Thursday, October 24, 2013

Hey Allies let's talk shall we?

Many times in this wee corner of the internet allies have indignantly told me they absolutely will not ever shut up.

This stemming from my frequent use of the phrase shut up and listen.

I've been told NO NO NO.

I've seen self appointed allies ranging from White Feminists, Anti racists, hetero allies, thin allies etc etc wax poetic about how they'll keep shouting from the rafters.


Let's do a thing.

I'm gonna take you way back. I'm going to assume we all went to 5th grade.

So let us pretend we are in a big ass 5th grade class together and we're starting to learn about say, cedar trees.

Now in our 5th grade class let's say that the ally who will never shut up is called Whoop, now we're all learning together and Whoop just keeps talking.

Whoop yells about the time they saw a cedar near the road, the time they planted a sapling but it may or may not have been a cedar, when the class gets to smell some cedar they declare loudly that THEY DO NOT LIKE THE SMELL AND OTHER PEOPLE ARE BEING TOO SENSITIVE OR WHATEVER IF THEY LIKE IT.

Now in that 5th grade class most likely our teacher would say things like.

"Thank you Whoop can you please be quiet now"

"Whoop, please put on your listening ears."

"Whoop if you interrupt again I will have to send you to the hall."

"Whoop if you continue I'm sending you to the principal office."

Now Whoop may be well intentioned. Whoop may be a super sweetheart and super smart. But, as Whoop keeps hollering and interrupting and talking over the teacher, Whoop is probably missing some information.

Many of us in class might think Whoop is overall pretty cool. We might invite them to our sleep overs, share our lunch with them, play with them at recess.

But at the same time we may want to shove Whoop out of their chair every now and then and tell them to shut the hell up so we can learn about the freaking trees.

Now let us put that into the context of politics.

People who refuse for various reasons to shut up and listen often are trying really hard to come from a good place. What they fail to realize is that it's not a good stance.

When you adamantly refuse to acknowledge that your opinion in an instance isn't necessarily needed and decide that your voice is so important on an issue that probably doesn't directly concern, what you're doing is participating in a system that silences marginalized people.

Let me break it down as it applies to me.

I am oppressed on various axis. Here in my little corner of the internets I talk about a lot of these things.

Now, when people come in all ass and elbows proclaiming their ally status and follow it up by telling me in nine million ways why they will never shut up and never come back, what are they doing?

How can we learn if we're constantly yammering?

In any other context we know rationally and emotionally that doing X thing is really rude and counter productive, why is it in the context of activism people seem to forget one of the most basic and simple methods of learning things.

Furthermore if you tell me that you are my ally in fighting racism, sizeism whatever and you actively silence me because maybe I said something that hit too close to home, maybe my life experience freaks you out, maybe you're guilty of some of the things I talk about and therefor you decide that you will not listen anymore, what are you?

The other problem is that when people do this, this is called a tone argument.

For me personally this is among the worst things people do.

Here is the mistake.

As an ally especially if you belong to the group of oppressors (whether you personally take part or not) telling me if I don't speak to you in a certain way you won't be an ally anymore, you are telling me you're not really an ally. You're a fair weather fan.

If as an ally you can't handle the real feelings and emotions of the people you are supposed to be riding for, you need to ask yourself what you're really doing.

Are you an ally because you think you're supposed to be?

Are you an ally as long as people are nice and non threatening and want to hold your hand and sing kumbaya?

If the answer (and yes this is hard as fuck to be honest about) yes, you are not really an ally.

Yes I'm saying if you do these tings, if you participate in a culture that oppresses me and people like me, you are not an ally you are part of the problem.

If your self appointed allyship comes with a truckload of caveats and buts, save it.

Save it or keep it to yourself because those of us really doing the hard work ain't got time for that.

If this hurt your feelings or your first response is to start hollering about how you don't do it, or what about your feelings, what about this that or the other thing stop.

If this post made you feel defensive, I hate to break it to you but you have work to do before you engage in this work with me or with anyone else.

This is work that I cannot and will not do fo you. I will not break it down further. I will not chew it up and spoon feed it to you. I say I won't because I believe in you, I think you can do it without that.

Now ready for something else homies?

So here you can read my latest non fiction publication here at Literary Ophans. Enjoy, spread around.

Homo Out.


Laura (dusty_rose) said...

YES! I love the fifth-grade analogy. That's such a perfect way to put a concept that so many people seem to have trouble grasping.

AmaryllisZ said...

"They saw a tree that may or may not have been a cedar" made me lol.

I'm disabled due to a genetic condition that leads to increasing joint damage and chronic pain. If yet another "ally" tells me that totally understand because they once broke a leg/spent a week in bed with the flu/had distant relative who used a wheelchair, I will lose it.

Sleepydumpling said...

Another fantastic post. The thing I've found with people who call themselves allies... they rarely actually are. They seem to think an ally status is something that one simply declares of themselves, rather than a status that one has earned and been granted by the person that they are allied to.

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