Our society can so shame people that are the victims of terrible acts and systems of oppression that sometimes it’s harder for us to say, “Yes, I am a victim,” than to perpetually deny our victim-hood and pain in order to seem “strong.”
I am a Black Feminist. I mean I recognize that my power as well as my primary oppressions come as a result of my blackness as well as my womaness, and therefore my struggles on both of these fronts are inseparable.
So much of my own understanding of resistance, social justice and decolonization has emerged at personal and interpersonal levels, yet the work that happens at this scale often goes unseen. Since we’re talking about allyship, I think it’s important to talk about the various scales of activism. I have seen a lot of people claiming to be ‘Indigenous allies’, highlighting their involvement in public actions such as going to rallies, writing articles, or participating in protests. I don’t want to minimize the importance of these, but equating this type of activism with allyship can render invisible the quiet interpersonal work that is also needed in order to be a good ally. And, importantly, it can reproduce the idea that activism only happens at the highly visible, public scale of protests, rallies and actions, where many of us engage in activist work in our daily lives but it goes unseen, unacknowledged and untheorized as ‘activism’.
great commentary on allyship and intersections of oppression.
You walk in a room, an ordinary room, filled with kids, ordinary kids, and you see a teacher, ordinary teacher, saying nothing– ordinary nothing, and as you look around and see all around you faces that look like yours, lips shaped like yours, eyes the same color as yours, hair as straight or curly as yours, freckles as vast and populous as yours, and a mindset as bleak and sheltered as yours, you will then realize, surrounded by ordinary things, ordinary people how lucky and how ignorant you really are. And the mirror will appear from thin air, landing before you, looking at you with glossy eyes and smiling– questioning you this: – What have you, fair little white girl, to be guilty about? And your respond– quickfire, rapid fire, machine fire, sending nausea down to your gut, back into those brown or green eyes whispering softly, under the doubt and woe. – Nothing at all.