Carnival of Allies

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Maysie Maysie's picture
Carnival of Allies


Maysie Maysie's picture

The Angry Black Woman is hosting a Carnival of Allies for any bloggers who have written about being an ally.

[url= Talking: the Angry Black Woman[/url]

I might dust off my sadly neglected blog and contribute something. Deadline is May 5.

Blog carnivals, for anyone who doesn't know what they are, are when someone calls out for posts on specific topics. If you have a blog and have written (or want to write) on the topic, send the link to the carnival coordinator.

If you click on the link above and look at the sidebar on the right you'll see links to other carnivals.


It looks good BCG. I won't be participating because this is as close as I get to blogging. I just don't feel like going to interlinked blogging.

On the thought that maybe people want to have a discussion here I'm going to post an excerpt from the short intro by the Carnival host:


This got me thinking about those white folks who exist in that liminal space where they are against racism but don’t understand how it works and get defensive, hurt, and freaked out when folks point out how they benefit from it without trying. We saw a lot of that on the Thank You thread before the others showed up. I am wondering how you turn that kind of person into an ally. I’m wondering if maybe I cannot simply because, when they read my words, they are so filled with defensiveness and perhaps guilt, nothing I say can get through. If they can’t listen to me, can they maybe listen to other White people?

And that got me wondering if this was true for any kind of ally. Is it easier to understand oppression, to move past guilt and on to useful dialogue, etc., if the person explaining these things to you in-depth is a person like yourself? White or male or straight or Christian or whatever? I don’t know. But as this is the Internet, it should be easy to figure out.

Caveat before I address the last point. If BCG sees this as likely to end up deflecting from the Carnival thing, say so.

Plus- I've not dipped much into the ani-racism topics. The vitriol is off-putting. If I'm covering recently tilled ground, I don't know that.

I can't really speak to whether it's easier for white allies to speak to other white folk. Based on what I know I can think of reasons both harder/easier.

But I can say that overcoming all those obstacles that well meaning people have is VERY difficult for me too- even one on one. Let alone when there is a chance to broach it in a group formal or informal.

Easier/harder for white/poc, I think it boils down to the same very tough nuts to crack.

While I have never been involved much in practical 'how to do anti-racism' discussions, what I have been exposed to tells me that poc and allies alike do not pay sufficent attention to how ideologies of individualism and personal achievement interplay with racism.

Specifically: folks are not sufficiently cognizant that the power of those ideologies- which the very word 'ideology' misleads since it makes us think of discursive 'ideas' rather than patterns as ingrained as walking down the street....

... it is the very fact that these powerful and quite unexamined ideologies have such an independent force of their own that they resonate with racism in a manner that makes the whole 'nest' hard to deal with.

That particular analysis aside, breaking through to well meaning people is damn hard and befuddling work... and while it [i]may[/i] be somewhat easier to do for white folks, my first inclination is to say that the 'practical mechanics' are no different.

[ 15 April 2008: Message edited by: KenS ]

Maysie Maysie's picture

KenS, thanks very much for your response. I'm fine if this turns into a discussion on allies, and not just POC and white follks, but being allies in general, if that's where it goes.

I was hoping that you could expand on this a bit more:


While I have never been involved much in practical 'how to do anti-racism' discussions, what I have been exposed to tells me that poc and allies alike do not pay sufficent attention to how ideologies of individualism and personal achievement interplay with racism.

Do you mean the "meritocracy" myth, combined with the value of individualism?


Yes. But for very practical reasons, we have to stop using the word 'myth'... even for 'inside talk.' This is peoples lived experience we are talking about. And a chain runs from theirs', back through their families and their friends' and neighbours'.

And in many ways it isn't a myth at all. IE, it isn't that we just avoid 'saying' its a myth. People aren't stupid. Even when they say otherwise to simple questions or what look like simple questions, they know it's not a level playing field out there. But they also know there is a real crack at 'bettering themselves' [or that they had one].

