When Allies Have Feelings

 

There is no cute way to begin this. I have been on various sides of this conundrum and to be transparent, I guess my intention in writing this is so that you may be able to use your feelings toward action rather than apathy or hatred. 

My basic assumptions about my audience are that you

  • realize white supremacy is rampant in the US
  • recognize the privilege(s) you have
  • acknowledge intersectionality
  • care about justice, equity & reparations

If that's not you and you're willing to equally share your thoughts and hear mine, feel free to contact me.

I use the word "ally" loosely here, admittingly in a we-have-all-made-clickbate-titles-these-days but also because it's an identity a lot of people strongly relate with. I personally believe that ally is a title that's given, not self-defined. Anything else I could ever want to summarize has already been said countless times in countless articles, my personal favorite being Accomplices Not Allies: Abolishing The Ally Industrial Complex by Indigenous Action.

I digress.

As a white, queer, nonbinary, AFAB, native English speaker, my existence is many things. It is beautiful, challenging, privileged & humbling. Like every individual, it is unique. Because I believe in things like abolishing the police, dismantling heteropatriarchal white supremacy and incorporating pronouns in every introduction/e-mail signature, I am used to conflict. 

If you know me, you know I embrace conflict. I believe conflict is inevitable and ultimately a very healthy prerequisite to fostering meaningful connectedness. I am thirsty for personal growth and intimate friendships, so conflict is very welcome in my life.

I also believe that conflict is necessary for justice. From ending chattel slavery to women's right to vote for disability rights, conflict was necessary to catalyze change. (And look how much farther we still need to go!)

In 1956, Dr. King delivered a sermon entitled When Peace Becomes Obnoxious and said, 

If peace means keeping my mouth shut in the midst of injustice and evil, I don’t want it. If peace means being complacently adjusted to a deadening status quo, I don’t want peace. If peace means a willingness to be exploited economically, dominated politically, humiliated and segregated, I don’t want peace.

And we all know this human was ultimately killed for his beliefs and now celebrated as an official US holiday while completely ignoring his call for economic justice.

Again, I digress.

I have been personally frustrated when I can't figure out how to best stand in solidarity with people I do not identify with. Who decides what's best? It can't be me, but how do I decide then? People of color aren't responsible for educating me, but I'm supposed to listen to them for guidance. 

It seems impossible at times. Everything is contradictory.

"Why don't more white queers stand up for trans women of color?
...
"Why are you speaking for me?"

Fuck, I can't win here, can I?

Wow.

What an ivory tower of tangled bullshit. My feelings are hurt because I was criticized in how I displayed my solidarity. Woe is me.

But you know what? I will not stop trying. I will continue to make mistakes and probably take up too much space when I have intentions not to. I will maintain my commitment to listen more than I speak. I will keep trying.

It is so easy to let these forced silos tear us apart because we are often overwhelmed with feelings of fear, anger, hurt, frustration, etc. If we truly want to stand in solidarity and support one another, we (those of us with any form of privilege) need to get a grasp on our feelings and quit taking it out on each other.

We have assholes like 45 and his followers who just keep saying "no" to everything and everyone. When you have dozens of groups saying "yes" to things, of course there is going to be conflict and disagreement. Saying yes leaves possibility for infinite solutions and that is harder to unite compared to just saying no.

So what do we do?

That question is often the root of uncomfortable feelings. We all want to do something to act on our shared beliefs, but we don't know what to do or how to do it.

How do we do it without fighting over the crumbs while the oppressors feast on loaves of bread while continually screaming "no!" with their mouths full?

I struggle to hold space for all of these feelings while I witness so many people throw around "not all men" or "not all white people" or even shaming folks for not showing up to a protest without listening to their personal reasons. (I am alluding to all the people who would not shut up about how if WOC want unity, they should've gone to the women's march.)

I was pushed to put these thoughts into jumbled words because I keep seeing/hearing people get offended by righteous anger or someone sharing their lived experience.

Try to ignore that this one example is about The Handmaid's Tale because that show is a whole other slew of posts.

I publicly shared my reactions in the comments.

Whoa, friend. You just taught me a lesson I hadn't yet had words for.

And the dissonance between ‘I care’ just as an attitude, versus predicating an action... that’s hard. We all deal with that, sometimes. What do I DO??

Under this current government and system it’s hard to know WHAT to even do to make the horror stop even if you’re one of the small minority of conscience that wants to... I’m just here to let people know it was already a state of emergency, lest they never be able to avail themselves of ignorance as an excuse for inaction.

... But neither am I going to pillory them for that response. Because it shows they have the reflexes of a human being- they feel pain at this.
I’m pinching a nerve, to make sure it’s still alive. And [name redacted]’s response is thus a healthy one because it shows that she DOES feel this.

I view my task as not to allow them to disassociate from that pain.
How they try to ameliorate it is up to them
and a choice each has to make within their own context.

Disassociation can be a very useful skill and I value it from a harm-reduction framework. 

And I simultaneously, I think avoiding disassociation is a necessary step in figuring out what we each can do. 

Everyone's role is different and based on each individual's spoons and talents. Some protest in the streets, some protest at work, some make signs, some promote it online, some make food for protesters, some analyze policies, some are healers... the list is long and all are needed.

Feelings are really difficult. Really fucking difficult. I consider it a privilege to have the time and energy and capacity to acknowledge mine and sit with them so that I can use them to propel me forward. Balancing this, self-care, everyday responsibilities and adulthood (aka eating meals), is not simple.

When I don't have it in me to sit with my feelings, the least I can do is not silence the folks who I deem have caused them or express contempt for them.

We all agreed that white supremacy is rampant, right? This is one of the key functions of white supremacy: silencing marginalized people and groups and blaming them for any problem.

I challenge myself and anyone else up for it to name your feelings, sit with them, ask yourself what you need and if it aligns with your values... and then consider engaging in dialogue. 

How can we combat these systemic issues if our unrecognized feelings sanction us to act in ways that perpetuate oppression and white supremacy?

If we're not listening to ourselves, we're definitely not in a place to truly listen to folks who are [also] directly impacted. No wonder allies are telling people to be quiet.

 
Jes Scheinpflug