Outrage Isn’t Allyship
Common traps in the quest for racial justice, and what to do instead
This great awakening we are in is, no doubt, a great thing. As the realities of systemic racism take center stage, and white people join the fight against racial injustice, I am filled with hope for the new world that we are creating.
But in the midst of it all, I’m seeing actions performed in the name of allyship that are at best unhelpful and at worst actively harmful to the very people they are meant to support. Here are the five most common traps I see, and some suggestions for what you can do instead.
It’s important for me to say that if you discover that you’ve been doing any or all of these things, I’m not discrediting your good intentions. Many of these actions stem from the very natural reaction you might be having to the fact that we live in a deeply racist world. This guide isn’t meant to make you feel guilty — instead, see it as a way to check yourself and learn how to do better.
1. Expressing “shock” is not allyship
To hear people respond to stories of racism by saying things like “I can’t believe this is still happening in 2020” or “I’m just so shocked that someone would do this” is greatly frustrating for those who live with racism every day.
It’s not that you shouldn’t feel outraged by the gross injustices perpetrated against BIPOC. Of course you should. But being “shocked” by the existence of racism is a manifestation of your privilege, a clear display of how little you’ve been paying attention to our 400-year struggle. All it shows is that you exist in a state where you don’t need to think about racism because it doesn’t affect you. Plus, having to process your shock with you is an additional emotional burden that most BIPOC simply don’t have the time, energy, or capacity for.
Try this instead:
- Process your shock privately or with other white people.
- Educate yourself on the history of racism: Read about the slave trade, colonialism, segregation, and eugenics. Instead of being shocked, be informed. This reading list is a great place to start.