I haven’t done one of these in a while but there’s something that’s been bothering me lately.
Awhile ago I cut off contact with a few people for posting things that I felt were offensive. Instead of listening to me and trying to understand where I was coming from, they dismissed me.
The reason that this bothered me so much was because these were people that not only claimed to be feminists, but also that I had trusted as both friends and allies. As a person of color, it’s not okay for a white person to tell what is or is not racist. They are never going to be on the receiving end of racism and they will never understand fully what it’s like. This doesn’t mean that they can’t have an opinion, weigh in and ask questions but it does mean that as a so called ally their first concern should be listening and learning.
For example, as a black woman in America I face both racism and sexism constantly. However, I am still aware that I have certain privileges. I do not face Islamophobia, xenophobia, homophobia, etc. So as someone who very fiercely identifies as an intersectional feminist and an ally, if someone (with any identity that I personally do not have) told me that something was offensive to them, I would listen. Why? Because I don’t want to disregarding their feelings. Because I would (unfairly) be telling them how they should act in a situation that I will never be in. Most importantly, because it’s the right thing to do, and if I didn’t, I would be betraying everything that I claimed to stand for.
The bottom line is that you may not always understand someone else’s point of view but in situations like this you don’t have to because 1. It’s not about you and 2. what you don’t understand is still another person’s reality. And if we’re being honest, your unwillingness to take the time to listen and understand makes you a part of the problem and, you’re never going to be able to change to become part of the solution. The most important part of being an ally is using your privilege to help lift the voices of those who are constantly silenced. So when you stop listening, it makes it that much harder for those voices to be heard.