I am pleased to have the permission of my dear friend, Tara Edwards to post this wonderful essay. Tara is the first of many (I hope) guest writer/blogger on the Pancake Diaries.
As you know we are engaged in lots of peaceful protests and conversations about racism, oppression, power, and police brutality in our country. This is a good thing, but as you know, action speaks louder than words…and POC can not fight racism and bigotry alone. I am holding onto my faith in my white sisters and brothers.
This response grew out of a discussion with a white ally (acquaintance) on one of my posts on Facebook about the non-indictment of the officer who choked and killed Eric Gardner.
The ally, and I am paraphrasing here- from what I could gleam from what they were saying–was upset, didn’t like the use of white and black racial categories, worked hard in the 60’s for civil rights not to be where we are today, perhaps I should look at the death from a different perspective, reverse the role between the police officer and victim, can’t we all just get along, and Islamic extremists hate all Americans not just White americans, and so forth, and so on, herewith, therefore, ad infinitum, with all deliberate speed, reasonableness, and whitesplaining, and probable cause and all with a smidge of superior tone “We as African Americans need to…. “.
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(Insert name of Ally), like you, I consider myself an ally and advocate for marginalized communities.
One of the most important elements of being an ally is understanding and validating the worldview of that group.
We already know that the dominant cultural narratives are strong and tend to drown out the voices of oppressed people. Social policy, laws, and institutional frameworks are then used to reinforce that dominant voice.
For example, we celebrate Columbus Day every year because the Native American people don’t have a strong enough platform or base of allies to have their story honored by this country. We also inappropriately use Native American’s sacred rituals and images for sports and entertainment, despite the fact that they have filed lawsuits. Corporations are able to use our legal institutions to justify inflicting emotional and cultural harm to this community. How would we feel if there were a sports team called the Christians and they used the Pope as a mascot walking around “fake praying” and dancing provocatively, while the cheerleaders were scantily dressed as the Virgin Mary?
Collectively mocking the cultural heritage and spiritual beliefs of any group of people is traumatic, and in this case it is even more egregious because it throws salt in the wounds of people whose genocide has yet to be accurately depicted in the global and domestic story of our country. This issue could be viewed as America’s insensitivity to religious groups as a whole; however, that would only reflect the tip of the iceberg. The reality is, in this country, more people would come to the defense of Christians being mocked and misrepresented, because that belief system holds value in American culture. Does that make sense? Native Americans as a group of people are disproportionately negatively impacted by our collective insensitivity to various cultures, because their spiritual history and worldview holds less value in our society than Christianity.
So in the case of Latino and African American people’s disproportionate amount of unjust encounters with police officers… it is safe to say that our police force is using excessive force towards Americans in general, while keeping in mind that marginalized groups receive that mistreatment at rates significantly higher than white Americans. Research has already thoroughly documented the effects of bias on the way our legal system operates. This includes lower sentences and higher acquittal rates for people who are physically attractive and/or hold high socioeconomic status in our country. Do your research so you can understand the data on how various institutions are biased against women, the LGBTQI community, Muslims, and various groups of marginalized people in this country.
Allies who refuse to acknowledge the gender/sex bias (sexism) in compensation rates and career mobility for women, or advocates who avoid discussing homophobia in fighting for LGBTQI marital rights aren’t taking a position of higher ground. They are actually reinforcing the dominant worldview and further marginalizing members of those communities.
(Insert name of ally), let me know your thoughts about this post.