So I came across this really great article on Everyday Feminism and it made me uncomfortable. When I come across something that makes me uncomfortable, I put on my learning hat and go at it.
Quote of note:
If you are a white person who recognizes your own privilege and that the ways in which people of color are treated are fucked up, it's important for you to build relationships across race and understand how power shows up in those relationships.
I'm here to admit that my friends and I have a serious dearth of relationships with PoC. I have very few friends/lovers/coworkers/chosen family who are PoC. I want to change this without actively seeking out people to fill some kind of requirement for an allyship membership card. Tokenizing is a nightmare I don't want to put anyone through.
The catch is, my friends and I live in a very racially segregated city. There is a long-ass history of racism here that persists today and works insidiously. Most of the time it feels like every room I walk into is filled with white people. I've hardly managed to make any meaningful connections with people outside my own race in the 8 years I have lived here. My limited interactions with PoC are usually on the subway — not the greatest place to meet people.
As much as it bothers me, I know it doesn't actively hurt me. White Monocultures are cradles that nurture and support White Supremacy; they don't challenge my privilege or that of my friends. That's not cool; at the very least it whittles down empathy and understanding, and it certainly doesn't keep us accountable. I've often tried to speak up about race — and about intersectionality to my feminist friends — when there aren't any PoC voices present, but I'm increasingly uncomfortable being a voice-amplifier for PoC in a White Monoculture without close intimate relationships with the voices I'm trying to amplify. That's really weird too, and the EF article brought home to me how harmful and disingenuous it can be.
Recognizing the monoculture for what it is has solidified for me how important it is to incorporate anti-racism and solidarity into my life in face of blatant racism and segregation in a community I care deeply about. Still I can't help but feel helpless. I want to know in what ways these persistent issues affect PoC who live here, and how I can use my privilege in effective solidarity. But the fact is, I can't know what it means to be a useful ally while surrounded by a monoculture, without intimate knowledge and reference to the lived experience of PoC.
This has to be a pretty widespread problem in allyship, and as much as I learn from them I don't think I can be a great ally just by reading bell hooks and Black Girl Dangerous. How do other white folks working in solidarity but living in heavily segregated/monocultured communities deal with this? What thoughts do PoC have about these monocultures? And I'm asking you. Yes, you! Let's have this conversation :)