You Are Not My ‘Ally’ If You Do Any Of These Things

In May 2020, shortly after the murder of George Floyd, I created an infographic that explained what allyship truly means for those who were desperate to do better but didn’t know how. I still appreciate the unique sentiments of that time – we were sitting still with no pro sports, movie premieres, or wacky game shows to distract us, so more of the world was willing to listen and reflect meaningfully on the systems our world is run by.

There were also Black voices who were opposed to allyship during this time, and in 2020 I was puzzled by this.

If, per the demographic results of the 2020 census, Black people only make up ~12% of the US population, doesn’t that mean we need allies? Where is the harm in letting others take up parts of the cause?

I started to see and learn the harm as the remainder of 2020 crept on and got a full blown wake-up call about it in 2021.

While some people may approach the idea of allyship as the deep work of recognizing and listening to the perspectives of Black people, many people see it merely as an opportunity to boost their own profile, reputation, or revenue. People are professing concern and care for Black men and women for clout – an inherently American thing to do – because capitalism gives no fucks about integrity or people, just dollars.

Fine.

But do know that you’re not an “ally” if you choose to engage in the following behaviors:

You refuse to hold Black men accountable for their actions. How many Black women need to be recorded getting thrown in dumpsters by Black boys, being ganged up on by Black boys, or hit in the face with skateboards by Black boys for you to wake up? You’re not “woke” just because you have a Black boyfriend or booty call or because you listen to Lil Boosie when you’re knocking back drinks at parties. You’re not an honorary member of the Black race just because you have mixed race daughters whose hair you don’t know how to care for. Fuck a cookout, this is real life. If you can’t tell the difference, please forget I exist. I don’t even want to talk to you. 

You feel the need to announce that you’re promoting a Black person to a position of power. Giving someone a hand-up is respectable and noble. Many people of color have gotten their chance because someone more powerful than them pulled them up or gave them a seat at the table. That’s not the issue. The issue is the announcement itself and subsequent self-aggrandizement you give yourself and the tainted reputation you’ve created for the (un)lucky candidate.

You participate in my erasure by referring to mixed race people as Black. There is nothing derogatory about mixed race people having their own category, nor is it wrong for us to file them there. Mixed-race people face unique struggles that only other mixed-race people can relate to. But when you insist anyone with a drop of Black ancestry is simply “Black,” you create a whole new racism problem altogether. This problem manifests itself in things like the President of the United States claiming to want to elevate the Black community while simultaneously choosing a mixed-race woman with minimal knowledge of the Black experience as his running mate and calling it a win. It results in the collective expectation that Black issues will resonate strongly with people who aren’t Black, which only leads to disappointment and hurt feelings and resentment. (Doja Cat, anyone?) Meghan Markle and Gabrielle Union are not the “same.” Stop the delusion.

You issue backhanded compliments to Black women, suggesting that our beauty is impossible. Stop assuming that if a Black woman is beautiful or desirable, she must somehow be mixed race. Your application of racist standards is your own problem that you don’t need to take up Black women’s time with.

You use feminism to silence or shame Black women out of their experiences OR you overlook Black women altogether. If you’re pressed that another woman claims and revels in her unique ancestry, you are an ally to no one. Feminism is the “all lives matter” of womanhood.

If you’ve read my words and decided that allyship is too much of a burden to bear, I get it. The Black experience can be daunting, too. While you take a break for water and tissues, remember that those of us who are Black can’t take it off like a costume at the end of the day. Please do not claim allyship if you are not truly up to the task.