While following the Derek Chauvin trial, I’ve noticed one common theme that also struck me immediately following the gruesome killing of George Floyd — White people speaking out against racism after the fact. It seems that a healthy handful of White folks wait to express their outrage and disgust over racial injustice after a highly publicized or sensationalized tragedy takes place. Often, after a new hashtag begins trending on social media, a variety of tweets and posts speaking out against anti-Blackness and anti-Black violence soon follow. Which, I suppose, is fine, but very few extend far beyond their comfort zone in their advocacy efforts. This is not to say that allyship in any form is not helpful, but it’s time to start being clear about what is needed and what ultimately perpetuates White supremacy and further insulates White guilt. Let’s be honest: to combat anti-Blackness in America, we don’t need allies. We need abolitionists.
White allies must move beyond hashtags and DEI professional development training to begin to scratch its surface effectively.
According to The Anti-Oppression Network, allyship involves engaging in efforts that emphasize social justice, inclusion, and human rights by members of an ingroup to advance an oppressed or marginalized outgroup’s interests. When I googled “Black allies,” I found pages filled with articles soliciting the participation of Whites to join various social justice efforts. To be exact, almost 130,000 results populated my screen. Some articles made a strong argument for the importance and need of White allies, while others provided detailed instructions on becoming an effective ally. Conceptually, allyship sounds like it should be the kryptonite to anti-Blackness, yet time and time again, we are reminded that it’s not. Allyship is a vague term, and its ambiguity can lead to various interpretations of what it means to be one.
On the surface, it could be assumed that allyship includes any of the following behaviors:
- Express their concerns and frustrations about racism on social media.