White people must be better allies against racismBy Ruben Tarajano | 02/07/2018 10:11pm
White people, do better.
In light of the current administration and recent events on campus, it’s time for white students, faculty, staff and administration to take a serious look into their positions and behavior on campus. This applies to all white people, regardless of where you lie on the political spectrum, because racism exists on both ends of the aisle. Individuals who are white-passing or light-skinned can also take notes, because your complexion offers you an immense amount of privilege, too.
Oftentimes white people claim “guilt” when matters of racial injustice come up, because they didn’t “ask to be white.” Guilt in stagnation does nothing to dismantle white supremacy. Calling out systemic oppression is not meant to make you feel guilty; it is meant to make you feel uncomfortable and, consequently, take action.
In honor of Black History Month, it’s important for white people to remember ways to be better allies that can be put into place immediately.
The first is to realize that whiteness is not under attack. Whiteness has and always will be (for the foreseeable future) regarded as superior. Promoting concepts such as “white genocide” is intrinsically racist and anti-black. Someone being pro-black isn’t being anti-white.
In response to equality and equity, many have claimed that white people are losing their rights. Allowing for people to gain equal footing is not an attack on white people. In all aspects of the nation, white people are given the upper hand — so cut this victimization nonsense.
Being asked to “check your privilege” is also not meant to be a personal attack. It is meant to wake you up and make you realize that in life you have been given an advantage solely based on race. Privilege can be used to help those who are disadvantaged, which is what the following steps keep in mind.
Another is to stop expecting black people to rally up and be the leaders against oppressive causes. The burden should not be placed on an oppressed group to dismantle and defy a system built by the oppressor. Oftentimes, people of color are too focused on surviving as a member of a marginalized group to be able to fight systemic issues, whether they be on campus or nationwide.
In a similar vein, it is a shame that major on-campus initiatives that have been created or led by people of color (especially black persons), such as “We Are Done” or #BamaSits, receive minimal support from white allies. When people of color (PoC) pour their energy into a cause which fights for the defense of our existence, it is an outpouring of emotional energy from the core.
Support these initiatives as they come to fruition and create change within your own spaces, whether that is a UA department, on-campus organization or a fraternity/sorority.
The next is to contribute to black and PoC-owned businesses. The US exists in a system of capitalism forcibly built on black bodies. Simply asking the descendants of these people to “pick themselves up by the bootstraps” in a system that continues to oppress them is immensely problematic.
Racism and anti-blackness is present in our institutions; ethnic-sounding names get denied jobs, darker-skinned folks are denied opportunities and representation, and minority students often struggle to exist on campuses which cater to white folks. As such, success is a much further finish line for people of color.
Spending the money that you do on normal expenses (such as clothing and groceries) and putting it in the hands of those who often struggle in this system is a way for you to stop contributing to massive corporations that largely offer opportunity to white people.
It is also important to call out your friends. When an action or a statement gives you discomfort, there is a reason. Unpack that and ask yourself, “Why did that make me uncomfortable?” An awkward laugh doesn’t do anything. Call out your friends. For instance, “No, Chad, it doesn’t matter if it’s a part of the song, you can’t say the n-word. It’s hurtful. Period.”
And don’t worry, if they are really a true friend, they’ll still be your friend after you call them out, even after you’ve ruined “Gold Digger” by Kanye West for them.
Lastly, and most importantly, educate yourself. No, this does not mean asking your one black friend or sorority sister or fraternity brother to explain and break down systemic racism and how it has affected them. Google is a white person’s best friend. When and if a student of color chooses to disclose and share their experiences, treat this as a gift, because it is.
Personally, I would recommend reading “So You Want to Talk About Race” by Ijeoma Oluo, as it gives a fantastic breakdown of systemic issues people of color, primarily black people, face in America. Follow people like April Reign, Gabe Ortíz and DeRay McKesson on Twitter.
This is not a finite list. You will not end systemic racism once you implement these five changes into your life. These are only five of the many ways white people can do what needs to be done using the opportunities and privileges given to you specifically to create change.
Always remember: If you are comfortable, you are part of the problem. If you are uncomfortable, good. Now use that discomfort to create action.