption itself, from a position of White privilege is NOT allyship or activism) of my words means nothing in terms of actual expansion of perspective. Having the same “do not dehumanize me” conversation with someone after every tweet/conversation/essay etc? I want any Whites who do this completely away from me. And certainly having boundaries then evokes thoughts of my actual humanity in their minds so they lash out to violate them as best possible.

Part of the problem may be the individualism ascribed to Whiteness (where they reject an institutional/system perspective on racism and only view oppression as isolated racist incidents or “misunderstandings”) means they see “liking” me personally as “allyship” and “disliking” me as grounds to remove it. This is not about interpersonal relationships though and their fear of being cornered or challenged by the very type of person that they were taught is not human let alone smart enough to be knowledgeable on something that they are not, an expert on my own experiences and a subject in my own life, not an object. Allyship is not about friendship. It is a process by which Whites actively choose to challenge White supremacy beyond consumption of the pain that it causes in my life. I don’t need them to like me or be in my space to do that work if they personally dislike me. At the same time, when their dislike is based on resentment of me affirming my humanity and challenging oppression, then it is salient and a part of their White privilege unchecked. (I’m honestly not here “hoping” for their friendship and not focused on “making” them my allies; I wrote this because I write for myself and to Black women [though other marginalized people read here] and am describing abuse that not only I have experienced. Speaking truth about experience is important to my womanism.) 

The irony is that while they don’t want to check their privilege, they’re literally broadcasting it by expecting Black people like me to “perform” to “win” my humanity as a “gift.” They “threaten” me with "well you’re gonna lose a good ally!" This ludicrous “threat” is based on abuse and dehumanization in the first place. Thus, my response? "Bye. Just…bye." 

Related Essay Compilations: 2013: A Year Of White Supremacy and Racism In Mainstream Feminism, On Race IV, On Race III, On Race II, On Race.

Related Posts: 10 Ways That White Feminist and White Anti-Racism Allies Are Abusive To Me In Social MediaAllies Are Still Privileged; Don’t Forget It

Filed under racism 101 activism 101 allyship 101 ally 101 ism white privilege

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cocacolatitties asked: But isn't AAVE part of black culture? Like I've seen too many non black POC use AAVE and it's really pisses me off. Why did you label it as an "first language" thing?


Because there are a lot of black people who don’t speak AAVE and a lot of non-black people who do.

I have personally witnessed black kool aid drinkers appropriate AAVE despite it not being a language they were raised with,yet shit all over black people. It’s kind of stereotypical to create this monolithic image of all black people speaking AAVE too when we as a whole come from many different backgrounds.

I have also witnessed especially immigrant/refugee populations placed in poor black neighborhoods and schools and jobs. I volunteered for three years with an organization that literally did that. These people, often considered black themselves once they come to the U.S. (but also Korean/Southeast Asian/Koran populations in my city specifically) adopt AAVE because it’s the English they’re around, and it’s rude of me to assert that they can’t speak it when it’s the only English they speak and when there was such a complex/emotional acquisition of AAVE on their part in the first place.

The difference between cultural exchange and cultural appropriation. 

Filed under reference cultural appropriation cultural exchange hip hop aave african american asian american things i have been thinking about

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Writers in translation



Few days ago I was sitting together with a friend and casually talking when I suddenly remembered that her father is a writer - as is my mother. I remembered that we somehow know each other through our parents who again know each other through diasporic writers’ circles. We laughed about it, about these close, almost exclusive circles that we unconsciously frequent. We were both the children of writers who write in a non-European language. Yet we never framed ourselves as such, hardly see ourselves as such and rarely tell others, particularly non-Tamils about this part of us or them. Not even friends. I had to remember that her father is a writer like I sometimes have to remember that my mother is one. I started to think about the diasporic people I knew since years, others who I got to know more recently, and began to count how many of their parents are Tamil language writers/artists. There were unsurprisingly countless of them who I knew. And there are probably more who have never told me, who maybe even don’t know themselves.

I never thought I grew up amongst artists. I thought these circles were closed off to me, that they wouldn’t permit or tolerate my presence. That I wouldn’t suit them. I started to remember how I felt about a German girl from school, whose writer mother won a renowned German-language literary prize, and who was always seen in the light of this legacy. She carried herself like I’d imagine the child of a recognized artist to do. Her mother’s literary acclaim resonated somewhere: in ways teachers saw her, in ways students saw her and in the way I saw her. I thought I could read it from her posture. A posture I could never have. My mother’s achievements hardly ever provoked any response by majority white society. Whether in the way she was seen or I. For them she was a cleaner not a writer. As if you can’t be both.

Her Tamil literary successes could never be translated, could never find meaning outside this narrow space that was estranged to me as well as my close surrounding. When non-Tamils friends asked me, I sometimes dared to tell them that my mother writes poetry and short stories, or used to, but I hardly said she is a writer. I said she is a poet, but not a writer. I thought the weight of the term writer was too large, too heavy to use, for me to struggle to ‘justify’ the usage of such to describe my mother. She was a writer, ‘but’ a Tamil language one. Does that even exist?, I sometimes thought to read from others’ lips. You’ve a literary culture?, is what I could often hear between their words. What value does it produce for ‘world literature’? Can I read her? No, well, then she isn’t a writer. Or it’s just a pity. Can she live off her writing? No? So she cleans? She is a cleaner then, isn’t she? I reacted by increasingly muting, censoring and removing the words writer and poet from my vocabularly.

