I’m a Lousy Ally

I’m a lousy ally. I think I know what racism is. I think I know how to fix it. I think I know what black people are thinking. And I think I know how to tell them what to do about it. Are you kidding me? I don’t know anything about racism, really. Not firsthand. Not from experience or with any real knowledge.

So it’s back to pre-school for me and for the vast majority of white people in this country who don’t have the vaguest notion of why black people are responding the way they are to the individual acts of police violence that have plagued this nation for a very long time, but more poignantly (a really white adverb in this instance) recently.

It is easy for isolated instances to be deflected away from pointing at their systemic root causes. We hear “You are just playing the race card”. This isn’t a card game. It’s not an expletive game. The mantra is “I’m not a racist. I don’t see color”. I hate to burst your bubble Mr. Racist,  but black IS a color and if you don’t see it you damn well should.

Ok, I’ll admit it. I do about what some kinds of racism. What I really don’t know is how devastating it is to the people who face it on a daily basis. But painfully, another thing I do know is how people try to muddy the waters when the waves of truth batter them.

That 99.9% of all the police are good people is said. That we don’t know all the facts is said. That the victim(s) acted poorly is said. One or all of these things may or may not be true. But white people, myself included,  please hear this. These things have nothing to do with the issue. To better understand the real issue I must swallow my false pride at being so “liberal” and  “sympathetic” and listen. We must all listen to the voices of color, full of both pride and desperation that together can only tear at someone’s soul. Yes, I can see the tear but it is impossible to feel it without the recipient bearing witness. Just the attempt at trying to tell us about the rending is far more painful than my simple epiphany about racist deceit.

I need to hear and understand, so that I can become a true ally, and teach what I have learned to other white people, especially those who think they already know what racism is and what black people are thinking. And graduating from pre-school, realizing that we have another 13,14 years of school, or more, before we can graduate is humbling. Humility is a poor apology for the hubris of”knowing” racism.

Teach me well people of color. Teach me well Americans of color. I’m certain you aren’t sugar coating the facts.

I’m a lousy ally. But that is changing.