This is an open letter to those who call themselves my ally and to those who might in the future;
To you my allies of this world, thank you for taking the time to self examine and reach a level of awareness in understanding some of the world's oppression and creating space in your life for allyship. You have begun to realize that allyship is not just about you, but is about the people you know, the people who touch your life, the people whose lives you will touch and even those you've never met. Thank you for holding signs, walking lockstep, and having critical conversations across the coffee table about what oppression means to you. Thank you for not being those that aren’t there, including the individuals who have not come far enough along in their self awareness and those who likely never will fully understand.
It is a beautiful constant struggle to question our relationship to power and its effects. Questioning what we can and can’t do to change the world around us. I always battle against the weight of oppression being black gay man in this world. You, as my friend and ally, can help carry some of that burden. Help break some of the crashing waves and give me a moment's peace. I do not expect you to take it all, but in lightening the load, you are making a difference. The struggle is ever present and demanding, and the way we fight back can look different. Drawing from the strength of our diversity to overcome. Knowing that what actually matters is that you decide to fight, that you commit to the cause. And that you keep an open mind to understand the nature of the struggle and try to bring a better life to your and their tomorrow. For the battle is ever raging is just as big moments may change the tide. So to can the smaller collective weight of several thousand stones crush my spirit.
When I am harassed and profiled in the bar because of my shoes; when a server blatantly ignores me; when people switch sides of the street when they see me coming their way. When I’m followed in the store; and when with a group of friends I'm the only one asked to show ID. When your favorite talk show host takes to the airwaves on Sunday morning to tear a black trans woman down; when the meme about brunch and interns depicts an all too real experience for me, and when online bigots tell me over and over again that the collective experience of my people doesn’t matter. That in proclaiming my right to exist in space I am somehow diminishing their world. Where were you for these discussions? While the big and bold moments are nice, beautiful, and meaningful. Moments like the ones I've described are the all too real experiences that play out every day this country that we call the USA. The truth is death by a thousand cuts is still a death. That it’s not always signal blow that causes a person to break but the sustained torrent over time. I have to struggle just to meet the basics to survive. Though outwardly things may seem fine within can exists a shattered mosaic map that needs just one or two more blows to
crack. I constantly have to be waging war on two fronts. One to stop the blows and one to try and keep making me become whole. I have to continuously make adjusts to try to protect what’s left of me, thinking that this next hit could be the end of me. All the while I also have to educate, teach, train, lead and wake up the world around me to maintain my safety and sanity.
I have to bear the weight of my world and several others bearing down on me. If you actually want to call yourself my ally, I'm in need you to do more. I need you to start questioning underlying assumptions that allow problematic relationships of power to exist. Ask yourself where do you stand concerning the existing power structure and examine how are you using your privileges and advantages to help those with limited access to power, privilege or advantage to having a better life. I don't expect you to solve structural racism and inequities in a single day. But I do ask that you make an honest effort to think to identify tangible steps that you can take to make the world a more just and equitable world. That's not to say that we can’t enjoy ourselves, have fun and let our hair down. I simply request that you add your weighted privilege in ways both big and small that help advance the conversation towards a more productive and just society.
I leave you with some words to think about from a very smart brother and sister. Individuals who can help you find a way to be more thoughtful and think bigger when challenging oppression. I ask you to widen your gaze to capture those left in the margins and stretch your engagement, so you can truly see the world we live in, why we fight, how we fight for a believe in something better.
Remember the words of Jesse William who so brilliantly explained key concepts to keep in the fore front to guide your hand and deed.
“The burden of the brutalized is not to comfort the bystander.That's not our job, alright - stop with all that. If you have a critique for the resistance, for our resistance, then you better have an established record of critique of our oppression. If you have no interest, if you have no interest in equal rights for black people then do not make suggestions to those who do. Sit down.- Jesse Williams “
Melissa Harris-Perry offers us a rallying cry to think about our lager more expansive work. That there is a rigor to must remind ourselves of, and a mindset are big dreams moving forward. It is a commitment to a dream that goes beyond you.
“You engage with it; you ask hard questions. If you have the same analysis as everyone else then you do not have analysis, you have a whisper campaign. Go ahead, be bold, fail, work really really hard on something you don’t expect to win in your lifetime. Write a sentence that is better than who you are. When Jefferson said all persons are created equal, he was looking at a field of enslaved persons. He wrote that anyway. You do something bigger and better. Dream a bigger thing.”- Melissa Harris Perry
We need the rest of you to truly be there and understand what it means to bend toward equity and think about liberation. I ask that you create a revolutionary praxis that allows you to integrate yourself into the movement rather than following blindly. To remember that structures of power weren’t built overnight and will take the time to restructure, rebuild, and take down that which isn’t working. I ask you to keep a questioning, and open mind that pushes the discussion takes feedback in and tries to reduce and minimize harm. We have to think about the larger context about how to engage in a practical mode of education to break down the dichotomies that domesticate us. So please be my ally stand with me, the fight is worth the effort. I know this to be true because in this moment and at this time you truly dream of something better and we can make it engages and stand together.