I follow Saira Rao on Twitter. She talks about hard things. Sometimes scrolling by catches me like a slap in the face and that, my friends, is often Cold Hard Truth smacking some ever-loving sense into me. So I was rolling through last night when I came upon this:
These are great opportunities – people of color willing to share how white people fail or succeed as an ally. It’s a gift, really. I started scrolling through the comments, trying to learn, and you know what popped up?
Some white dude giving his decidedly unsolicited opinion on the matter. Right there in the first ten replies. Daaaammmmnnnn.
His response isn’t surprising. “And if the answer is no, what does that make white people? The enemy?” Um, no, Dick, it makes them not a real ally. The question was not complicated. Oh, and she wasn’t asking you.
Because I’ve decided calling out my white people is the very least I can do, I speak up.
As you can imagine that didn’t sit too well with Dick; he had some things to say. No way I’m loaning him my platform, though, so let’s just say he specializes in pissy snark. He wasn’t swayed by my suggestion that we might try recognizing whiteness doesn’t own every damn space and if Saira asked for POC feedback then insisting on inserting ourselves into the conversation is childish.
Yeah. That really didn’t sit well with Dick or the other But I Have An Opinion And I Deserve To Speak Too white folks who came along afterward.
It’s okay, he wasn’t my end goal. I mean, sure, in a rainbows and unicorns world he would have read my tweet and thought to himself Gee, I really DID insert myself into a space specifically designated for Not Me. I shouldn’t do that anymore. The optimistic part of me thinks well, it’s sitting somewhere in his subconscious, maybe twenty years from now it’ll click. The realistic part of me thinks yeah, he thinks I’m an idiot.
Either way, I did what needed to be done. I called out the white guy for stepping in where he didn’t belong. White male voices are so conditioned to being the most privileged ones in the room it seemed oppressive to him that his opinion was not only irrelevant but unwelcome, and people of color shouldn’t have to fight that battle day in and day out.
These things need to be said, and they need to be said by white people.