Being A Good Ally Means Not Expecting A Reward

Two businesspeople having a conversation.

This article was originally published on The Huffington Post and republished here with the author’s permission.

What does it mean to be a white ally for racial justice?

Is it sharing a Jordan Edwards hashtag on twitter? Publicly decrying a lack of judicial justice every time a Black man is murdered by the police? Passing on every NowThis or BuzzFeed video about the power of representation?

Well, sort of.

I won’t denounce social media activism, partly because it’s far more powerful than it used to be, and because it entertains my delusion that all white liberals view Black people as equals. I fall asleep easier at night with faith that a battalion of influential white voices has my back.

But avoiding hard truths is counterproductive to progress, and I’m quietly aware that even the most vocally supportive white liberal has blind spots and ingrained biases he’s afraid to acknowledge.

It’s impossible to estimate what percentage of white people are only progressive because it’s trendy. I have no idea who’s bottling ignorant questions out of fear an angry mob of “perfect” progressives will jump down their throats.

Mob mentality forbids the confused white person from addressing their biases, so they let them out in voting booths, where they’re finally at liberty to tell the truth.

It’s not abnormal for white Americans to feel prejudice toward Black people. Seeds of systemic racism grow in us before we know what it means to be Black or white. It’s normal to not quite get it. The problem is not getting it and pretending that you do. There is nothing heroic about pretending to be woke.

Race-based conversations are always sensitive and mostly volatile. If you don’t have them out of fear of you’ll be attacked, then you don’t care enough to learn. Maybe you don’t care at all. And that is helping no one.

Unlike Black survival, white survival is not reliant on wokeness. Black prosperity has always posed a make-believe threat to white prosperity — a threat which, I’m sure, is ingrained in the consciousness of the large margin of white people who feel oppressed by equality.

So when a white man makes an effort, said white person often fancies himself a vigilante hero and expects something in return. This is when fake allyship turns into a white savior complex. This is when fake allyship is really doing the opposite of what it’s meant to do.

But these are the same people who wanted four more years of Obama. It’s time to stop pretending that ideologies are binary or that white liberals somehow “get it” by virtue of being liberal.

The white liberal savior doesn’t realize that speaking out against injustice comes with no reward but progress. The white liberal savior misses that Black people are never treated as heroes for speaking out and instead are treated as problems. They don’t understand that, to be a true ally, they must be willing to be a problem alongside us.

I had the great dishonor of meeting a drunken White Liberal Savior recently, whose favorite mantra was “I hate 90% of white people.”

Liberal White Savior worked with inner city Black children and, therefore, had a right to speak on Black issues.

Liberal White Savior makes 330K a year and was, therefore, the smartest, most accurate person in the room. And according to our savior, racism isn’t ending not only because white people don’t realize their errors, but because Black people don’t realize how hard white people work to help them.

White Liberal Savior, who breaks his back to help us, held his finger up and yelled “Stop!” whenever my Black friends or I tried to counter his points. When we kept talking against his orders, he opted instead for a teary-eyed, “Shut the fuck up!” which escalated to an impassioned, “You’re a worthless waste of space!” as we stared in confusion.

White Liberal Savior wants to leave a race conversation having changed three childlike, over emotional, misguided pickaninnies. White Liberal Savior fancies himself a thoughtful master.

The man — after we met his emotional breakdowns with calm, eloquent discourse — begged me to punch him in the face. Really.

How cool would it look if White Liberal Savior was publicly attacked by a savage Black man and still made it his mission to help us? How truly selfless of you, White Liberal Savior.

You may be thinking this was an isolated incident, but I’m inclined to believe this man’s intoxication gave way to honesty. Everybody knows the white conservative platform thrives on a status quo that disenfranchises Black people. But what do we know about the white liberal platform and those who subscribe to it?

There is a secret underbelly of this population rife with racial cognitive dissonance. A people that refuses to explore why it can’t completely stan for Black people and yet pretends to for the sake of being good guys.

If your interest is in creating a noble image without addressing how you may be participating in the problem, you are not a good ally.

And if you can’t advocate for Black people without receiving a hero medallion for yourself — a “thank you, Master for your mercy” — then maybe it’s time to confront the possibility that you are the enemy.

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Ryan Douglass is a YA author, HuffPost contributor and queer person of color who strives to make space for QPOC narratives in YA fiction and other media. Find him on Twitter @ryandouglassw