When my mother started to write in the mid 90’s, I started to walk through life differently. Ashamed of what our lives have become in exile, I felt that her creative talents elevated us, reformed us and helped us to resist the racist, casteist gaze that followed us throughout life. My mother was a writer to me and I encouraged her to write not just for herself but for all of us. With each piece she read out in Tamil radios, with each piece printed, reviewed and acclaimed, I felt we gained in weight - we gained in dignity. We reclaimed what people took away from us. Our mother did it for herself, for all of us. I remembered how much it meant to me to watch my mother at night, after going to work, after cooking for us, cleaning after us, teaching us, sitting at the kitchen table until 3 AM or 4 AM at a table covered with sheets of white paper with words written, crossed out and rewritten in a language I never mastered to read. After long writing sessions as these she was, to my surprise, never tired, but full of life before embarking for another shift of work. She would ask me about my opinions, she would ask me to sit and listen to her read. I sometimes understood, I sometimes didn’t. Sometimes she had to translate a word for me, sometimes I crankily told her that ‘I’m not a baby, you don’t need to translate this for me.’ Yet she translated, she felt the need to translate whether needed or not, wanted or not. She understood that translation is crucial for her work to be recognized, for her to be recognized by almost everyone. Including her children and herself.

She was a writer, but her writing had little meaning outside of our house. I was proud of her but that pride hardly permeated into the outside of what I call the Tamil part of my life. Her works remain untranslated and so do large parts of our lives. It was a parallel world that felt surreal as did many parts of our lives when narrated to white friends. Once she was interviewed by a local German paper about her writing. For the first time I felt that there was a translation of her, of us. That this will leave a lasting impression. But it didn’t. It was as quickly forgotten as it was printed. When she ran for city council few weeks ago, they asked what her profession is. She was subsequently described as a Schrifsteller (writer). I smiled when I was saw it, but then I knew that people don’t see her so. They see her work in factories, they see her clean houses and pubs, and sometimes we ourselves, her children, forget too. Sometimes even she does.

Few months ago my brother began writing his first novel in German. He is already being recognized for his talents and courted by German literary institutions, publishing agents and a publishing house while his writing is not even published. In an ironic way my brother was awarded with a literary scholarship from the Berliner Akademie der Künste (Berlin Academy of Arts) which also, years before, awarded the German girl’s  writer mother her literary prize. I see the pride of my mother, I see myself being proud of him. I simultaneously also realize how much outside recognition matters. Our father says, ‘like mother, like sons’. He sees the lineage and sees the possibilities of what we can achieve by writing in a language that isn’t marginal to a world, a language that isn’t diasporic. To write to a world with power and resources. My brother is being recognized for something my mother hardly ever was outside this diasporic box. Yet they are both writers, even if treated and perceived very differently. He writes in a language that is more accessible and better situated in the geographies we have been displaced to. My mother’s writing reached back to a different kind of geography of words and meanings. A geography which somehow never permeated into majority society.

We quickly lose ourselves in these worlds, between translations and dominant narrations. I sometimes forget to recognize the weight the outside has on the inside. When I think about it now, it all somehow makes sense to me. I grew up amongst artists without being conscious of it. I grew up amongst writers who were also factory workers and cleaners. I was inside of it without knowing what I was inside of. I’m the child of a writer who may never be translated, who may never be recognized but whose life matters, whose work matter - even if it is just for us. There are many like us, many like her and they are here to tell stories in different languages, in non-European ways, but in ways that matter to many. Certainly to me.

Filed under writing diaspora poc tamil south asia south asian

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ya’ll know of brass bands of black folks or poc in bk esp in bedstuy? all the responses we’ve gotten have been from white folks in bk and this is for a film festival for black kids in bk in the summer. the theme is film and music and we want performances before each film.

first film is abt mardi gras and history tied to pan-african and native cultures.

other films about: soul, gospel music, civil rights mvmt. ideas please let me know! modest honorarium offered.

please share too. 

(via latinegrasexologist)

Filed under signal boost

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sincerely, a person who has been on prozac for 9 years

this is in response to some shitty stuff i’ve seen on my dash recently. it’s super simplified, so if you’d like to know some more indepth stuff on how exactly it works, google it—OR BETTER YET actually talk to a mental health doctor psychiatrist person wow

(via hipdomestic)

Filed under mental health

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not always, but
just sometimes,
I think of you,“
she said, and
bowed her troubled head.

"I know,“
he replied,
explaining as
she looked back to his eyes,
"I feel it when you do
not always, but
just sometimes.
I sense the shift,
as the universe achieves
a certain delicate balance
in each moment of precious time
that I might cross your mind;
in those
fragile fragments of forever
in which we are

(via writerbloc)

Filed under writing

163,878 notes

13 things my uncle told me before he died:
not everyone has the blessing to understand sadness
when waiting at the bus stop, it’s okay to smoke cigarettes
never touch anyone else’s clothes at the laundromat
it’s okay to miss the people who were bullets to you
when your grandmother asks you how you are, be honest
never be afraid to say “no” even after you’ve said “yes”
if someone tells you graffiti isn’t art, prove them wrong
remember people by their eye color not their clothes
you’re allowed to like dark chocolate with tangerines
don’t lie that you don’t have a lighter when you really do
turn your phone off every once in a while and find the moon
if you want a tattoo, don’t let anyone tell you not to get it
if you ever find yourself at the graveyard, read the names
poems from my uncles grave (via stayholden-phonyboy)

(Source: irynka, via sunyoungwrites)

Filed under writing