Makwa Makwa's picture


they know it's not a level playing field out there. But they also know there is a real crack at 'bettering themselves' [or that they had one].[/QB]

The social mobility theme is central to how FN/POC and dominant society discourse is played out. Over and over, FN/POC are reminded by dominant society voices that they have 'opportunity' that is somehow not taken up, thereby moving the blame to the individual FN/POC. What the dominant voice ignores is the history and social conditions the constrain and mitigate such 'opportunity'. For many FN/POC people, the struggle to develop a marketable base within the dominant society comes at a major social, financial and psychological cost that is rarely borne by dominant society (read 'white') folk. Especially for FN people, the acquisition of degrees, integration into white dominated bureacracies and adoption of white oriented cultural and social identifiers (which are needed to maintain daily discourse with the overwhelming daily integration with white society) is deeply alienating and psychologically brutal. Because of this cultural and social divide, I consider the concept of white 'allies' to be another fiction, alongside the fiction of 'meritrocracy.'


In some ways- the very idea of white privilege already raises questions of relative advantages and power that need to be brought into the pictures people have about meritocracy.

Problem is that if you hope to get anywhere you do NOT start a conversation with 'white privilege' as the opener- even calling it something else. Talk about a guaranteed means of getting people to fall into their ruts.

When I think about, I probably only know where [i]not[/i] to start and what [i]not[/i] to do [ie, don't try to talk about race without giving people a chance to express or look at their greivances that touch on more than race... like the 'we're all responsible for ourselves, nobody gave me a break' thing].

I guess as to what I DO, where to start, I don't have a strategy. It's all ad hoc and opportunity as it arises.

Some of us happen to work well that way. But strategies can help anyone, and some people probaly need them just to be brave enough to try.

Which brings up the question 'where do starategies come from?' Let alone 'where' in the sense we don't have a lot of braod institutions dedicated to dealing with racism.... but also where/how when the startegies are bound to have a lot of the ad hoc to them... like 'how to read an opprtunity' 'how to read what people need'... etc.

Not so different than facilitation skills. Maybe that's helpful, as in something familiar to hook onto, but its pretty general and talking about race has mine fields.

[ 15 April 2008: Message edited by: KenS ]



Because of this cultural and social divide, I consider the concept of white 'allies' to be another fiction, alongside the fiction of 'meritrocracy.'

That would tend to stamp the first part of what you said: that the meritocracy is a mugs game for poc/FN folks.

I pretty much agree. But the whole question of 'white allies' is about what it takes to reach white folks beyond the allies.

Taken by itself makwa, what you said about meritocracy being a mugs game is not mutually exclusive with understanding how the meritocracy works on people in the interests of trying to 'move white people along'.

But if white allies is a fiction, then there's no point trying to understand what makes the 'could be allies' tick.

That's not something I'm going to argue with- and not only because it isn't my place to do so.

[b]ETA: [/b] At best, white people are a lot of work. With so much to done, where's the payoff?

[ 15 April 2008: Message edited by: KenS ]

martin dufresne


I consider the concept of white 'allies' to be another fiction, alongside the fiction of 'meritrocracy.'

I have to say this has the ring of truth for me. I work in feminist struggles, and hear a lot about how so-called male allies are supposed to be the wellspring of the movement. Lots of talk but precious few hands, and those males that do show up tend to sidetrack efforts toward their own agendas or by what seems to be an ingrained cluelessness...
Could the notion of 'allies' function as a kind of 'cargo cult' where merit remains necessartily attached to patronizing by someone from the dominant group?

[ 15 April 2008: Message edited by: martin dufresne ]

Maysie Maysie's picture

Thanks everyone for your responses.

In real terms, white allies are needed. Allies period are needed, so that as activists we have each other's backs, and speak up together, or separately, so that the fuckwads of the world know that they can't get away with shit like open racism, sexism, homophobia, etc.

