23
Apr
12

An Ally’s Manifesto

I am overprivileged compared to virtually everyone in the world, and I know this.  Recognizing my own privilege incurs certain obligations on me.  This is a place for me to write down the ways that I will be an ally.  It is a living document, because I will never be done documenting these things.

It is not my allies’ job to make me feel welcome.  Safe spaces are not for me, because spaces are safe for me by default.  Sometimes, generous folks will invite me into private spaces, which is gracious of them.  If my presence makes anyone feel uncomfortable or unsafe, I will leave, just as graciously, because it is not my space.

When I am told to check my privilege, I will check it.  When I am told I am derailing, I will stop.  I am virtually always operating with privilege; if anything, I am called on it far less often than it happens.

Before I was an ally, I operated on the assumption that my privilege was simply owed me, and I acted thus.  I will attempt to correct for that behavior, but I am not owed forgiveness for it, nor should it be forgotten simply because I am attempting not to be toxic any longer.

I am human, and I will backslide.  When I do, I must do my best to make amends. After those amends, I will not be owed forgiveness, or acceptance.  Some of my allies will forgive me, but it is not incumbent on the others to do so, and it is understandable that they would not.

I cannot usefully contribute to arguments between different groups that I am allied to.  I can only mediate between my allies and people like me.  Attempting to interject or intercede in arguments between allied groups or individuals is necessarily patronizing, and my opinion is not needed.  I will not participate in these arguments and, if I find myself doing so, will bow out with as much grace as I can manage.

There are words that I cannot use, even though others can.  There are places that I cannot go, even though others can.  There are roles that I cannot perform, even though others can. These things are not unfair.  There are so many things open to me that are not open to the vast majority of others that the balance is and will always be far in my favor.

While it may be obvious to me when I am being ironic or sardonic, it is not always obvious to those who know me, let alone obvious to those who don’t.  Jokes that rely on the listener’s knowledge that I would never actually espouse bigoted beliefs do not always come across as jokes.  When they don’t, they aren’t jokes.  The line between parodying a thing and simply performing that thing is very fine, and I have to police it very carefully.

I am not, will not, cannot and should not be a leader in these movements.  That is simply another form of colonization and appropriation.  It is not my role to cajole, coerce, or guide.  It is mine to aid and abet, to advise and comfort.  It is on me to assist from the background with my privileged position, and not to use it to step to the forefront.

Just as I am an individual, so are all other people.  We do not exist to represent the races, classes, sexes, religions, creeds, etc. to which we belong.  I, however, am recognized for my own actions by default.  I must always remember to extend that courtesy to others, and to correct it when I see other overprivileged folks failing to do so.

Pursuant to the above, I will not boil people down into categories. I will be very careful with this, and will especially treat the following words with great care if I use them, which should be uncommon. I will take this care even when applying these words to myself.

  • articulate
  • inspiration
  • X for a Y
  • foreign
  • exotic

I will not engage in conversation merely to demonstrate my status as an ally.  I have plenty of cookies.  I will especially not engage strangers in conversations about my status as an ally to “people like them”.

When I see someone acting in a privileged manner, or failing to recognize their own privilege, I must call them on it.  I am the one with the standing to do so.  I cannot be dismissed the way that my allies can.

I will handle the 101-level instruction for others like me.  Having learned it myself, it is both something I owe to my overprivileged fellows and a burden I can shoulder for my allies.

I am not a hero.  These narratives are not mine.  I am not The One Good Man.  I am not The White Guy Who Is Down.  I am not the Pahana.  I am not The Straight Friend, the Cis Friend, or the Able-Bodied Friend.  I am a sidenote to these struggles. I am the supporting cast, not the protagonist.

I am not doing enough.  I do not have laurels to rest on. I am proud of the my recognition, proud of my actions, but they are not sufficient, let alone above and beyond.

The things in this document are only things that I owe, and not things for which I am owed gratitude.  They are minimal requirements, and if someone thanks me for them, I will appreciate that but I will also recognize that it is a sad commentary on the state of the world rather than something at which I am excelling.

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