In practical terms, white allies can serve as a buffer zone, as it's very hard to be on the front lines of struggle all the time, and being told it's "personal" and other such minimizing crappola, is something that can't be hurled at an ally in the same way.

In political terms, however, some white folks have seen that being labeled an ally is a short-cut, a dodge to not deal with their own internalized racism or white privilege. These are the allies Makwa's thread "I Hate White Allies" are talking about. Any ally that takes up that kind of space, expects to be thanked and praised constantly, is defensive when challenged by the people they are imagining they are supporting, isn't really an ally.

But the need for allies doesn't go away just because a bunch of posers keep showing up. It's that need, and the optimism that someday we'll get it right, that keeps me going. [img]smile.gif" border="0[/img]

I ask for allies, I try to be one. I know many many white allies who work and struggle across racial lines.

Maysie Maysie's picture

KenS, as far as what we can term "first principles": that is, how to get white folks on board who aren't already, or how to get white folks to see a racist system that has benefited them, that's a whole other apple pie.

I do this in my paid work, and one way to begin is with the personal. Some say it must begin here, and though this is true for most people, I know it isn't true for all.

I can't give away all my secrets and techniques [img]smile.gif" border="0[/img] but I will say that most of the work I do is literally about education, seeing what the real world is like for someone without white privilege.

Start with the real history of how this thing called Canada came about.

This is usually done through readings, sometimes by sharing personal stories (myself or my co-facilitator) and having people making the connection between themselves as people who don't wish to perpetuate inequity, and as people who have been granted perks and bonuses without even knowing they have them. Perks and bonuses are "normal" to them, and part of my job is showing them that this is part of the big lie.

Once there's a breakthrough, there's a textbook of responses (denial, anger, guilt, grief, bargaining) before folks come out on the other side. Sometimes they never make it. I could point out examples right here on babble but I'm trying to be positive here. [img]smile.gif" border="0[/img]

But when they do come out on the other side, they see that this struggle is lifelong, it's arduous, there's little to no payoff, and much more risk, especially if they take their newfound understanding into the heart of the beast, like Uncle Dave or their boss, and challenge racist, sexist, etc comments directly and stubbornly. And no, they don't run back to the community and say what a great white ally they were today. [img]smile.gif" border="0[/img]

[ 15 April 2008: Message edited by: bigcitygal ]

martin dufresne

Thanks for the centering, here. Very good points. Indeed, I need to make a distinction between invocations of (usually absent) allies and real good work done by those who do show up, regularly, and shoulder their part of the load without claiming special status.

writer writer's picture

Personally, I find the simple statement that I am a victim of racism - in that I've ingested it, displayed it, blindly act on it / benefit from it, and often impose it against my conscious will - is a good place to start.

I am a victim, because anything that takes away from the solidarity I share with my fellow human beings makes me less of a person.

Owning up to my own limitations right off the bat means that I don't come off as a know-it-all missionary.

I use that last word mindfully. As a daughter of white missionaries, I try to own up to the limitations of The Truth as it has been revealed to me - or anybody else. And own up to how this distortion of "truth" has damaged the world. And continues to do so. And how it's going to be complicated to heal from.

We need each other to do so.

Saying that I can be racist is a way to open up the conversation with other whites, rather than preach at them.

Who likes to be preached at? It's a direct route to the defensiveness, evasion, passivity and shutting down that we're trying to cut out of the process.

In terms of being an ally for people of colour, I haven't reached any conclusions, but I think I prefer the notion of being a race traitor, rather than an ally. To me, that term names the source of the problem: white privilege. It clearly identifies what needs to be worked on, and who needs to do the work.

As an ally, I simply fight the impulse to go into the whole

I demand-that-you-take-that-back


I wrote more in depth about this stuff in a recent thread about Olivia Chow.

Catchfire Catchfire's picture

writer, you are a beautiful person.

Maysie Maysie's picture

writer, thank you for your words and the heart behind them.